Russel Baba and Jeanne Mercer of Shasta Taiko will be featured guests at TaikoProject’s “Rhythmic Relations 2023” this Saturday at the Smothers Theatre at Pepperdine University. (Courtesy TaikoProject)

TaikoProject heads to Malibu at the Smothers Theatre at Pepperdine University on Saturday, July 22, at 7 p.m. with its vibrant blend of innovative drum-based music and choreography, for their annual taiko extravaganza, “Rhythmic Relations 2023.”

This year’s special guest artists are Russel Baba and Jeanne Mercer, American taiko pioneers from Shasta Taiko; and Sumie Kaneko, koto/shamisen virtuoso from New York City.

“This year’s show is particularly meaningful to me,” says TaikoProject Artistic Director Masato Baba. “To share the stage with my parents — representing the pioneering generation of American taiko, along with members of TaikoProject, representing the second generation of American taiko, is something I’ve dreamed of doing for years.”

TaikoProject has been captivating audiences since its founding in 2000, performing alongside such stars as Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Jared Leto’s Thirty Seconds to Mars and John Legend. The group has performed at the Academy Awards, at the Grammys, on NBC’s “The Voice,” and has been featured in numerous music videos. Recently, the group recorded tracks for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Opening Ceremony, and were featured in Lisa Ling’s “Take Out” series and in MTV’s AAPI Heritage Month streaming promotional videos.

They recently returned from a winter concert tour, traveling through California, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, and Montana.

Russel Baba and Jeanne Mercer were members of the first taiko group in the U.S., San Francisco Taiko Dojo, in the early 1970s and toured internationally with the ensemble.

They founded Shasta Taiko in 1985 in Mt. Shasta and have continued their dedication to the art, discipline, and philosophy of taiko for now over 50 years. They are known for their jazz-influenced, improvisation-heavy style of taiko.

Sumie Kaneko is a master of the shamisen and koto, in addition to being an ethereal jazz vocalist. She has toured internationally and performed with artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Pulitzer Prize winner Paula Vogel, and the American Ballet Theatre.

The program includes works by all of the artists, as well as special collaborations between the artists and several new compositions developed specifically for “Rhythmic Relations 2023.”

Ticket prices start at $20. Tickets are available at

Smothers Theatre at Wengler Center for the Arts is located at Pepperdine University, 24255 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu.

TaikoProject programs are supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, California Arts Council, Los Angeles County Department of Arts & Culture, City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the LA Arts Recovery Fund, The James Irvine Foundation, the Sansei Legacy Fund, and individual BaseBeat donors.

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