contact us
sawagitaiko [at] or 604.876.7358

history of sawagi taiko

group at ferry(c) Jeanie Ow


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.


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.

group shot(c) William Ting



Jeanie(c) Adam Smith


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.

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.

current members

catlin renay

Cat bio image  

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 favourite shows was Alburquerque, New Mexico show at the Kino Theatre.



lisa mah

Lisa bio image   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

Linda bio image  

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   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.


mariko heidelk

Mariko, Emi   Mariko first heard taiko music back in the 1980s and swore she would one day pick up a pair of bachi and drum. In 2003 her wish was finally fulfilled when she joined Sawagi. Apart from the joy taiko has given her, it has also sparked a greater interest in her Japanese heritage. Mariko hopes her passion for taiko will be passed on to her daughter Emi, who has heard the "don tsuku don dons" since she was inside the womb.


jeanie ow

Jeanie bio image   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 bio image   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   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.


joscelyn wong



kathy shimizu

  After seeing Hinode Taiko perform at the Japanese Pavilion at Folkorama in her hometown of Winnipeg, Kathy was inspired to take a workshop and then join the group in 1987. After moving to Vancouver, she joined Katari Taiko in 1991 and then, in 1995, joined Sawagi Taiko and has been drumming with them ever since (minus a 5-year hiatus in Philadelphia). Taiko has been a great source of community and friendship, and one of the most fantastic ways to combine music-making and movement!


Contact us at sawagitaiko [at] or 604.876.7358