Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble’s Final Performance


From left: Jimi Nakagawa, Naoko Amemiya, Kallan Nishimoto, Ellen Bepp.

SAN FRANCISCO — Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble (SYTE) has announced its final performance.

Presented by the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center, the concerts will take place Friday, Sept. 16, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 17, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Sept. 18, at 2 p.m. at ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., San Francisco.

With Ellen Bepp’s retirement a year ago and Jimi Nakagawa and Kallan Nishimoto’s retirement at the end of this year, SYTE (which also features Naoko Amemiya and Debby Kajiyama) has decided to go out with bang — or rather, a bug.

Never afraid to push the boundaries in the taiko drumming world, SYTE brings its signature style of performance to ODC Theater with its newest full-length work, entitled “Time Cocoon.” Prepare to focus your eyes into the magnifying glass through time and space as you enter the peculiar world of insects. Using a wide palette of world instruments, including  taiko, shamisen and bamboo flute, SYTE imaginatively dissects the complex and sometimes bizarre microcosm of distinct cycles of birth, death and transformation.

Tickets are $25 general, $22 for seniors, students and children. The box office can be reached at (415) 863-9834 Wednesday through Saturday from 12 to 6 p.m. Tickets can also be ordered online at

Founded in 1999, SYTE goes beyond the beat of the taiko drum to use music, theater and dance as a medium to express the human condition as it relates to its environment, community and its future. While the artists have a concern for classicism in the structure of their compositions, their direction is a head-on challenge to the predominating conventional treatment of taiko by using their interdisciplinary imagination and their revolutionary approach to taiko choreography.

Since its founding, SYTE has worked in collaboration with choreographers, composers, designers and musicians from all genres. Somei Yoshino refers to one of the most beautiful cherry blossom trees in Japan. The brief blooming time and the fragility of its blossoms signifies the transient beauty of humanity. Like the cherry blossom, SYTE’s work is inspired to explore the sensitive, elegant and ephemeral aspects of humanity within the strong and powerful expression of taiko.

SYTE’s work ranges from comedic performance art to surrealistic musical drama to powerful synchronous drumming and everything in between. The ensemble has collaborated with jazz musician/composer Marcus Shelby, shakuhachi artist Masayuki Koga, Native American vocalist and percussionist Jane DeCuir, traditional Vietnamese multi-instrumentalist Vanessa Vo, and renowned taiko artist Kenny Endo, as well as choreographers Robert Moses, Sara Shelton Mann, Robert Henry Johnson, Krissy Keefer, Sue-Li Jue and Alleluia Panis.

SYTE has toured throughout California and has performed at many major music festivals and performing arts venues, including Popejoy Hall in Albuquerque, Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City and the noted Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.

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