"Taiko is an art rooted in power, demanding your recognition of its power. Kumidaiko, the group play style you will experience here tonight, is an exercise in how much more powerful we are in collaboration. In how much louder we can be. In how much harder we are to ignore.
And this is RAW—a powerhouse group using their individual power as an even stronger collective. They are dedicated to speaking truth to their lived experiences and providing a platform for those who have been encouraged to remain silent.
Taiko—as RAW plays it—is a challenge to every dangerous silence."
--Harper Ross (Oberlin College Taiko member) Feb 2023
What is RAW Taiko?
RAW Taiko, founded in 1998 as Raging Asian Women Taiko Drummers, is an artist-run Toronto-based performing arts organization made up of East and Southeast Asian women and gender non-conforming drummers. We carry on the diasporic Taiko tradition that grew out of Asian American and Asian Canadian participation in gender and racial justice movements in the 60s and 70s. One of the few taiko drumming groups of its kind in the world, RAW Taiko exists as a critical response and challenge to both systemic and internalized oppressions. RAW Taiko plays large drums as creative resistance for social change, carving space for self-expression, education and community building.
RAW Taiko has performed at a wide variety of events including Pride celebrations in Toronto and Buffalo NY, Harbourfront Music Garden, Muhtadi International Drumming Festival in Toronto and Tobago, Mayworks Festival of Working People and the Arts, and Toronto’s WinterCity Festival. RAW Taiko performs annually at labour union conventions, International Women’s Day events, art festivals, social justice events, and more.
D Badua, Rae Barilea, Yang Chen, Adrienne Mak, Mila Natasha Mendez, Stephenie Hui. Young Park, Courtney Ayukawa, Wy Joung Kou. Photo by Lemons & Ants Studios, 2023
In 1998, three former members of Wasabi Daiko formed Raging Asian Women Taiko Drummers. RAW Taiko began as a self-taught group with senior members passing on knowledge to newer members, and each member collectively supporting each other’s learning. Over the years, through different apprenticeship cohorts, RAW Taiko has gained skills through workshops, lessons and intensives with Yoshikazu Fujimoto, Masami Miyazaki and Eichi Saito (of KODO), Ryutaro Kaneko (formerly of KODO), Kiyoshi Nagata and Aki Takahashi (of Nagata Shachu), Roy and PJ Hiyabayashi (of San Jose Taiko), Tiffany Tamaribuchi (of Sacramento Taiko Dan), and Megan Chao Smith (formerly of Shidara). Several members participated in the KASA/Mix tour of Sado Island, and the North American Taiko Conference and Summer Taiko Institute over the years.
Laura Coramai, JoAnne Kim, Victoria Chu, Amy Lin, Alice Te, Brenda Joy Lem (RAW Alumni)
Founded as Raging Asian Women Taiko Drummers, our name has been one way we have signaled to audiences and community members the lives, experiences and perspectives at the heart of our creative resistance.
We came from the anger of East/Southeast Asian women who wanted to challenge the stereotypes that suggested Asian women were weak, submissive, quiet or isolated. As we have grown, so too has our collective awareness of the depth and breadth of our intersectional struggles. Our name has taken different forms to reflect this thinking, and to honor the identities of the drummers who make up our organisation as people who have lived experiences of anti-Asian racism and misogyny.
Today, we are RAW Taiko, and we exist as a place for East/Southeast Asian women and gender non-conforming people to gather, share, rage, joy, drum and be.
Poster: Raging Asian Women at Shout Out for Global Justice - Massey Hall, June 25, 2010. Photo by Matthew Fung
As a compliment to performance, RAW Taiko is invested in creating opportunities for taiko education at all skill levels. RAW Taiko offers classes and workshops in a variety of settings. These include community and educational outreach in workshop series such as our annual 6-weeks with Queer Asian Youth group (ACAS) and offerings of introductory taiko workshops to the general public.
RAW Taiko also runs a series of programs within the Toronto District School Board including assemblies and workshops for May Asian Heritage Month, and after school taiko programs for high school students at Forest Hill Collegiate Institute and Harbord Collegiate Institute. These programs focus on youth empowerment, particularly for girls, gender non-conforming and LGBTQ+ community members.
In July of 2012, RAW Taiko took on the ambitious task of organizing and launching Toronto Taiko Festival (TTF). The first festival, which included three days of workshops, public forums, and a public concert, drew over 500 audience members, 50 workshop participants from over 15 cities, 2 international teachers, and performances by 4 Canadian Taiko groups. TTF returned again in 2017, 2022, and is planning its next iteration for August 2024.
Read more about TTF at www.torontotaikofestival.org
Toronto Taiko Festival - Music, Activism, Identity. 2012