Sawagi Taiko is the first all-women's taiko group in Canada, formed in 1990. In Sawagi Taiko, we pool our common and unique experiences as East Asian women living in Canada and focus our creative energy and ideas into a powerful expression that is always heard and can't be ignored. As a performing group, we're looking to smash hierarchies and create an environment where all our members can initiate and explore their artistic visions.


Taiko means big drum, and it dates back to creation myths of Japan. Throughout history, the drum has played an integral role in Japanese culture. During the past 40 years, the playing of taiko has developed into an ensemble performing art.


Many groups began forming in the late 1960s as young Asian Americans embraced taiko as an expression of their culture and heritage. Seiichi Tanaka, the sensei at the San Francisco Taiko Dojo, gave many of the North American groups their first workshops and taught them the basic skills of taiko. He was instrumental in the spread of taiko across North America. The immigrated form of Asian North American taiko is influenced by many different styles of music- Chinese, Japanese, North American, African, Latin American- as taiko composers have been influenced by all of the musical influences in their contemporary surroundings. Sawagi Taiko's compositions also incorporate many different musical influences, including the Chicago blues, rap, and traditional Japanese folk songs.


In 1990, the year Sawagi formed, most of the members were already part of Vancouver's Katari Taiko and had several years of drumming experience. After playing as Katari Taiko at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, the members playing thought it would be most appropriate to form a separate all-women's group. Sawagi Taiko was born! Other all-women's groups in Canada include LOUD! and RAW. Since forming, Sawagi has taken part in several women's music festivals and a large variety of other events, locally and across the U.S.A. Over the years, there have been different group members; however, the group has always been a consistent seven or eight members.

About Us

What Is Taiko Drumming

Taiko is an ancient Japanese form of percussion using large drums. The drums range in size from roughly a snare drum ("shime"), to drums as large as a car (the "o-daiko"). The most common drum size in taiko is the "chu-daiko" which is the size of a wine barrel.

The Future of Sawagi Taiko

Sawagi Taiko continues the historical and cultural connections amongst different Asian cultures - the instrument originated in China; the artistic form originated in the rural communities of Japan. The members of the group are of Chinese and Japanese ancestry. We explore our different ancestral legacies in our art form and our pieces reflect our diverse experiences as East Asian Canadian women.

Reasons We Play

The arts have always flourished in the immigrant Asian communities. However, these arts have been buried in the stereotypes of Asians as quiet and hardworking but basically mechanical and uncreative. Sawagi Taiko is our vehicle to show the power and creativity of Asian culture, particularly of Asian women. We offer an alternative to the stereotype of Asian women as quiet and demure. As well, the opportunity to work in a group composed only of Asian women is very empowering in North American society.

Our Taiko Passion

Working from a common cultural basis nurtures a mutually supportive environment in which all members' talents are easily facilitated. In Sawagi Taiko we are exploring a different way of working together artistically, trying to encourage and support each other's creative initiatives. The camaraderie and personal connections that we foster in the group translate into a group intimacy in performance that audiences notice and enjoy.


Catlin Renay

Cat got involved with taiko as a sound/lighting technician. Eventually she was coaxed out from behind the scenes and has now been playing for 13 years. Sawagi, for Cat, is an important connection to her Asian heritage. Playing drums with all these strong women is both inspiring and fun! First gig: the Roundhouse in Vancouver. Talk about nervous! One of her favorite shows was Albuquerque, New Mexico show at the Kino Theatre.

Lisa Mah

Lisa's Aunt Joyce was one of the founding members of Katari Taiko, and asked if Lisa was interested in taking a workshop. Lisa was reluctant to try. However, she did and her life was forever changed! Joining young gave her a chance to develop as a musician, composer, leader and community member. Lisa's first performance at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival totally blew her away and remains an experience difficult to surpass.

Linda Uyehara Hoffman

San Jose Taiko's performance at the 1979 Powell Street Festival inspired Linda and made her think, "they look like they are having fun-I'd really like to try that." Linda says she's been playing taiko for longer than she's done anything else, except sing and breathe. Her first taiko performance was with Katari Taiko in Faro, Yukon at a mining camp's Japanese Festival in the middle of winter.

