Born in Shinjuko Tokyo, Yoko joined Kodo (then Ondekoza) in 1976 and performed with the world famous ensemble as a koto player, singer and dancer. In 1989 she toured with Hanayui, a folk ensemble off shoot of Kodo and has performed and toured the world along with Chieko Kojima and Mitsue Kinjo. In 1996 she toured Cuba and North America with her husband Yoshikazu Fujimoto, Kodo’s principal O-daiko player. In 2003 she became involved with the Triangle Project along with San Jose Taiko co-founder P.J. Hirabayashi and Los Angeles based singer-songwriter-dancer Nobuko Miyamoto of Great Leap Inc, a non-profit community based arts organization dedicated to race and faith relations. In 2005 the three women presented their performance piece “Journey of the Dandelion” at the Japan American Theater in Los Angeles and released a soundtrack CD on Bindu Records. The work was also performed at Cal State Monterey’s Performing Arts Theater as well as at the Wang Center at Stony Brook University in Long Island New York.
“Morisa Komorisa” is Yoko’s first CD as a soloist and is a collection of traditional Japanese Lullaby’s from the different prefectures in Japan with musical adaptations composed by Derek Nakamoto. The collaboration created a stunning tapestry of music that best described as heartfelt and cinematic; a blend of classical and world music with a touch of ambient and electronica flavors. There are subtle duets between Yoko’s superb vocals and Nakamoto’s piano improvisations.
Here are their thoughts on their creation:
Yoko says in an article published in Kodo Beat Vol. 269 April 2008
… Why did I make this an album exclusively of lullabies? The short answer is that I wanted others to hear them. Some lullabies directly express the warm feelings between a mother and her child. Others reflect the difficulty, sadness and frustration of young children from poor families sent to care for other people’s children, when they themselves are still of an age they should be basking in the love of their own mothers. Both kinds of songs are beautiful in their own way.
I remember being raised to the sound of lullabies. In my singing I can hear my mother’s voice, proof of the bond of love between a parent and a child. I feel the tranquility of returning home. This is the strength of the lullaby.
Derek says in the same article …
After meeting and working with Yoko as Musical Director and Producer of the Soundtrack CD for the Triangle Project, I was so impressed with her vocal stylings that I expressed deep interest in producing a solo CD on her.
Yoko came up with the concept of recording her favorite lullabies from the different prefectures in Japan and I loved the idea. She spent a few months collecting the songs and we meet in Los Angeles and recorded them in my studio acapella May 15, 2007. This was the beginning of a wonderful journey.
When I received the English translations of the lullabies, what impressed me were the similarities of the stories with lullabies from different cultures. More than often, hidden behind the sweet comforting melodies were lyrics of a wide range of emotions felt by a mother sung to her infant to comfort them. These emotions reflected joy, happiness, hardship, sadness and hopefulness that the child will come to appreciate the difficulties and challenges a parent goes through raising them. It also presented the hardships by nannies and nurses. This inspired me to compose music to reflect and frame these emotions performed by Yoko. This CD is a tribute to the female energy that many times goes unappreciated.
The music presented here sung in Japanese by Yoko is so beautiful that it transcends the language barrier and can be enjoyed universally by all. It is our hope that you will enjoy this music that has been handed down thru generations in Japan presented in a different way.