Photo of Linda Uyehara Hoffman taken in 1982 by Tamio Wakayama
Women You Should Know
The Visibility Campaign emerged directly from the gathering Women and Taiko: Past, Present, and Future at the Summer Taiko Institute in August, 2017. Many of the participants wanted to know more about women who have made an impact on taiko in North America and beyond.
Our emphasis is education and positive role models. Many of us in the taiko community are aware that women make up the majority of taiko players in the US and Canada, but due to a range of social and cultural factors, they do not appear in the spotlight as often as male taiko players. This campaign seeks to change that in two ways: 1) We want to highlight women who have been leading, performing, and teaching -- in other words, women who have made and are making a difference in ways we often recognize, and 2) We also want to highlight the kinds of labor that are often undervalued in society because women carry it out: sewing, cooking, hosting, behind-the-scenes administration, even child care.
In order to create an inclusive picture of leadership and to “embrace differing perspectives within the taiko community,” a different North American woman in taiko will be featured on our website every month or so, with a photograph and a short bio. We will profile a range of women, with attention to diversity of age, region, ability, expertise, etc., and with an emphasis on each woman’s contributions. In keeping with our dual aim, some of these women will be well-known within the taiko community, and others will be less visible. Who designs the costumes? Who keeps the books? Who juggles child or elder care with a career and taiko practice? Who inspires us?
The profiles featured here are curated by the Women and Taiko collective. If you want to nominate someone you think should be profiled, please click the button bellow.
LINDA UYEHARA HOFFMAN
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Why should you know about her?
Linda is a taiko pioneer several times over. She is an activist, a feminist, and a woman-centered Asian Canadian taiko player. She is a founding member of Sawagi Taiko, the first all-female kumidaiko group in Canada, based in Vancouver, BC. Sawagi was founded in 1990 by a group of women from Katari Taiko, the first Canadian kumidaiko group (founded in 1979), and all of its members are of East Asian and Indigenous heritage.
What she's contributed
When San Jose Taiko performed at the Powell Street Festival in 1979, many of the volunteers, Linda among them, were inspired by the power displayed by both the men and women. Encouraged by the California group, Katari Taiko was formed, the beginning of taiko in Canada. Many of the first members of KT were activists working on Asian Canadian community-building, and this purpose, along with the goal of presenting women as a powerful force, formed the basis of their commitment.
In 1990, Linda and other women from KT formed Sawagi Taiko in order to play at the Michigan Womyn’s Festival. Creating a new repertoire in nine months, the group played primarily for events that were women-focused, such as the National Women’s Music Festival, Wiminfest, etc. In KT, Linda discovered the benefits of a collective in that everyone (men and women) had to take on leadership roles and speak for the group. In Sawagi, it seemed an all-women ensemble was more comfortable for many women because of the commonality of experience.
Linda was invited by Russell Wallace, a Lilwat singer/drummer/dancer, to perform in a multicultural improv collaboration. From this connection, Sawagi created a collaborative performance with one of Russell’s singing groups: Sawagi taught members of his group to play Renshu, and in turn, were taught songs and a dance. Another fortuitous result of this collaboration was that Sawagi gained a new member of the group.
Linda is known for her warmth, her raucous sense of humor, and for her down-to-earth feminist commitment to taiko.
You can read more about Linda in these sources:
Linda’s bio on Sawagi Taiko’s website, http://sawagitaiko.com/files/about_us.htm.
Kobayashi, Kim Noriko. 2006. “Asian Women Kick Ass: A Study of Gender Issues within Canadian Kumi-Daiko.” The Canadian Folk Music/Bulletin de Musique Folkorique Canadienne 40: 1–11.
Kobayashi, Kim Noriko. 2006. “Tracing the Development of Kumi-Daiko in Canada.” M.A. thesis, University of British Columbia. Available as an open access pdf.
Wallace, Russell. 2012. “Intercultural Collaboration.” In Aboriginal Music in Contemporary: Echoes and Exchanges, ed. Beverley Diamond, Anna Hoefnagel, pp. 218-221. McGill-Queen’s Press. Available on Google Books.