SOUND TYPE Concert: Tatsu Aoki & Kioto Aoki

Musician Tatsu Aoki playing his instrument on stage.

In this fourth SOUND TYPE Concert, we welcome Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist and improviser, Tatsu Aoki and Kioto Aoki. Utilizing traditional Japanese instruments, the father-daughter duo combine Japanese aesthetic concepts such as ma, and experimental jazz tradition.

Tatsu Aoki, (aka Sanjuro Toyoaki), is a leading advocate for the Chicago’ Asian American Arts community, as well as a prolific composer, a performer of traditional and contemporary music forms. He was born in 1958 into the Toyoaki-moto artisan family in Tokyo, Japan. And performing Toyoaki shamisen by the age of four. In the early 1970s, Aoki was active in Tokyo’s underground arts movement with traditional music and experimental arts. In 1977, Aoki left Tokyo and is now one of the most in-demand performers of bass, shamisen, and taiko, contributing to more than 100 recording projects and touring internationally over the last 40 years. He has received a numerous awards including the Chicago’s Cultural Achievement Award, the “Living in our Culture” Award and the Illinois Arts Council Ethnic and Folk Arts Master Apprentice Grant for over 10 years teaching shamisen. In 2017 he received the Illinois Secretary of State Community Service Award by Asian American Advisory Council and a Commendation for Promotion of Japanese Culture by the Foreign Ministry of Japan. In 2019 Aoki was also awarded the Community Service award from the Asian American Coalition of Chicago for his continued leadership and contribution to the community. In 2020, he received the United States Artists Fellowship for Traditional Arts and the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship Award for Ethnic and Cultural Arts for his achievements in shamisen.

As Executive Director of Asian Improv aRts MidWest (AIRMW), an Asian American cultural arts presenter organization, Aoki has initiated and managed several programs to advance the understanding of traditional arts and community through the arts, including the annual Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival, the Tsukasa Taiko Legacy, and the Toyoaki Shamisen arts residency projects. The concept of Legacy is very prominent in all of Aoki’s music and projects. He insists on demonstrating the authenticity of the Japanese Legacy using traditional instruments such as shamisen and taiko, especially with newer contemporary applications. He performs throughout the Chicagoland, the Midwest areas, and nationally, the driving point is to instill the importance of Legacy. Aoki’s annual Taiko Legacy performance celebrated its 20-anniversary year featuring traditional and experimentalism of Toyoaki shamisen music and has been one of the largest and most popular ethnic community concerts in Chicago. He has also restored Chicago’s shamisen lute music culture with Toyoaki Shamisen apprentices and performances with Shubukai Classical Dance. These and other projects are all components and examples of his drive to establish artist guided community participation as well as projects that have exclusive artist involvement, which raise the bar for quality and awareness of the Japanese cultural arts here in Chicago. He continues to be based in Chicago, working internationally in a wide range of musical genres including Japanese traditional music, experimental, and creative jazz, his collaborative projects ranging from puppetry, neoclassical Japanese dance, and experimental dance films.

Kioto Aoki

Kioto Aoki is a Chicago-based artist, educator and musician, whose practice as a taiko artist maintains a balance of retaining the artistic and aesthetic integrity of traditional Japanese music with a musical flexibility that extends beyond the measures of cultural preservation. Her playing is informed by the Japanese aesthetics of ma while challenging the common misinterpretation and beliefs of percussion as rhythm, and uses often stoic gestures of sonic textures, abstracted soundscapes and embodied phrasing that incorporates choreography as part of melody.

Aoki is a 5th generation of the Toyoakimoto house, an okiya (geisha house) performing arts family from Tokyo with roots dating back to the Edo period. Studying under her father Tatsu Aoki (Toyoaki Sanjuro) who was born in Tokyo and now performing shamisen under her professional name Toyoaki Chitose (豊秋千東勢) Aoki continues this artistic family lineage in Chicago, through both traditional okiya and contemporary musical contexts. Aoki’s work is held in the Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Library and private collections. Musical projects include solo albums, Yoko Ono’s SKYLANDING, Tatsu Aoki’s The MIYUMI Project, Experimental Sound Studio’s Sonic Pavilion Festival, and Soundtrack series at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. She has performed and exhibited at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Asian Art Museum (San Francisco), the Chicago Cultural Center, 6018|North (Chicago), Gallery Kobo Chika (Tokyo, Japan), The Lab (San Francisco), and the Barbican Centre (London), among others. She received her BFA & MFA at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

SOUND TYPE Concert: Tatsu Aoki & Kioto Aoki


8 PM–10 PM on August 2, 2024

Musician Tatsu Aoki playing his instrument on stage.
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