Camelback Culture Community Spotlight: Ken Koshio

Posted by Jes Shapiro on

It is an honor to focus this Camelback Culture Community Spotlight Blog on Ken Koshio; Taiko Drummer, Folk Music Artist, Singer/Songwriter and “Global Peace Warrior!”  Sensei Koshio’s mission “to resonate with all individuals and all things in the universe, using the rhythm of taiko to co-exist in the universe through the synergy of our human heartbeats,” connects profoundly with Camelback Culture. For those who regularly summit Camelback Mountain for sunrise, you may have been treated to Ken playing his flute and drums. “I’m the guy to carry the Taiko and climb up the Camelback” he says with a wide grin. Providing fellow hikers with an extraordinary cultural experience, set against the sweeping views of our Valley of the Sun.

Ken Koshio plays taiko drums and flute on the summit of Camelback Mountain

Born in Nagoya, Japan, he grew up dreaming of being a Rock and Roll star. At age 13, Koshio started learning guitar and harmonica, becoming a street performer in his late teens.  Cultivating a deep love of the Blues and Rock, he decided to move to the United States, birth place of those genres in 1996. Prior to settling in Phoenix, he lived and worked as a Rock and Folk Musician in Los Angeles, California.

Ken Koshio Taiko Drummer Rock Star

In a twist of fate, it was here, in Phoenix, that he first beat the Taiko drums; music traditionally found in his birth place of Japan. He became passionate about learning Taiko, enriching his musical career and the Valley’s music scene. Moving beyond his street singing roots, he is now well known in the area for his numerous Taiko performances, multicultural stage productions and community outreach. Sensei Koshio also offers Taiko classes in his dojo and at many schools throughout the Valley.

Like so many in our Community, Ken was drawn to hike our Phoenix Peaks. It is traditional in the Japanese culture to climb a summit to greet the sunrise on the first day of the year. Ken recalls an especially memorable climb with his cousin up Camelback Mountain, many years ago, for New Year’s Day. He had nearly reached the summit, when another regular stood with her arms outstretched on a boulder and bellowed “Welcome to the Mountain!” A spark was lit for his love of Camelback and the Community.

Ken Koshio Reuben Grandma Sandy on Camelback Mountain

Koshio now summits regularly, even beginning to carry up a drum about four years ago, requiring him to hike without the use of his hands. This “trains me to be balanced, to climb without hands... to be a better artist... [and be] physically and spiritually centered.” He takes the drum to play a greeting for the sunrise and greet the new day. “I really like to be [on] top of [the] mountain for sunrise,” he tells us, “the first moment of the day really gives me a lot of energy.” Ken does this not just for himself, but as a prayer for the newborn day and “others appreciate it,” he says with a smile. For those lucky enough to witness his musical prayer at dawn, it is high Camelback Culture.

Ken Koshio carries taiko drum up Camelback Mountain

So what does Camelback Culture mean to such a richly cultured individual? He speaks of the concept of Culture: “its our activities, behaviors and customs.” Camelback Mountain has been enjoyed by numerous souls through history, all yearning to experience the spirit endowed in our uniquely shaped mountain. “All of us are fascinated to feel this Mountain as much as possible,” to be close to nature and each other.  This shared passion makes us a community, like family, and we build the culture together.

Koshio believes in a multicultural world and helps to spread the idea that peace between all the people in the world is inevitable. Koshio’s life and Japanese identity was formed around the harsh memories of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His view of those tragedies were shaped from a Japanese perspective, but he innately yearned for a greater understanding.  Feeling in his heart that hate between people could be overcome; “I wanted to make sure, from that… we could live better.” Ken uses music in his pursuit of this goal, regularly performing with Native American and World Musicians. It’s a true joy to behold his blending of Taiko, Native American flute and dance, African rhythms and even Aboriginal didgeridoo; creating moments of unexpected Unity.

 Ken Koshio Taiko and Multicultural Music

His upcoming show, at the Scottsdale Performing Arts Center, will be another wonderful example. This event is a passion project for Sensei Koshio, bringing together performers of different backgrounds to create musical rhythms, with the Taiko Drums providing the “heartbeat.” He tells us, “in Arizona, I want to create something really beautiful. [A] way to express who we are with the differences.” Inspired by the blending cultures of our state, the show is titled “Migrations” this year.  Creatures great and small migrate to seek a “better way of life.” Humans migrate for similar reasons but also a burning desire to explore.

Ken, migrated to Phoenix; in doing so, he improved his own life and the lives of those around him.  Migration makes the world a better place; blending, sharing, learning, improving. He has made this concept the guiding force of the 5th annual Taiko Extravaganza; described as bringing “together a diverse fusion of musicians and artist groups, combined with Japanese Taiko Drumming.” The Extravaganza takes place on June 1, 2019 at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts (click here to purchase tickets today!) Join the Community and Camelback Culture, to witness Ken Koshio share his musical talents and wish for Peace.

Taiko Extravaganza 2019 flyer 

Follow Ken Koshio on social media, details below:

Instagram: @kenkoshio

FaceBook: kenkoshioaz     




CamelbackCulture thanks Sensei Koshio for his amazing presence in the community!  Check back by for future Camelback Culture Community Spotlight Blog posts and follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more Culture - Clothes - Community




Photo Credits: Jes Shapiro,  John Paul Mendes, Sandy Kloch, Michiko Nagai, Donna Howard, Meeka Marie Vigue, and others 

Musicians featured in the Taiko Extravaganza 2019:

  • Ken Koshio Biography - Producer for Taiko Extravaganza, Japanese folk artist and Taiko player
  • Zarco Guerreo - Sculptor, Mask Maker and performer
  • Derrick Suwaima Davis - Hoop DanceWorld Champion Hoop Dance world champion
  • Mel Bridges – Singer, Dancer, Songwriter, Actor, and Percussionist
  • Ryon Polequaptewa – Hopi Vocal, Songwriter and drum
  • Dashmesh - Didgeridoo & Percussion
  • Jin Soku-Shin – Shakuhachi flute
  • Stevie Hagel - Percussionand Taiko Drum 
  • Garrison Jones - Keyboard
  • Johnny Walker - Bass
  • Jere Friedman – Gongmaster
  • Felipa Mendoza Lerma - theatre
  • Lisa R. Chow 
  • Artistic Director/Choreographer 
  • John Paul Mendes - Taiko
  • Miro Koshio - Taiko and Fue (bamboo flute)
  • Koshio Gumi - Taiko Drum Troupe


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