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Son Returns for Taiko Concert

Reprinted from the Mt. Shasta Herald


As a performing art, taiko combines powerful sound, hypnotic rhythm, intense energy and graceful and vigorous choreography.

Once again this spring Russel Baba and Jeanne Mercer of Shasta Taiko will be presenting a concert of Japanese drumming at the College of the Siskiyous theatre in Weed on March 31st, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

The concert, sponsored by Shasta Mountain Playhouse and the Mount Shasta Chamber of Commerce, will spotlight the talents of guest artist Masato Baba,a former Shasta Taiko member and Russel and Jeanne's son, who now tours the world as a member of the Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble. Masato also teaches at Endo's Taiko Center of the Pacific and is the director of the center's youth group.

Also featured will be Shasta Taiko members Wanda Welbourn, Joan Lucas, Christopher May, Kelsey Demarest and Lisa Carpenter, who will perform one of her original compositions on hammer dulcimer.

Former Shasta Taiko member Asa Costanzo, now with Sonoma Taiko, will return for the concert.

The troupe will perform original and innovative compositions by Baba and Mercer on Japanese style drums of various sizes, accented by bamboo flute and percussion and incorporating lively choreography.

Baba and Mercer, pioneers in North American taiko, moved to Mount Shasta and started teaching taiko in 1985, after 10 years with the San Francisco Taiko Dojo. As California Arts Council Artists in Residence, and under the sponsorship of Mount Shasta Recreation District, they have taught the art and discipline of taiko to hundreds of area youth and adults. Their students have performed for community events, schools, benefits and festivals, and their advanced groups have performed and conducted workshops from Los Angeles to Alaska. They have offered workshops, and they've sold out previous concerts at COS which featured world-class artists.

Their video, "Shasta Taiko," won a CableAce Award for "documentary - cultural affairs" in 1994.

Former Shasta Taiko members Masato Baba and Shoji Kameda, have gone on to become professional taiko artists. Masato and Shoji were featured on the CD recording called "Spirit Drum," which Baba and Mercer recently produced. Shoji is now studying Japanese culture and music in Tokyo, Japan. Masato continues working with his parents on various creative projects, and he and Shoji's playing are featured on the "Spirit Drum" recording. Masato and Shoji are considered some of America's outstanding young taiko talents and leaders of the new taiko generation.

This summer Russel and Jeanne, together with Masato and Shoji, will form one of the six groups that will be featured at the 2001 Taiko Conference in Los Angeles, an event that is expected to draw more than 500 taiko enthusiasts from North America.

Russel and Jeanne will conduct workshops in improvisation and spontaneous creativity at the conference, while Masato and Mount Shasta's noted resident drum-maker Mark Miyoshi are also scheduled to conduct workshops.

Russel and Jeanne have recently been selected for the California Arts Council 2002-03-04 Touring Artists Directory, featuring their performing group "KOKORO."

Tickets for the March 31st concert are $15 general admission and are available at Village Books in Mount Shasta, Brown Trout Gallery in Dunsmuir, Ellie's Espresso and Bakery in Weed, Yreka Chamber of Commerce, and Serendipity II Cappuccino House in Redding.