Raging Asian Womxn Taiko Drummers (RAW) is a Toronto-based performing arts ensemble made up of East and Southeast Asian womxn. Formed in 1998, we carry on the diasporic Taiko tradition that grew out of Asian American and Asian Canadian mobilization in the 60s and 70s. One of the few all-Asian, all-womxn Taiko drumming groups in the world, RAW exists as a critical response and challenge to both systemic and internalized oppressions. RAW plays large taiko drums as creative resistance for social change, carving space for self-expression, education and community building.
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. To date, RAW has mounted 3 self-produced theatrical productions; From Rage Comes (2013), Crooked Lines (2016), and Undaunted (2019).
Since its inception in 1998 when it was formed by three former members of Wasabi Daiko, RAW has largely been a self-taught group with senior members passing on knowledge to newer members, and 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 Eichi Saito (of KODO), Ryutaro Kaneko (formerly of KODO), Kiyoshi Nagata and Aki Takahashi (of Nagata Shachu), Roy and PJ Hiyabayashi (of San Jose Taiko), Tiffany Tamaribuchi (of Sacramento Taiko Dan), and Megan Chao Smith (formerly of Shidara). Several members have also participated in the KASA/Mix tour of Sado Island, and the North American Taiko Conference and Summer Taiko Institute over the years.
In July of 2012, RAW took on its most ambitious project to date: organizing and launching the very first Toronto Taiko Festival (TTF). The festival, three days of workshops, panel discussions, and a public concert, drew over 500 audience members, 50 workshop participants from over 15 cities, 2 international teachers, and performances by 4 Canadian Taiko groups. TTF returned for the second time in 2017 and will be back for its third year in 2021.
In recent years, RAW has expanded its community and educational outreach via workshop series with Queer Asian Youth group (ACAS) and offerings of introductory taiko workshops to the public. RAW has also done residencies and workshops, notably Asian Heritage Month programming, at various TDSB schools as well as established two of Toronto’s only high school taiko clubs at Forest Hill Collegiate Institute and Harbord Collegiate Institute. RAW is unique in the taiko community in that the group is a strong advocate for the LGBTQ2S community and works to provide womxn-empowered environments at our performances and workshops.