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Tokara Kokkara (from now): Tour Schedule | Workshops | PDF Information
Group and Performers Biographies
Wadaiko Ensemble TOKARA was founded on March 7th, 2004 in Nagano
Prefecture, Japan by Wadaiko Artist Art Lee, who brought together
various taiko and percussion group members to begin the challenge of
intensified training of the mind and body in the strict discipline of
the taiko. Since then TOKARA has become a strong force in the world of
Wadaiko (Taiko Drumming) both in Japan and internationally.
While incorporating arrangements of traditional Taiko pieces into
their performance, Tokara has created an all new style of Taiko, where
speed and power meet eloquent movements of dance and the circular
fluidity of the Chinese martial arts and aikido.
Tokara's new style of Taiko music also brings rhythm signatures from
other cultures around the world to create a jazzy and exciting style
of taiko music.
Since the groups inception, Tokara tours three to four times a year in
Asia, the U.S., various countries in Europe, Australia, and India, as
well as making regular appearances at some of the top Taiko
performances all over Japan.
In addition to international touring, Tokara has created a unique
education program of bringing Taiko enthusiasts and groups to Japan
for various types of training. The group annually produces the Saiwai
Shimoina Wadaiko Festival, as well as two award-winning intensive
education programs; the INADANI Taiko Drumming Course for beginners
and the TOKARA Wadaiko Bootcamp for intermediate/advanced practioners.
Art Lee (Artistic Director/Composer/Performer) is considered to be one of the leading Taiko artists of his generation.
After starting taiko in 1993 in Sacramento, California, he soon became a performing member of the Sacramento Taiko Dan. Later, he was invited to join one of the world's most famed Taiko groups, Za Ondekoza.
After moving to Japan, Art Lee became a soloist and won the Unique Prize for Skill and Artistry at both the All-Japan Wadaiko Contest in Fukui Prefecture and the Kumamoto Odaiko Championships.
In November 2001, Art Lee first received international acclaim for becoming the first person in the world to be awarded an artist visa from the Japanese government to teach Taiko and lead the life of a professional Taiko artist in Japan.
Then on October 15th, 2005, Art Lee became the first and only non-Japanese to become Grand Champion in the Solo Odaiko section of The Tokyo International Wadaiko Contest - the most prestigious and renowned Taiko contest in the world.
Since then, he has performed in some of the world's most prestigious theatres including Aoyama Gekijyo and Suntory Hall (Japan), Tonhalle (Germany), and Carnegie Hall (New York) and is also the only non-Japanese taiko artist in the world to be selected four times to perform at the annual "All-Stars of Japan" Taiko concert in Tokyo, Japan.
Art tours the world both as a solo artist and as the artistic director of internationally touring group, Wadaiko Ensemble TOKARA, as well as being the founder of Suiko and Nadeshiko taiko groups, and the festival group, Haruka in Japan.
Yukari Ichise (Costume Designer/Performer) has been a performer with TOKARA since 2006 although she has been playing taiko since 2004 and working with Art Lee in concert production since 2000.
She is the principal costume designer for both Art Lee and TOKARA, and has also, until 2008, been an integral part of the Tokara Office as head-of-staff at Art's solo concerts and events.
Yukari has become known in particular for her Kakegoe (taiko shouts) and her enthusiastic playing style.
As part of the Tokara Masters program, Yukari will make her one-piece solo performance debut during one of Tokara's concerts in 2014.
Dean Havixbeck (Performer) is from Winnepeg, Canada where he began learning taiko in 2001. Dean first came to Japan to study taiko when he joined the INADANI Taiko Drumming Course in 2006.
He moved to Ina City, Japan in the autumn of 2007 and soon after became an apprentice of Art Lee.
Since then, he commuted over two hours to practice with Art Lee and Tokara every weekend.
Dean became a full member of Tokara on June 12th, 2010.
As part of the Tokara Masters program, Dean will make his one-piece solo performance debut during one of Tokara's concerts in 2014.