kaDON LIVE Community Series: Tucson Ondo

Workshop Description

Since first performing at the 2005 finale of Tucson’s iconic All Souls Procession (ASP), Odaiko Sonora has expanded its role, eventually creating an obon-style team of drums, fue and dancers at the front of the Procession, with people carrying lanterns to the finale site, serving as the water in our desert. In this workshops series, you will learn all four parts of the piece we created over 15 years, directly from the artists who created them: the dance and drum rhythm by Odaiko Sonora, the original chant written by Aki Takahashi, and the shinobue part written by Lani Villanueva. There will also be opportunities to learn more about the All Souls Procession from guest speakers who are directly involved with the production of this annual event.

Photo Credit: Louis Rivera

This is a great opportunity to discover how taiko has evolved and grown into a part of the local culture of a region outside of Japan. In addition, Tucson Ondo is a creative result from artists faring from different parts of North America (Arizona, Hawaii and Toronto) and truly embodies a coming together of community.

About Tucson Ondo

For the first few years participating in the  All Souls Procession, we used rhythms and dances learned at other people’s obon festivals. Around 2009, we felt we should have our own dance; one that would reflect our desert home. As usual in taiko, the history of Tucson Ondo is as important as the music and the dance itself. The piece was forged over time by many people, shaped and changed by the energy of each year’s Procession, refined by visiting artists, informed by the ever-changing world we live in. It reflects and gains richness from the spirit of each of the many people we’ve shared it with… community members throughout our region, Women and Taiko participants, Tano Taiko members in Exeter, and many others. In that sense it belongs to anyone who takes the time to learn and play it. Ideally, each taiko group will create their own, which is basically a love letter to the place where they live. Till then, we invite you to play Tucson Ondo anytime you gather and celebrate!


We hope you will join us and “travel” to Arizona to learn Tucson Ondo!


Instructor Profiles

The Tucson Ondo Team

Nicole Lani Karen and Aki


Karen Falkenstrom began playing taiko in Tucson with Stanley Morgan and MoGan Daiko. In 2002, she co-founded and is now Executive Director of Odaiko Sonora in Arizona. Karen is the choreographer and composer of Tucson Ondo’s dance and drum parts.


Find out more and follow Odaiko Sonora at https://www.facebook.com/tucsontaiko
Web Site: www.tucsontaiko.org


 Nicole Stansbury

Artistic Director of Odaiko Sonora, Nicole has been a taiko player for 15 years and an avid splasher of  puddles her entire life. With degrees in Dance Education and Massage Therapy, she brings a whole body approach to playing and teaching taiko. Nicole is a member of the Odaiko Sonora Performing Ensemble, Tiffany Tamaribuchi’s Jodaiko, and the North American Kasuga Onigumi.  As a teaching artist in Tucson Unified School District’s Opening Minds Through The Arts program, she brings dance and taiko to thousands of children each year.


Aki Takahashi (aka. Ten Ten)

Aki is a Japanese traditional shamisen player, composer and folk singer. She studied traditional folk music in Kyoto, and has given shamisen and vocal performances at numerous venues and events. Since arriving in Canada, Aki has furthered her pursuit of traditional Japanese music with the addition of taiko drumming. Currently, she is the Associate Artistic Director with pre-eminent Canadian taiko drumming group Nagata Shachu, and a shamisen and voice instructor at the Bachido Schoolhouse: International Shamisen Community online. She is also the founder of the Japanese folk ensemble “ten ten” , which has performed with numerous artists from a variety of other cultural backgrounds and traditions. Aki has also choreographed dance pieces to accompany her music. 




Lani Villanueva is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and K-8 music teacher from both Hawaii and Arizona. She has been playing shinobue for 9 years and taiko for just over 7 years. From 2013 – 2018, she was an Odaiko Sonora member and performer, and is currently a performing member of the Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble, as well as an instructor at Taiko Center of the Pacific in Oahu, Hawaii.

A Personal Message from Karen Falkenstrom

I can’t separate strands of culture and belief and communal gathering. As woven as these strands are, as complex as they are, I’m sure they all spring from the same source: the human ability to feel wonder and connection, to pause and to reflect; our need for sacred time…. As humans, we all feel the need to congregate, acknowledge present circumstances, put those into perspective, share, give thanks, and set intentions. For me, taiko is how to access that source. Something like Tucson Ondo — when all the parts come together and those gathered are all moving and singing as one multi-faceted One, it opens a portal to something. Something that has room for everyone.

Workshop Series (60-min each + optional 30-min for community hangout) Take one or all classes depending on what you’d like to learn.




Class 1: Fri. Nov. 6 – Tucson Ondo – Kihon Drum & Dance 

Intro session to meet instructors, see video and images of the piece performed at All Souls, and begin learning the dance and taiko parts.


Class 2: Sun. Nov. 8 – Tucson Ondo – Drum & Dance

We’ll pick up where we left off last week and finish the drum and dance parts. We MAY start some voice basics for the chant

Optional Watch Party: 6pm 

Join Sarah Anderson All Souls Procession finale online. Due to the pandemic, it will be an intimate ritual, at which Karen and Nicole will have some mysterious small part as planned by musical Director Steve Roach.


Class 3: Fri. Nov. 13 – Tucson Ondo Chant

Aki Takahashi will teach the Tucson Ondo chant, commissioned by Odaiko Sonora for the 25th Anniversary All Souls Procession in 2014. This session will end with social time featuring a special appearance by Nadia Hagen, Artistic Director of Flam Chen and the All Souls Procession. She can answer questions about what you saw if you attended the watch party.


Class 4: Sun. Nov. 15 – Tucson Ondo Shinobue

Lani Villanueva teaches the shinobue part, which she composed after a theme from the Great Ape Escape II video game. 


Class 5: Fri. Nov. 20 Putting It All Together

We’ll stream live and recorded parts from one site at a time so the parts will sync up over Zoom and participants can practice it together.


All classes are one hour in duration (plus optional 30-minute Q&A hangout) starting at: 

12:00 p.m. Los Angeles
1:00 p.m. Arizona/Denver
2:00 p.m Chicago
3:00 p.m Toronto/New York
8:00 p.m. London
9:00 p.m. Madrid

Check your local time by using this site: https://www.thetimezoneconverter.com/

What do I need?
  • Some space to move your body
  • Hitting surface (drum pad, kaDON TimbreTaiko, pillow, etc) and something to hit it with
  • Water
  • Pen and paper for note taking (optional)
  • Shinobue (flute) for Class 4
Important Notes
  • Each live class is recorded (instructor view only) and is shared with the registrants
  • Each live class is followed by an optional 30-minute community hangout and Q&A time

In hopes of bringing more people around the world together, the registration fee for this special kaDON Live Community series will be on a pay-what-you-can basis. The Tucson Ondo team thanks you for supporting them with whatever you can, but they are even more grateful for your presence. Please select your contribution amount as well as the following workshops you are interested in so that we can send the relevant links to you.