Artist Profiles: Kenny Endo

Kenny Endo – Photo by Toyo Miyatake Studio

Kenny Endo was born on April 2, 1953 in Los Angeles, California. He’s a leading percussionist who has developed new techniques in the taiko style of drumming. He is one of the most versatile musicians in the taiko genre and crosses easily between the classical Japanese style and his own neo-classical globally-inspired style.

Originally trained as a jazz musician in the Asian American cultural renaissance of 1970s California he began his taiko career first with Los Angeles’ groundbreaking Kinnara Taiko and then with the renowned San Francisco Taiko Dojo the first kumi daiko group outside of Japan.

In 1980 he embarked on a decade-long odyssey in his ancestral Japan studying and performing with the masters of ancient classical drumming traditional Tokyo festival music and ensemble drumming. He has the honor of being the first non-Japanese national to have received a natori (stage name and masters degree) in hogaku hayashi (classical drumming); in the hogaku world he is known as Mochizuki Tajiro.

Endo has recorded several CDs of original taiko compositions and was a featured artist on the PBS special Spirit of Taiko. He opened for The Who performed a duet with singer Bobby McFerrin and was featured on the soundtracks for Kayo Hatta’s Picture Bride and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.

Kenny Endo – Photo by John Chisholm

He has appeared at the Smithsonian the Kennedy Center the Theatre de Champs-Elysee in Paris the Kabukiza and National Theater in Japan and traveled around the world with the Hong Kong Philharmonic the Honolulu Symphony and the Tokyo Symphony.

He has received commissions to create and tour new work from the American Composers Forum the Rockefeller Foundation (MAPP) and the Japan Foundation among others. Endo received an M.A. in Ethnomusicology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.


Eternal Energy (Bindu, 1994)
Hibiki (Bindu, 1998)
Jugoya (Bindu, 2000)
Essence (2001)
On The Way – Michi Yuki (2007)
Rhythm Summit
Honua (Earth)
Convergence, with Kaoru Watanabe (2016)
Uncommon Time: Taiko, Tabla, and Timbales (2016)


The Spirit of Taiko (2006) DVD

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.


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