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 technician. Eventually, she was coaxed out from backstage and has now been playing since 1997. For Cat, Sawagi Taiko is an important connection to her Asian heritage. First gig: the Roundhouse in Vancouver. One of her favourite performances was in Alburquerque, New Mexico, at the Kino Theatre.


Lisa Mah

Lisa has been playing taiko since 1987. She began her training with Katari Taiko, and was one of the founding members of Sawagi Taiko. For Lisa, taiko has been an invaluable part of her development in life as a musician, composer, leader and community member.


Linda Uyehara Hoffman

Linda has been playing taiko for a long time. Her favourite gig was at the Michigan Women’s Music Festival when Sawagi Taiko performed in 1990. Watching her perform were her teenage daughter, her 75-year-old mother, and a friend (who also brought along her teenage daughter and mother). Together, they were six Asian women spanning three generations amidst a mostly Caucasian, clothing optional crowd. It was an exhilarating and unforgettable weekend.


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

Jeanie heard and saw her first taiko concert as a collaboration with Scottish bagpipes, and was instantly enthralled. Shortly after, an opportunity came up in 2000 to train as a recruit with Sawagi Taiko; she has never looked back since. Her favourite festival to play for is the Powell Street Festival; she can't wait to share her passion for taiko and sense of community with her two children. When not drumming with the amazing women who comprise Sawagi Taiko, Jeanie can be found behind a camera, documenting life. Most images on this site appear courtesy of STUDIOjeanie.


Helen Kang

It was love at first sight when Helen saw taiko performed by Ragin’ Asian Women in Toronto. When she moved to Vancouver, she joined Sawagi Taiko to experience the drum herself. Taiko brings together her two passions—art and community-building. Plus, every week she gets to drum, sing and laugh with such an amazing and fun group of women!


Anita Yung

Anita joined Sawagi in 2005, not knowing what she was getting into. Her main intention was to reconnect to her Asian roots, but also because it seemed REALLY COOL from what she found other people doing. While Anita currently takes periodic work hiatus, she always makes it a point to come back to her drumming family.


Kathy Shimizu

Kathy was inspired to take her first taiko workshop in 1987 after seeing Hinode Taiko perform at Folklorama in her hometown of Winnipeg. After the workshop, she joined the group and her life changed forever. After moving to Vancouver in 1990, she joined Katari Taiko, and then Sawagi Taiko in 1995. Now she dedicates her taiko energy to Sawagi Taiko and the rest of her energy to the Powell Street Festival, WePress, and Asian Americans United working for social change and justice through art and advocacy.


Anny Lin

Anny has always been drawn to the world of percussion, and started studying African music and dance under Albert St. Albert Smith in 2007. She came across taiko in the summer of 2014, and studied with various taiko professionals throughout North America and Japan. Sawagi Taiko has taught her alot about community and leadership. She is honoured to be part of such a high-spirited group and is thrilled to perform together with them.


Felice Kwo

Playing music has been a big part of Felice's life for as long as she can remember. And from the moment she first saw taiko, she knew she had to play it. Felice takes great joy in performing with Sawagi Taiko, and sharing her passion for taiko with the community.



When Fin first took a workshop with Sawagi, she never dreamed that she would one day have the honour of joining them. For Fin, who has never learned an instrument or performed music, Sawagi is a source of great inspiration and joy, and she counts herself very lucky to play taiko with such a talented and empowering group of women.


Wenonah Justin

Wenonah Justin is from the Nlaka'pamux/ Nehiyaw First Nations. Wenonah first learnt about taiko during a collaboration workshop in 2008 with Tiqilip Community Singers. When Wenonah hit her first "don", something woke up inside her. She continued to eagerly participate with collaborative performances and Sawagi's workshops. In 2017, she proudly became Sawagi Taiko's first Indigenous member. The Drum is Calling Festival in July 2017, is one of her most memorable performances.


Jen Quan

Jen joined Sawagi Taiko in 2013. For her, taiko combines her love of music, movement and artistic expression. Jen has fond memories of enjoying taiko at many Powell Street Festivals and was instantly drawn to the powerful connections between the drum, group members and communities. Some of her favourite performances have been collaborations with Salish music ensemble Tzo'kam.


Get In Touch

Book Sawagi Taiko For An Event


Please see our requirements below under CONTACT US.

To book us for a performance please include the PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENTS in the message box.

Or email us the required details directly at sawagitaiko@gmail.com

Contact Us

Vancouver, BC


(604) - 876 - 7358


Performance Requirements

Event Location

Size of Audience

Type of Performance

Length of Performance

Coverage if outside (rain or sun)

Storage for drum bags & cases while on site

Change & warm up room (close to washrooms)

Parking for (approx.) 3-4 vehicles while on site

Minimum stage/performance area: 30ft W x 20ft L

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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