John Endo Greenaway is a mixed-race sansei (third-generation Japanese Canadian) taiko* composer, performer, designer, writer, editor, photographer and cultural worker based in Port Moody, British Columbia. He has spent the past 40 years tracing and exploring his mixed-race heritage through music, theatre, text and visuals. As a founding member of Katari Taiko, Canada’s first taiko group, and Uzume taiko, Canada’s first professional taiko ensemble, John has spent the past 41 years exploring this Japanese-inspired but uniquely Asian Canadian art form. He currently is a member of Sansho Daiko. Greenaway has instigated and collaborated on a number of large-scale projects over the years, bringing together artists from a wide range of cultural backgrounds and disciplines. Projects include Verdant Stones, a piece for taiko, bagpipes, horns and butoh dancers that took over Jericho Beach Park during the 1999 Vancouver Folk Music Festival, and Against the Current, an evening-length performance bringing together taiko with indigenous singing and dancing, bound together by stories centred around the lifecycle of the salmon. As a writer, designer and researcher, he has made major contributions to the preservation of Japanese Canadian history. As managing editor of The Bulletin, a journal of Japanese Canadian community, history and culture, since 1993, he has helped create a vital bridge between generations and cultures through monthly interviews and features.
**Traditional Japanese drums
Why did you get involved in this project?
Midi reached out to me after a friend-in-common suggested my name. I loved the concept and the fact that it would push me into new territory.
Did the one week turn-around for the work help or hinder your creativity?
I was intimidated at first, but in the end appreciated being pushed to work quickly. Given the lockdown and the disruption that came with it, it was good to have a clear focus.
How did you feel about working on a project where you didn’t know who you were collaborating with?
It was a bit disorienting, but also liberating in that there were no preconceptions, and so different that the usual collaboration process, or even the client/provider relationship.
Has being involved in the project changed your thoughts on creativity?
Not as such, but it did make me look/listen to film with a sharper focus.
If you worked on several videos, what kept you coming back for more and how many did you do?
I enjoyed the fact that each film was so different and had its own demands. I think I did sound for four films, which is more or less in my comfort zone, then shot and edited a fifth video (I was only supposed to shoot it but misunderstood) which was way out of my comfort zone!