Raging Asian Women Taiko Drummers (RAW) is a performing arts ensemble made up of Torontonians who identify as East and Southeast Asian women. We are a Japanese Taiko drumming group that exists as a critical response and challenge to both systemic and internalized oppressions. Through performance, education, and community outreach, we seek to challenge, redefine and represent ourselves, and to inspire ourselves and others in striving for racial and gender equality. Through collective membership, artistic creation, and active development, we carve space for self-expression, authentic engagement, community, and empowerment.
RAW was formed in 1998 as one of the only all-women identified taiko groups in North America, by three former members of Wasabi Daiko. RAW traces its lineage through the North American taiko movement’s unique history, one that is integrally linked to the Asian American Movement of the 1960s and 1970s when Asian Americans and Canadians mobilized en masse around issues of racial equality, social justice, and political empowerment.
RAW has performed at a wide variety of events including Pride celebrations in Toronto and Buffalo NY, Dim Sum Chinese Festival as part of Harbourfront Centre’s World Routes Summer Festivals, Muhtadi International Drumming Festival in Toronto and Tobago, Mayworks Festival of Working People and the Arts, Toronto’s WinterCity Festival, Labour union conventions, International Women’s Day events, art festivals, social justice events… and more!
RAW’s original drums were built during the summer of 2004 by its members, using resources and wine barrels generously donated by Jim Hedges, co-owner of Canadian Oak, a small wine barrel company run out of a farm in St. George, Ontario where RAW members spent many weekends building drums. 2004 was also the year that marked many changes for RAW and set the group on an upward journey of renewal and growth, with the new drums representing this dedication and newfound energy.
Since its inception in 1998, RAW has largely been a self-taught group, with senior members passing on knowledge to newer members, and with each member collectively supporting each other’s learning. Over the years, RAW members have also gained skills through workshops, lessons and intensives with Yoshikazu Fujimoto, Masami Miyazaki and Eiichi Saito (of KODO), Ryutaro Kaneko (formerly of KODO), Kiyoshi Nagata and Aki Takahashi (of Nagata Shachu), Roy and PJ Hirabayashi (of San Jose Taiko), Tiffany Tamarabuchi (of Sacramento Taiko Dan), and Megan Chao Smith (formerly of Shidara). Several members have also participated in the KASA/Mix tour to Sado Island, and the North American Taiko Conference and Summer Taiko Institute over the years.
Over the last few years, RAW has expanded its community and educational outreach, doing residencies at various TDSB schools, workshops series with the Queer Asian Youth, as well as offering introductory taiko workshop to the public. RAW is unique in the taiko community in that the group is a strong advocate for the LGBTQ2S community and providing women-empowered environment at our performances and workshops.
In July of 2012, RAW took on its most ambitious project to date: organizing and launching the very first Toronto Taiko Festival. The festival, 3 days of workshops, panel discussion, and a public concert, drew over 500 audience members, 50 workshop participants from over 15 cities, with 2 international teachers and performances by 4 Canadian Taiko groups. Since then, RAW has mounted 2 self-produced theatrical productions, From Rage Comes (2013)and Crooked Lines (2016). In 2017, RAW organized the 2nd Toronto Taiko Festival with the support of Canadian Heritage Foundation, Canadian Arts Presentation Fund.