Sachiko Yamaguchi

Sachi first became interested in drumming when she was invited to join a taiko workshop in 1987. This was a new yet familiar experience, since Sachi was raised listening to taiko at a summer community festival in Japan. Sachi's first gig was at the Vancouver Japanese Language School. Favourite gigs: the Story Telling Festival in Whitehorse and the Music Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Joscelyn Wong

Joscelyn's first taste of taiko was during her younger years when her dad asked her to listen to a taiko cd he had purchased from Japan. He cranked up the volume & the bass; the vibrations shook the walls & Joscelyn's soul. Years later, her love of anime, Japanese food, art & culture, & Sanrio characters brought her to the Powell Street Festival where she heard Sawagi Taiko for the first time. She attended their workshops, asked to join the group, & have been with them ever since.

Jeanie Ow

An active person by nature, Jeanie loves to rock climb, trail run and practice yoga. Her commitment to the arts is through photographic expression, amongst many other mediums, and her love for travel is captured through her photographic documentation. Jeanie is the owner and artistic director of the professional photographic firm, STUDIOjeanie. Most images on this site appear courtesy of STUDIOjeanie.

Helen Kang

Helen joined Sawagi Taiko in 2009 after being a fan of taiko for several years. She loves drumming with such an amazing group of strong and dedicated women. She is drawn to taiko’s historical ties to Asian American and Asian Canadian movements and strives to connect the art form with activism and community-building.

Anita Yung

Anita watched Uzume Taiko perform while working on Vancouver Island. That ignited the fire for Anita. Anita grew up in Winnipeg, where she was the only Asian in her school, making it difficult to connect with her heritage. She is now making up for lost time through taiko, travel and really good food! Anita's first gig was the New Westminster Hyack Festival.

Kathy Shimizu


Anny Lin


Felice Kwo




Wenonah Justin


Jen Quan


Get In Touch

Stay tuned for more information about upcoming workshops.
To book us for a performance please fill out the contact form or email us directly at sawagitaiko@gmail.com

Our Location

Vancouver, BC

(604) - 876 - 7358

Contact Form
Your message has been sent. Thank you!


Stay tuned for more information about upcoming workshops.
To book us for a performance please fill out the contact form or email us directly at sawagitaiko@gmail.com

30 July 2016

40th Annual Powell Street Festival

Performance at Oppenheimer Park, Vancouver BC

26 May 2016

In Collaboration with Joint Effort

Performance at the Fraser Valley Institution for Women, Abbotsford, BC

05 February 2016

Homeground Festival

Performance at Oppenheimer Park, Vancouver BC

23 January 2016

Amenida Seniors’ Community

Performance for the elderly at Amenida Seniors’ Community Surrey, BC

06 November 2015

Against the Current

Heart of the City Festival, Vancouver Japanese Language School & Japanese Hall, Vancouver, BC

24 October 2015

Private Birthday Party

Moberly Arts & Cultural Centre, Vancouver, BC

02 August 2015

39th Annual Powell Street Festival

Vancouver, BC – Sawagi Taiko set and additional performance as part of the Against the Current collaboration

28 April 2015

David Lloyd George Elementary school show

Performance at David Lloyd George Elementary School Vancouver, BC

20 February 2015

Richmond School District Conference workshop & performance

Performance at Cambie Secondary, Richmond, BC

01 February 2015

Sun, Feb 1st to Sun, Mar 8th

Workshop Series (six Sunday classes), Vancouver, BC

06 December 2014

Katari Taiko 35th Anniversary concert

Vancouver Playhouse Theatre, Vancouver, BC

02 November 2014

Heart of the City (collaboration w/ Tzo'kam)

SFU World Arts Centre, Vancouver BC

20 October 2014

City of Vancouver Celebration of Women in Music in Vancouver

Performance with Katari Taiko, City Hall Council Chambers, Vancouver

04 October 2014

Sat & Sun, October 4th & 5th, Presented by New Moon Festival Society

Performance with Alcvin Ramos at the Shishalh Longhouse Nation Longhouse, Sechelt, BC and workshop at Frank West Hall

02 August 2014

38th Powell Street Festival

Alexander Street in front of the Vancouver Japanese Language School & Japanese Hall, Vancouver, BC

