|Blog -- Fusions (Part 1)|
|3/23/2017 8:18:20 AM - Recently I performed at the Jak Jazz Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia. It was my second year at the festival and as was the case the last time, they had a press conference with about 20-30 members of the Jakarta press in attendance. Most asked the typical questions, like, "How do you like Jakarta?" "What do you think of the Indonesian audience?" "Will you be doing any jam sessions with local musicians?", etc. But there were two people who had some questions that went a little deeper, which I personally enjoy -- it gives an opportunity to really let your individuality out, and also shows genuine interest from that person and a certain intelligence of the publications they represent. |
One woman asked if I was going to be integrating any traditional Indonesian or Japanese instruments, to which I answered that I believe one must be careful not to borrow too many instrumentations and styles from other cultures that they aren't really familiar with for fear of misrepresenting or disrespecting that culture, and I personally disliked using Japanese traditional instruments in modern forms of music because it sounds tacky to me -- in short, no. Sasha was sitting next to me, and I could hear him mumbling his approval. The next question came from a man who then asked, "But you have made a lot of music that goes into the Brazilian territory." Touche.
I can't recall now what I answered, just that since then I have replayed that moment countless times, even having a one way rebuttal answer on one of my long drives on the Long Island Expressway. Hence my writing about it now here in this blog, an exorcist of sorts in case it starts plaguing me in the middle of night and I begin talking in my sleep. It's obviously bothered me, not because I am trying to justify what I have done musically over the years, but because I've thought about this very thing long and hard for a long time, many decades in fact.
"Many decades?" Sounds funny coming from a person whose professional musical career really only spans just over 15 years. But this question and theme actually touches on something deeper that is the very core of expression, which is my identity. For music and how I express it is the direct expression of how I perceive my identity. In fact, isn't that the case with all artists?
As many people know, my ancestry is half Japanese and half Italian, but really I'm more Japanese and American, I'd say equally both. While I grew up during most of my schooling years in the U.S., namely the suburbs of Los Angeles, I was born in Japan and lived there for many of my earlier years, and then work beckoned upon adulthood which led me to live in Tokyo for another 13 years. America is a new world, and especially Los Angeles with little culture and tradition, but I would say that I got a lot of guts, independence and a liberal mind from growing up there in the feminist era that I did. That's the American side -- "Don't Fuck With Me. PERIOD." The Japanese side of me is the part that needs to nourish the soul, looks for poetry in movement and philosophies to explain life -- "If You Fuck With Me, I Will Try And Figure Out Why And Forgive You." It was rough at times dealing with not only the usual identity crisis one goes through in their teenage years, but mine extended beyond that. I wasn't purely American. And I certainly wasn't purely Japanese. I also just wasn't...normal. How can you be with jazz musician parents?
After years of trying to fit in then hating myself for it, I just gave up and went with it. Musically I studied classical flute and was passionate about it until things just HAPPENED (too long a story for this blog) then floundered until I settled on the idea of becoming a singer and songwriter. Which was interesting because I sort of sucked in the beginning; I had good musical backbone though. I was especially attracted to creating my own style, and particularly interested in any musical underground movements. Going back to Japan for me was not only exercising the career chance given to me but also to go back to my birth place to understand a little more of that side of me. Enough of America. I felt that if I didn't understand the Japanese side of me, I would never really fully understand myself and go forward in life.
It was those years in Japan of searching for myself and what I wanted to do musically that I really developed myself in both areas. Going to a record shop in Tokyo with entire floors of import CDs and vinyls that boasted of selections from not only the U.S. but from every corner of the earth was an eye (and ear) opening experience. I went from looking for jazz tinged hip hop and New York underground dance 12 inches to tracks from London's underground, music from Africa and South America, reggae, Asia, etc. I slowly felt the walls melting and looked for and found a common denominator between these musics, that there was a common thread of expression, of love, of humanity. Styles, cultures, genres, generations -- it mattered less what they represented, and rather the spirit that they were expressing. It was the same when I traveled, within Japan or within the U.S., and elsewhere in the world. It wasn't about finding the differences between cultures and people, but rather trying to find the common ground. We all love, we all fear, we all want a good laugh and be happy with our lives...we were all the same. I was especially attracted to rhythm in all genres of musics I encountered.
Musically it took me some time to figure out exactly what I wanted, and sometimes one has to dive headlong into some things to figure it out. So I did my time in soul. I did my time in pseudo-jazz. I did my time in Brazilian and salsa. I did my time in reggae, in hip hop, in rock, in house, in drum 'n' bass...in many and all genres just to feel it, try it on for size, laugh at myself in the mirror it I looked completely silly, or marvel at a dimension of myself that I hadn't noticed before. And in so doing, I was able to digest the different forms, and what stuck stuck. It went through my intestines and I got nourishment out of what I needed, rejected what didn't sit right, and my musical style and persona began to form and is still forming to this day. I won't go into what attracted me to the various forms of music and what I've taken from it, such as Brazilian music, because that is a whole blog in itself.
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