People often ask me about my music, why it is so unique and uniquely personal. To explain how I have come to this style, it is necessary to go back through the journey that has been my life so far – both the personal journey and the geographic one. The latter has taken me from the fareast and western Africa to Australia and America, most recently.
Like many musicians who are exploring some personal iteration of jazz, I am the product of my parents who are from Japan and Ghana. Having spent my earliest years in Tokyo, my approach to jazz is minimalist. In Japan they live Miles and Coltrane; they collect vinyl; they are fascinated by the intimacy and lived experience of improvisational music. Their own cultural icons blend high and low, culture and cartoon, classical and urban street art effortlessly. I see this effortless crossing of boundaries as essential to jazz, and central to my music.
Exploring jazz has allowed me to find a shared musical language across the cultures and countries I have traveled. And because jazz has deep roots in Africa, this music has allowed me to connect with, and to integrate, my father's culture, particularly in the rhythms that the band, and my arranger, Ben Rosenblum, are developing in the new music on Gone.
Gone tells my story of love, and the melancholy found in transient beautiful things (gone). The music speaks in the way modern jazz often quotes an earlier standard - to pay soft homage to the tradition, but also to transform it.
When I sing a standard, I try to personalize it by hearing it through the unique filters of Japan and West Africa. And when I write new music, I try to move what I hear toward the cross-cultural edge that I'm living each day: old school colliding with urban, Detroit Motown beating behind pachinko machines in the Ginza. All this against the open stereo feel of western African dram.
My friends and team call my style BGI – “Brown Girl Iconic". For me being an artist is to create a style all my own that speaks to my personal vision of the world, the role of music in the world and the role of the artist in shaping the political and artistic landscape
Photographer: Salvatore D"Alia
Studio: Avidon Audio Labs