Akiko Moriyako is a musician of rare elegance, whose sound poems – whilst wholly contemporary – convey a depth and tranquility that could only be inspired by ancient Japanese tradition.
For her extraordinary debut album, she chose to reinterpret the work of international reggae star Maxi Priest, or rather those songs that in Akiko’s own words, “remain hidden.” She uses the analogy of a Samurai sword left unsheathed because while some of them were hits, the majority can only be found on Maxi’s albums and have seldom been performed on stage. Despite their obvious merits, they’re among the more gentle and restrained songs of his repertoire.
Akiko’s approach is an unusual, yet richly rewarding one. Unlike Charlie Hunter or Ernest Ranglin who’ve translated reggae classics into jazz, she’s chosen to reach into the very heart of these songs and reinterpret them with the same delicacy of awareness as a master of Ikebana or Kado, the Japanese “way of flowers” would, wherein nature and humanity – and in her case, music – are joined together in perfect harmony. The results are often trance-like and impressionistic, as heard in the best of New Age music.
Asiance: Akiko, it is a pleasure to meet you. Can you tell us a little about how you got started as a musician and performer?
Akiko Moriyako: At 6 years old I learned the Yamaha Organ in music school and began performing. Over the years, my abilities increased and I met and collaborated with many musicians around the world. I presently tour all around the world with many of them.
Asiance: Your first Album, “The Vibes” is based on the music of Maxi Priest. What drew you to his music?
Akiko: I think Maxi Priest is not just reggae music. Many of his songs are beautiful but relatively unknown.
Akiko Moriyako – Sublime from the Vibes
Sublime from the Vibes Live
Asiance: I understand that Nile Rodgers, who some consider one of the most influential music producers in the history of popular music, heard your album and was very impressed. He invited you to visit him at his home in Connecticut. What was that like?
Akiko: I had the opportunity to listen to my music with Nile Rodgers when I was invited to visit ‘ Le Crib Studios ‘ his recording studio last year. He was very complimentary of my music. I liked his studio which had large windows overlooking a lake. I found the view and the landscape very inspirational.
Asiance: Who most influenced your musical style?
Akiko: My parents influenced me the most when I was a child. I grew up listening to Jazz, Opera, Film scores and other types of music. I attended school in England where I learned about Acid jazz and Reggae music. I live in Hokkaido in Japan which is known for its beautiful countryside, nature and pure air. This has also been an influence in my music.
Asiance: Your music has been described as “delicate” and “tranquil” by some. How would you describe it?
Akiko: I think my music is best expressed in the inner sound. It is a virtue in Japan, like a WABI SABI.
(ed. note: Wabi-sabi is the quintessential Japanese aesthetic. It is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional.)
Akiko Moriyako – Set The Night To Music from The Vibes
Asiance: I understand you have a new CD in the works and you will be recording in London, Sapporo, Tokyo and Osaka with other musicians. Can you tell us a little about your next CD?
Akiko: I just started recording in the studio. It’s pretty exciting because I am working with many great musicians including Quino of Big Mountain, Ryoko Asai and Vibraphone player Tomoko Kageyama. I think audiences will find my new CD fresh, exciting and new!
AKIKO MORIYAKO THE VIBES
02. Groovin’ In the Midnight
03. Sure Fire Love
04. Wild World
05. Space in My Heart Prelude
06. Space in My Heart
07. The One
08. House Call
09. Just A Little Bit Longer
10. God Watches Over Us
11. Love Somebody For Life
12. Set The Night To Music
13. Full Hundred
14. Ain’t It Enough
15. Close To You