A fun, open and soulful journey through the high spirited energy of the Japanese taiko drum, blended with percussive sounds and festive song and dance
YuNiOn was formed in 2005 by Masae Ikegawa and Graham Hilgendorf as a duet for taiko, percussion and more!
Yu – blend Ni – two On – sound
YuNiOn takes people on a fun, open and soulful journey through the high spirited energy of the Japanese taiko drum, blended with percussive sounds and festive song and dance.
While Graham and Masae were living in Japan in 2005, YuNiOn was formed, performing a number of concerts, corporate performances and workshops. Also, during this time, Graham and Masae composed a major work called Shifting Sand. This composition was then produced, directed and choreographed by Graham to form a theatre/music work of the same name for Sydney based ensemble, TaikOz. Masae and Graham have toured extensively, performing throughout Australia with Australia’s major Symphony Orchestras, toured to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, France and America and performed and given workshops throughout Japan.
In Australia, Graham and Masae have performed in Hamer Hall (Melbourne), Sydney Recital Centre, Canberra Theatre, Brisbane Concert Hall, and Adelaide Festival Theatre. They have also composed many works and directed major events across Australia. Highlights include the Sydney Festival First Night 2011 for 150 drummers, major corporate events for Toyota and AMEX, composing, directing and choreographing music for theatre and DVD film.
Recently YuNiOn has been collaborating with the Satsuki Odamura Koto Ensemble, Yasukazu KANO from Japan, major performances in Bega, Perth (Western Australia), featured in the 2017 National Folk Festival (Canberra), in 2018 Toured to New Zealand for the second time, in 2019 performed in Beijing (China) and in 2020 collaborated and performed in the Sydney Festival at the NSW Art Gallery.
Masae Ikegawa was born in Kagawa, Shikoku, Japan and at age 5 she started playing taiko in a local kids group in Marugame city.
In 1997 she joined Manno Daiko, a taiko group from Manno town – Kagawa. For the next 2 years she performed with Manno Daiko throughout the Kagawa and Kansai areas as well as touring to the USA.
Masae arrived in Australia in 1999 and travelled to Adelaide and Melbourne where she met taiko groups before settling in Sydney and joining TaikOz in 2000. As a member of TaikOz she has travelled throughout Australia, South East Asia, Europe and America performing and giving workshops on her national drum, the taiko.
In 2005 Masae decided to return to Japan to study more about the art form of wadaiko (traditional Japanese taiko drum). During this trip she studied with many master players including Eitetsu Hayashi, Kyosuke Suzuki (Edo Bayashi), Takashi Kikuchi (Hachijo Daiko) and Akio Tsumura (Miyake Daiko). She also formed YuNiOn with Graham Hilgendorf.
In YuNiOn, Masae has been seeking her own voice as a taiko drummer, dancer, singer and performer as well as discovering the wonderful array of percussion sounds and how they blend with the taiko. She has a passion for the traditions of Japanese music, art and culture and continues to study these forms while also experimenting and discovering how she can present this music in a modern and new way. A recent collaboration with Clockfire Theatre Company saw Masae perform for the Sydney Festival 2020 in the Art Gallery of NSW.
Masae’s understanding of the traditions of taiko has meant that she is a very popular teacher not only in Australia but also internationally. She enjoys sharing her knowledge of taiko drumming while having fun and keeping the spirit alive – her motto is “play together with fun and energy”.
Graham Hilgendorf has studied various percussion instruments and styles of music from all over the world and has a Bachelor of Music Degree (performance) from The Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Sydney University.
Graham is not only a director of YuNiOn, he is also a founding member of Sydney percussion ensemble B’tutta and was a member of Japanese style drumming ensemble TaikOz for 18 years. He has travelled extensively performing throughout Australia including group concerto performances of Maki Ishii’s ‘Monoprism’ with Australia’s major Symphony Orchestras, toured to Thailand, performing in the Bangkok International Arts Festival, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and America and performed and given workshops throughout Japan.
As a freelance drum set player, Graham has performed in clubs and festivals in Sydney and around Australia with many of the Australia’s jazz greats and crosses over between contemporary jazz, ‘old school’ traditional jazz, latin and African styles with ease.
In 2012 he premiered a new work for jazz drum set and taiko ensemble. This work has since been performed in Hamer Hall (Melbourne), Sydney Recital Centre, Canberra Theatre, Brisbane Concert Hall, and Adelaide Festival Theatre and toured regional Australia for 3 months in 2014. He has also directed and played many events which include the Sydney Festival First Night 2012 for 150 drummers, major corporate events for Toyota and AMEX and a music theatre work called Shifting Sand, which he composed, directed and choreographed. Graham also produced a 90 minute DVD film of Shifting Sand and toured this work extensively around Australia in 2012.
Graham began working for Musica Viva Australia in 1991 performing with his percussion ensemble B’tutta in the Musica Viva in Schools program as well as working as an independent educator/musician travelling to schools all over Australia running creative workshops and residencies with students from 8 – 18 years of age.
As a director and performer in YuNiOn, Graham has taught in classes and schools, performed many school incursions, performed at major festivals, performed and directed major corporate and sporting events, collaborated with many taiko groups around the Australia and collaborated with many artists including Satsuki Odamura and KANO Yasukazu from Japan.