ShastaYama, an annual summer outdoor festival featuring taiko, music, dance

Shasta Taiko at ShastaYama 2009 (photo credit: Gary Ono)

Shasta Taiko at ShastaYama 2009 (photo credit: Gary Ono)

I am very excited to be performing at ShastaYama next month. I've been wanting to attend ever since becoming aware of this festival several years ago. Mt. Shasta is a unique place and an incredible setting for an outdoor music festival, complete with the dramatic backdrop of the mountain. The founders are Russel Baba and Jeanne Mercer, both of whom are wonderful people and great artists. I asked 5 questions to my friend and bandmate Masato Baba for a special inside look at this year’s event.

July 30, 2016 at 6 PM
Shastice Park - Mount Shasta, CA

Eien Hunter-Ishikawa shastayama onensemble poster flyer ticket

1. Can you describe ShastaYama?
ShastaYama was started in the city of Mt. Shasta in the summer of 2005.  My parents, Russel Baba and Jeanne Mercer, wanted to create an outdoor taiko festival to bring people from around the area to enjoy a night of taiko and music.  They were supported by a long time friend and supporter, Mario Rubino, who acts as the co-producer of the show. 

2. What is the musical lineup this year?
This year On Ensemble are the headliners.  On Ensemble is a taiko-fusion group based in Los Angeles and features Russel Baba and Jeanne Mercer's son, Masato Baba (me), and former student, Shoji Kameda.  The two of us grew up playing taiko together and after 32 years are still going strong.  Other members include Eien Hunter-Ishikawa, Abe Lagrimas, Jr, and Sumie Kaneko.  Together, they combine taiko with bamboo flutes, vibraphone, koto (Japanese zither), shamisen (Japanese banjo), western drum set, ukulele, and voice to create a unique, fresh sound.

Tadaima (Russel and Jeanne's jazz group featuring Gary Fitzgerald), Unit Souzou (featuring Michelle Fujii and Toru Watanabe), Shasta Taiko (Russel and Jeanne's taiko group), and a special guest group featuring Isaku Kageyama, Bruce Ghent, Joe Small, Yeeman Mui, and Heidi Chan will be featured as part of the program.

3. How can everyone learn more and get tickets?
Check out the website: 

4. What is your favorite part of ShastaYama?
My favorite part is performing and giving back to the area I grew up in.  Mt. Shasta is an amazing, spiritual place where I feel at peace.  The land, air, and water is as pure as it gets nowadays which I definitely took for granted when I was growing up there.  It holds a special place in my heart. 

5. Do you have any upcoming events you would like to mention?
On Ensemble is also taking part of Summer Sounds at the Hollywood Bowl from July 25-29.  The website says:  "Built on the pulsating beats of taiko drumming, the traditional music and instruments of Japan are blended with styles from the West in ways that will let your imagination soar."

Personally, I have a big event in Los Angeles with my other group, TAIKOPROJECT.  We are performing for the re-opening of the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre on July 8.  Collaborating with Grammy Award-winning Quetzal (a Chicano rock band), we are "exploring common musical ground to create a new sound that is quintessentially Los Angeles".
-This quote was taken from the Ford website:

Masato Baba at ShastaYama 2012 (photo credit:  Karrie Ann Snure)

Masato Baba at ShastaYama 2012 (photo credit: Karrie Ann Snure)

Masato is considered one of America's most outstanding taiko talents. He began taiko training at the age of 6 when his parents, Russel Baba and Jeanne Mercer, founded Shasta Taiko. As a member of Shasta Taiko, he gained the valuable experience performing, teaching, and touring throughout his formative years. Masato polished and refined his taiko skills for over 7 years touring world-wide with renowned American Taiko Master Kenny Endo. He also served as the Youth Director of Endo's Taiko Center of the Pacific based in Honolulu. Baba studied taiko in Japan with Nihon Taiko Dojo and fue (Japanese bamboo flute) with Kyosuke Suzuki of the Wakayama School. Masato Baba has emerged as one of the most respected taiko artists in America. He is a pivotal member of highly acclaimed ON Ensemble. Masato is an original member of TAIKOPROJECT, served as their Musical Director and is now the Artistic Director of the multimedia theater company. Maz also is the lead instructor for several Los Angeles based taiko groups. Baba was also the lead coordinator of the successful "World Taiko Gathering" held in Los Angeles in 2014. Baba was featured in the DVD "Spirit of Taiko," a history of American taiko that focuses on 3 American taiko generations represented by Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka, Kenny Endo, and Masato Baba. Masato has performed at the 2009 Acadamy Awards, on The Voice, and with Alicia Keyes on "The X Factor”. Masato Baba is influencing and inspiring the growth of taiko, performing and conducting workshops across the country and around the world. With his parents, Masato is helping to establish and develop ShastaYama's growing reputation.