18 July 2014

Strathcona Business Improvement Association

Performance at Princess + Hastings Street, Vancouver

21 June 2014

1000 Drummers in BC

Performance at New Westminster (dock), BC

16 June 2014

National Aboriginal Day (lead-up)

Performance at Carnegie Centre, Vancouver

24 May 2014

14 April 2014

Taiko Workshop

Taiko studio in Vancouver

07 April 2014

Taiko Workshop

Taiko studio in Vancouver

06 February 2014

Homeground Festival

Performance at Oppenheimer Park, Vancouver, BC

01 November 2013

Taiko Roots: in the Heart of the City

Performance at Vancouver Ballroom, Vancouver, BC

28 September 2013

Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre

Performance at Whistler, BC

03 August 2013

Powell Street Festival

Performance at Oppenheimer Park, Vancouver, BC

15 April 2013

Japanese Week at Normanna Seniors Home

Performance at Burnaby, BC

07 March 2013

SFU Open House

Performance at SFU Surrey Campus, Surrey, BC

16 November 2012

Kindness Concert

Performance at Centre for Performing Arts, Vancouver, BC

25 September 2012

100 Year Anniversary Women in Policing

Performance at River Rock Theatre, Richmond BC

15 September 2012

SFU Beedie School of Business Event

Performance at Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC

04 August 2012

Powell Street Festival

Performance at Oppenheimer Park, Vancouver, BC

04 July 2011

Powell Street Festival

Performance at Oppenheimer Park, Vancouver, BC

15 July 2011

Taiko Collaboration

Performance at Vancouver Folk Music Festival, Vancouver, BC

03 May 2011


Performance at Vancouver Playhouse Theatre, Vancouver, BC

12 December 2010

In concert with Aliqua

Performance at Vogue Theatre, Vancouver BC

31 July 2010

Powell Street Festival

Performance at Oppenheimer Park, Vancouver, BC

23 April 2010

David Lloyd George Elementary School show

Performance at Vancouver, BC

06 November 2009

Vancouver Opera’s 50th Anniviversary

Performance at Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, BC

22 September 2009

Vancouver Hilton Airport Hotel

Performance at Richmond BC

01 August 2009

Japantown Multicultural Celebration

Performance at Vancouver BC

09 December 2008

BC Nurses Union Conference

Performance at Sheraton Guildford, Surrey BC

18 November 2008

Miku Restaurant Opening

Performance at Miku Restaurant Vancouver BC

13 September 2008

New Moon Festival

Performance at Dougall Park, Gibsons BC

17 August 2008

Regional Taiko Gathering Centennial Theatre

Performance at North Vancouver BC

02 August 2008

Powell Street Festival

Performance at Oppenheimer Park, Vancouver, BC

21 June 2008

Lotus Light Charity Society

Performance at Westin Bayshore Hotel, Vancouver BC

02 May 2008

Mayday Festival

Performance at POCO Arena, Port Coquitlam BC

08 April 2008

Elder’s Day

Performance at Native Education Centre, Vancouver BC

02 February 2008

Crimson Cabaret

Performance at North Shore Women’s Centre, Centennial Theatre, NorthVancouver BC

01 February 2008

David Lloyd George Elementary School

Performance at Vancouver BC

26 October 2007

Heart of the City Festival

Performance at Carnegie Centre, Vancouver BC

22 September 2007

New Moon Festival

Performance at Dougall Park, Gibsons BC

04 August 2007

Powell Street Festival

Performance at Oppenheimer Park, Vancouver, BC

21 July 2007


Performance at New Westminster Quay, New West BC

09 March 2007

International Women’s Day

Performance at Rime, Vancouver BC

02 March 2007

BC Government Employees Union

Performance at Coast Plaza Hotel, Vancouver BC

14 November 2006

Women’s Conference

Performance at BC Government Employees Union, Nikkei Place, Burnaby, BC

22 September 2006


Performance at Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC

05 August 2006

Powell Street Festival

Performance at Oppenheimer Park, Vancouver, BC

09 June 2006

David Lloyd George Elementary School

Performance at Vancouver, BC

15 May 2006

Canadian Health Library Assn.

Performance at Marriott Pinnacle Hotel, Vancouver, BC

07 December 2005

BC Tourism Conference

Performance at River Rock Theatre, Richmond, BC