Our Collaborators

Mwata Bowden


Multi-instrumentalist Mwata Bowden was born in Memphis but has his roots in Chicago's jazz history. After training under legendary band director Walter Dyett at DuSable high school, touring with the rhythm and blues band the Chi-lites and developing a reputation as a riveting multi-instrumentalist Bowden established a jazz scene at the University of Chicago where he is currently the Director of Jazz Ensembles. As a second generation member and former Chair of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), he helped evolve the concept of collective improvisation through its signature band, the Great Black Music Ensemble. His 20-year partnership with Tatsu Aoki's Miyumi Project, helped create an amalgam of American jazz with Japanese Taiko, and as a member of Edward Wilkerson's Eight Bold Souls, Bowden has performed at jazz and blues festivals throughout Chicago and around the world. He is a long time educator who understands how learning and applying the skills of improvisation can provide life-long benefits for youth; from Chicago Public School elementary and high school students to the AACM School to the many Jazz X-Tet students and alumni at the University of Chicago as well as workshops he has presented to students worldwide. In 2013 he received the Jazz Journalists Association's Jazz Hero award for his advocacy for and cultivation of a strong and vibrant jazz community in Chicago and in the world.

Grand Master Fujima Shunojo

Shubukai Founder and Artistic Director

FUJIMA SHUNOJO received his natori (professional performance name) - a major milestone for a practitioner of the Japanese cultural arts - at an early age. He opened his own school of classical dance and taught for several years in Tokyo before coming to the United States, first on tour with a classical dance troupe, and later permanently. For the past thirty-seven years, Fujima sensei has directed his own dance group in Chicago. In 2013 he received the Japanese Foreign Minister's Commendation Award for his ongoing work in the US promoting Japanese culture through teaching and performing Japanese classical dance. In addition to the annual recitals, Fujima and his dancers perform for various civic and cultural groups, colleges, universities and various festivals in and around Chicago and the Midwest.

Grand Master Fujima Yoshinojo (Rika Lin)

Interdisciplinary Performing Artist

Chicago native Rika Lin has studied Japanese classical dance for the last twenty-four years. In 2006, as a member of the Fujima Ryu of Chicago dance troupe, she received her natori. She continues to train with Shunojo Fujima Sensei, Founder and Director of Fujima Ryu of Chicago, to attain her shihan (teaching license), and develops her artistry working with Asian Improv aRts Midwest and Toyoaki Shamisen. She has performed in collaborations with Tatsu Aoki, Tsukasa Taiko, Bellisima Productions, and Yoko Noge's Japanesque.

Melody Takata

Founder and Director of GenRyu Arts

Melody Takata has been performing in the traditional arts for over 25 years, from her upbringing in the Japanese American community of Los Angeles. She is founder and director of GenRyu Arts, established in 1995 as Gen Taiko and incorporated in 2008. She completed the ACTA master apprentice program for shamisen with Hideko Nakajima Sensei in 2003, and, in celebration of Gen Taiko's 10th anniversary, the ACTA master apprentice program with 90 year-old Madame Fujima Kansuma. Takata has been one of the most significant collaborators for Tsukasa Taiko's national expansion program.

Michael Zerang

Professional Musician, Composer, and Producer

Michael Zerang is a first-generation American of Assyrian descent and was born in Chicago. He has been a professional musician, composer, and producer since 1976, focusing extensively on improvised music, free jazz, contemporary composition, puppet theater, experimental theater, and international musical forms. Zerang has collaborated extensively with contemporary theater, dance, and other multidisciplinary forms and has received three Joseph Jefferson Awards for Original Music Composition in Theater - in 1996, 1998, and 2000 - in collaboration with Redmoon Theater. As a percussionist and composer, he has more than eighty titles in his discography and has toured nationally and internationally to thirty-three countries since 1981. Zerang is a percussionist with the creative music group The Trio Waz with Tatsu Aoki and Edward Wilkerson Jr. He tours and holds workshops and teaches private lessons in improvisational music, rhythmic analysis, music composition, and percussion technique.

