Friday, January 31, 2014

UNSUNG TALENTS : Akiko Yano (An Introductory Masterpost)


Akiko Yano is one of music’s greatest hidden treasures. Rarely does she get substantive focus. Singer, composer, and pianist, she has restlessly released material, including music for Studio Ghibli and Yohji Yamamoto, since her youth in the 70s. She has worked with many greats across the world, most extensively YMO, who she toured with as often the sole female presence. For years she was the wife of Ryuichi Sakamoto, collaborating (even outperforming him on his own compositions) and raising their daughter, Miu.

Seen as unpredictable and unique among her contemporaries, her work draws varied comparisons, from Joni Mitchell to Sesame Street music, even being marketed as Japan’s answer to Kate Bush - an intriguing but not wholly encompassing parallel. Such links reflect how comparisons and classifications can’t contain her. Her covers are unique takes on a diverse palette (Debussy, Schubert, Pink Floyd, even Weezer), often changing their language, Western references, and masculine tone.

Despite her accomplishments (in difficult, male-dominated fields like jazz and even prog rock), she’s been deemed “the most famous person you haven’t heard of.” She is overshadowed by her associations and dismissed for her seemingly fluffy lyrics and vocal style - I aim to challenge the superficial treatment she is given.

Unfortunately Youtube didn't have a number of my favorites, but this is a significant sampling of some of her best.

DENWASEN (Japanese Girl, 1976)
TSUGARU TOUR (Japanese Girl, 1976)
FUNAMACHI SONG PART I (Japanese Girl, 1976)
IKE YANAGIDA (Irohani-Konpeitou, 1977)
COLORED WATER (Gohan Ga Dekitayo, 1980)
KANGTONG BOY (Live - YMO Budokan Performance 1980)
YOU'RE THE ONE (Gohan Ga Dekitayo, 1980)
ROSE GARDEN (Tadaima, 1981)
ASHKENAZY WHO? (Tadaima, 1981)
GREENFIELDS (オーエス オーエス, 1984)
IT'S FOR YOU (Welcome Back, 1989)
WATERWAYS FLOW BACKWARD AGAIN (Live - Tokyo at 7pm, 1979)
LOVE LIFE (Love Life, 1991)

- Her time touring with YMO.
- Her collaborations with Ryuichi Sakamoto and their daughter.
- Information on several of her albums.
- Her connection to Kate Bush.
- Recommended videos / Live Performance.
- More photos and screencaps.

» PART 1: AKIKO YANO and RYUICHI SAKAMOTO perform "TONG POO" in TOKYO MELODY (1985, dir. Elizabeth Lennard)

(The "a few others" of the quote refers to Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi.)

The sequence with Akiko Yano and Ryuichi Sakamoto playing together is very moving. What memories do you have of Akiko Yano? Were Sakamoto and his wife close to each other?  
E.L. When we filmed at Ryuichi Sakamoto and Akiko Yano's residence, Sakamoto was very clear that we had to ask Akiko's permission to shoot... They seemed close at the time and their duet was impromptu. Sakamoto has great respect for Akiko as a musician and performer.
 (from T O O G)

Watch the clip here.
This section as a post on tumblr.

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