Erez Van Ham - Founder
Erez was born in Toronto and moved to Northern Japan’s Akita city after graduation. While there he picked up Japanese hobbies, such as the martial art Shorinji Kempo and Taiko. A perfectionist at heart, Erez put everything into both of these hobbies, earning a black belt in Shorinji Kempo and performing taiko at one of the biggest festivals in Northern Japan.
After 3 years, Erez returned to Toronto to do his International MBA. During his studies he had the opportunity to return to Japan to do an internship and exchange. Upon graduation, Erez went back to Japan for the third time to work. During his 2 years in the Tokyo area, Erez devoted his extra time to taiko, playing with a semi-professional group in Saitama—Hanabusa Taiko. As a member of Hanabusa, Erez performed regularly, from small corporate events to large festivals, including the Sanja festival in Tokyo, attended by over one million visitors.
After returning to Toronto, Erez felt a void in his life—his love for taiko was too strong and, after playing with a couple of Toronto-based taiko groups, he formed his own group, Arashido Taiko.
Erez is passionate about taiko and this comes out through the raw energy displayed when he plays. His form takes on elements from both traditional taiko playing and martial arts, imagining the taiko stick (bachi) moving through the air like a Japanese sword (katana). His rhythms are sometimes traditional, sometimes modern, and sometimes a fusion of the two, often mixing taiko with regular Western drum sets.
Nicole Shaw has had a passion for music from an early age which was nurtured through voice and piano lessons, playing the cello, and singing in the High Park Girls Choir of Toronto. In 2004 Nicole moved to Iwaki Japan where she immediately became inspired by the power, simplicity and tradition of taiko. Over her 3 years in Japan Nicole practiced and performed with Mitsu Mori Taiko and Ichida no Kai, playing at local festivals, private government functions, and charity events. Nicole joined Arashido Taiko in the winter of 2008 where she continues to expand her abilities and where she’s motivated by the other talented musicians who share her love of taiko, Japanese culture and performing arts.
Like many others, Rachel Lam has spent time in Japan teaching English, living in Hyogo Prefecture for one year. Upon her return to Toronto, she wanted to find an activity connected with Japanese and Asian culture. As a member of the JETAA dragonboat team, she met Karen who naturally suggested taiko. Despite having no previous taiko experience, Rachel was intrigued and started lessons with the group that fall. Having enjoyed it immensely and after bonding with the group, she decided to join Arashido Taiko in December 2010 when asked. She feels taiko helps reinforce teamwork and is also a fun way to exercise.
Cecilia Yam was first introduced to taiko during her time as a participant of the Japan Exchange & Teaching Programme (JET). She had always found it a mesmerizing and exciting spectacle at Japanese festivals. Upon her return to Toronto in 2013, she found her opportunity to learn more about taiko through Arashido Taiko. Since then, she has been a regular member of the team, has performed at numerous events in Toronto, and continues to be a keen learner in the art of Japanese drumming.
Alexandra was first introduced to taiko drumming during her first weeks in Japan as a participant of the JET programme, where she took a day long workshop with other JET participants of Kagoshima prefecture (to her dismay, her beginner drum playing was broadcasted that night and periodically for the local news every so often for years to come). With her interest in music, playing the guitar and having played the trumpet for many years, she was hooked and decided to seek out her local taiko group! Throughout her three years in Japan she honed her drumming skills and thoroughly enjoyed both playing with her town's group as well as collaborating with other taiko groups around the Kyushu area of Kagoshima prefecture. Once settled back into life in Toronto, Alexandra stumbled across Arashido taiko, who were looking for new members, and has been playing with them, and learning the fue, ever since!
Josef Addleman has been playing various forms of percussion for over 15 years, in everything from orchestras to punk bands. He first honed his taiko skills on the "Taiko no Tatsujin" arcade machines while living in Tokushima, Japan. After returning to Canada in 2006, Josef was excited to become a founding member of Arashido Taiko. He is an avid improviser, both on the drums and onstage in comedy clubs around Toronto.
Karen Matsumoto is a founding member of Arashido Taiko. Her musical background spans from classical training in piano and violin to choral ensembles and a rock band in high school. Growing up watching taiko performances at Japanese schools in Toronto and Obon festivals in Japan, Karen was keen to try taiko for herself someday. She first studied with Susobana daiko while living in Nagano, Japan. As this was a sub-group of O-Suwa Daiko, a particular highlight was the opportunity to perform at the Special Olympics with Mr. Oguchi and 200 other drummers. She draws inspiration and motivation to grow from memories of Kodo at the Sado Island Earth Festival.
Robin McLeod joined Arashido Taiko in January 2009, after taking lessons with the group in fall 2008. While relatively new to taiko, Robin has known her way around a keyboard since she can remember, and has logged countless hours in the school band room on alto saxophone. She has also had voice training and has performed in a number of choirs. Taiko drumming was a natural way for Robin to combine her extensive musical background with her interest in Japanese culture – an interest that led her on a two-week tour of Osaka, Tokyo, Kyoto and Kagawa prefecture in May 2008.
Yuen was first introduced to taiko at a street festival in Toronto during her childhood. When she moved to Wakayama, Japan in 2008, she saw a taiko group perform at a summer festival and that memory came rushing back. She immediately sought her town’s local taiko group to learn more about the powerful and mesmerizing ways of taiko drumming. After returning to Canada, Yuen wanted to continue to cultivate her taiko skills; she joined Arashido Taiko in the winter of 2010.
Sunil Pai first played taiko as part of a city festival during his three years teaching English in Towada city in Aomori, Japan. Despite his having played trombone, alto saxophone, and even ukulele, hitting that large, resonating drum was on a completely different level, and he was instantly hooked. Seeking an opportunity to learn more and continue drumming, he joined Suijin Kaminari Daiko in Towada and played other festivals, city events, and even a friend’s wedding before he returned to Canada. Following a move to the Greater Toronto Area in 2010, he had the chance to take lessons with Arashido Taiko that fall, and was thrilled to join the group later that year.
Diana grew up surrounded by music with her dad playing various instruments including the guitar, bass, keyboard, and drums, and she herself taking up piano when she was a child. Over the years, she became interested in Japanese culture and began studying the language. This led her to take a job in Japan teaching in Oku-Aizu, Fukushima. There she was introduced to Ponpoko, a local taiko group in Kaneyama Town. She enjoyed playing taiko with her students, co-workers, and friends during her five years there. When it was time to return to Toronto, Diana was afraid that she wouldn't be able to continue to play taiko. Luckily, that was right when Arashido Taiko were looking for new members and joined the group soon after in the fall of 2015.
Suzanne learned about Japanese culture as a child through close friends, and attended various local performances. As an adult, she took taiko lessons for a few years before joining Arashido Taiko in 2016. She was especially excited about joining Arashido because of the energy and excitement the group brings to every performance. Suzanne has always enjoyed music and grew up playing piano, saxophone, clarinet, and has even dabbled in Maracatu drumming.