Japanese immigrants from Fukushima prefecture brought the song Fukushima Ondo to Maui in the early 1900‘s. Many of the immigrants lived in the plantation village of Keahua and organized an informal group to play Fukushima Ondo for the annual O-Bon festival. In the "good old days", the group played the song for hours and people danced from sunset to early morning. Friends, relatives, and visitors of all ages, nationalities, and religions came to attend this annual festival.
On Maui, as the plantation villages were being closed, these O-Bon festivals moved to various Buddhist temples. These festivals are cultural gatherings that are similar to the ones held during the days of plantation village life. Today, the festivals continue to be celebrated by many generations of families of various ages, nationalities, and religions. The music tradition at these O-Bon festivals has however changed. Most of the songs are pre-recorded; however, Fukushima Ondo is still performed live.
The informal taiko group that existed in Keahua has continued for nearly a century through five generations of the Watanabe family. The family founded Maui Taiko with the intent of perpetuating the Fukushima Ondo tradition and incorporating other forms of taiko music. Albert Watanabe, one of the group‘s founders is from the third generation of Watanabe family members involved with this tradition. His daughters and grandson continue the tradition for future generations.
The current group includes 50 members ranging in age from 8 to 60+. Members are encouraged to join the group with other family members. The group is also multi-ethnic and diverse in religious beliefs.
Maui Taiko‘s performance schedule includes bon dances at 12 different temples and three bon dances at elderly care facilities during the summer. Throughout the year, the group also performs at numerous cultural and community events as well as corporate functions and celebrations