Chizuru Kineya

Nagauta Shamisen Artist

Chizuru Kineya started studies at the age of six and is a nagauta shamisen artist, a master of the instrument accredited by the legendary Kineya Shamisen family. She performs with numerous contemporary classical musicians in regular engagements at the National Theater of Japan and in the mainstream Japanese music and performing arts scene, and teaches workshops at regional schools. Her US debut with the Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival in 2011 marked her first collaboration with Chicago blues musicians. Kineya has regularly collaborated with Tatsu Aoki and GenRyu Arts in San Francisco since her first Taiko Legacy engagement in 2005. Her 2012 Tokyo Shamisen CD project, Toyoakimoto, features Aoki.

Hamid Drake

Chicago-based Jazz Drummer and Percussionist

Hamid Drake is a Chicago-based jazz drummer and percussionist who frequently tours internationally. His earliest collaboration was with legendary Chicago tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson. In 1977, he cofounded the Mandingo Griot Society with Foday Musa Suso, the celebrated kora player from Gambia, and composer-percussionist Adam Rudolph. Other regular collaborators include bassist William Parker, saxophonist David Murray, free-jazz saxophonists Peter Brotzmann and Ken Vandermark, and fellow drummer Michael Zerang. More recently, Drake has performed with Archie Shepp in various configurations, the group Phat Jam, and human beat boxer and rapper Napoleon Maddox as part of the jazz/hip-hop group ISWAHAT. He performs frequently with several Hungarian jazz groups, recording with Viktor Toth and Mihaly Dresch.Dake and Tatsu Aoki worked together in Fred Anderson Trio/Quartet from 1998 through 2009.
Dohee Lee

Dohee Lee

Performing Artist

Dohee Lee is a native of South Korea's Jeju Island. She studied Korean dance, music, percussion, and vocals at the master level. Since relocating to the US, she has contributed to traditional and contemporary art forms in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she resides, as well as internationally. In 2008, she received the Isadora Duncan Special Award honoring Outstanding Achievement for her multimedia work Flux. She is a 2013 Creative Capital Grantee for her project MAGO. She has been awarded residencies by Montalvo Art Center, Headlands Center for the Arts, Djerassi Art Center, Watermill Art Center, and Paul Dresher's Artist Residency Center. She has collaborated with a range of dance, performance, and music artists such as Anna Halprin, the Kronos Quartet, Tatsu Aoki, Francis Wong, Larry Ochs, Shinichi Iova-Koga's inkBoat, Amara Tabor-Smith, Sherwood Chen, Yannis Adoniou's Kunst-Stoff, and the Degenerate Art Ensemble.

Fukuhara Hyakkyo (flute)
& Fukuhara Tsuruka (taiko)

Both artists are certified performers from the traditional Fukuhara clan performing actively in the Kabuki - Nagauta tradition as well as other collaborative works. Outside of Kabuki Theaters' house musicians, there are only a handful of certified classical players in Japan today. These players are in high demand for supporting roles in classical shamisen music, Kabuki music, and other festive music. Hyakkyo and Tsuruka are working in the classical tradition.

Kizan Kawamura

Kizan Kawamura is a one of the rising young grandmaster in contemporary Japanese classical music. Born into a traditional Shakuhachi (bamboo flute) family, he started his formal practice in early age under acclaimed grand master Taizan Kawamura. He was a winner of the Kumamoto Japanese classical music competition and was awarded by the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in 2009. From contemporary new music to the traditional, Kizan collaborates with many different artists internationally

Eigen Aoki

Tsukasa Taiko Gintenkai Lead Performer

Eigen Aoki’s Taiko career started at age 4 on the stage of JASC’s annual Holiday Delight. While he started as a solo act, with help from his father and sister, he grew to perform in Tsukasa Taiko. Recently, Tsukasa Taiko developed a performing team Gintenkai, which Eigen has become a lead performer of. Eigen has since performed with Tsukasa Taiko, Gintenkai, and a host of renowned artists such as Mwata Bowden, Nicole Mitchell, Dohee Lee, Hamid Drake, Michael Zerang and more. Throughout his career, he has played at major venues in Chicago as well such as the Chicago Jazz Festival and Taste of Chicago and at many locations such as the DuSable Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art.