Bibi - Michiyo Yagi | Dai Fujikura

Koto virtuoso Michiyo Yagi and acclaimed composer-musician Dai Fujikura join forces on an instrumental album of striking originality. 

Bibi features two internationally acclaimed Japanese iconoclasts whose unique activities transcend genre conventions. 

 Hot on the heels of The Bow Maker – Dai Fujikura’s collaboration with sampling wizard Jan Bang released on Jazzland Recordings / Punkt Editions last September – comes another exciting collaborative effort from Fujikura, this time with the maverick instrumentalist Michiyo Yagi. 

 A virtuoso of the traditional Japanese transverse harp known as the koto, Michiyo Yagi has devoted much of her career to making music that sounds simultaneously ancient and futuristic. She has developed extended techniques and incorporated electronics while taking care to preserve the uniquely resonant character of the instrument in its most primal form. 

 Dai Fujikura is one of the most acclaimed Japanese composers on the international stage since Tōru Takemitsu. The recipient of numerous composition prizes and many prestigious commissions, his works have been conducted and played by Pierre Boulez, Gustavo Dudamel, Peter Eötvös, Jonathan Nott, Martha Argerich, Victoria Mullova, Camille Hoitenga and many other cutting-edge conductors and instrumentalists. 

 Yagi and Fujikura first met two decades ago and subsequently strengthened their friendship via the Born Creative Festival, held annually at the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre and curated by Fujikura. One of Japan’s few music festivals spotlighting (but not exclusive to) contemporary classical music, Born Creative has featured a wide array of innovative composers, technical virtuosos, and instrumentalists with unique voices. For the past four years, Fujikura has showcased Yagi in a variety of contexts at Born Creative. 

 At Born Creative 2022, Fujikura himself appeared as an instrumentalist, playing synthesizer alongside Yagi on the main stage. The duo’s performance was based on several compositions from this recording, Bibi. 

 Bibi was conceived and largely recorded in October of 2020, when London-based Fujikura, finding himself with a newly acquired modular synthesizer and some free time, invited Tokyo resident Yagi to create some music together via audio file exchange. As the two artists explain in their respective album notes, the musically compatible pair completed an album’s worth of music in record time. Some additional material and finishing touches were added several months later. 

 The album title Bibi, a Japanese word Yagi invented, modestly promises a “subtly beautiful” musical experience, and indeed, many of the pieces are contemplative and ambient, but some are more edgy and challenging. One thing is certain — the koto and synthesizer may have been invented thousands of years apart, but the music Yagi and Fujikura create is timeless.



MICHIYO YAGI (21-string koto, 17- and 18-string string bass kotos, 13-string koto, electronics, voice, composition) 

 Michiyo Yagi is one of the premier virtuosos of the Japanese transverse harp known as the koto. Apprenticed to Tadao Sawai, the leading koto player and composer in post-war Japan, Yagi was trained in the traditional and contemporary koto repertoires, and from early on exhibited a natural flair for improvisation. During a tenure as Visiting Professor of Music at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, U.S.A. she premiered numerous compositions for koto and became influenced by maverick American composers such as John Cage, Christian Wolff, Conlon Nancarrow, and John Zorn. Not long after Yagi began writing her own compositions, Zorn released Yagi’s debut CD Shizuku (1999) on his Tzadik label. 

Yagi has since released numerous albums including Yural (2001) with her koto ensemble; Seventeen (2005), entirely performed on the giant 17-string bass koto; Live! at SuperDeluxe (2006), a trio performance with Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and Paal Nilssen-Love; Head On (2008) and Volda (2010) with Peter Brötzmann and Nilssen-Love; Reflexions (2010) with Elliott Sharp; Soul Stream (2015) with Joe McPhee, Lasse Marhaug and Nilssen-Love; and Angular Mass (2015), a trio with Marhaug and Nilssen-Love. Dōjō, Yagi’s “power duo” with drummer Tamaya Honda, has released Ichi No Maki [Vol. 1] (2014), featuring guests Nils Petter Molvaer and Nilssen-Love, and Ni No Maki [Vol. 2] (2017) with guests Akira Sakata and Keisuke Ōta. Into The Forest (2019), spotlights Yagi’s vocals in addition to her instrumental prowess. Scheduled for 2023 are Bibi, a duo recording featuring composer Dai Fujikura on synthesizer, and Hyperborea, an ambient album co-produced by guitarist Eivind Aarset. 

 An eclectic performer who continually challenges conventions, Yagi has played at the Born Creative, Moers, Kongsberg Jazz, Punkt, Újbuda Jazz, Musique Actuel Victoriaville, Archipel, Bang on a Can, Vision, Instal, Jazztopad, Fuji Rock, Music Unlimited, Musique Action, and Météo-Mulhouse festivals. In addition to performing solo, with the duo Dōjō, the Michiyo Yagi Trio or the multi-koto ensemble Talon – all emphasizing her original compositions, extended techniques, and unique vocals based on the traditional jiuta style – Yagi continues to be active as the leading improviser on her instrument. 

DAI FUJIKURA (modular synthesizer, electronics, composition) 

 Born in 1977 in Osaka Japan, Dai was fifteen when he moved to UK. The recipient of many composition prizes, he has received numerous international co-commissions from the Salzburg Festival, Lucerne Festival, BBC Proms, Bamberg Symphony, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra and more. He has been Composer-in-Residence of Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra since 2014 and held the same post at the Orchestre National d'Île-de-France in 2017/18. Dai’s first opera Solaris, co-commissioned by the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Opéra de Lausanne, and the Opéra de Lille, had its world premiere in Paris in 2015 and has since gained a worldwide reputation. A new production of Solaris was created and performed at the Theatre Augsburg in 2018, and the opera received a subsequent staging in 2020. 

 In 2017, Dai received the Silver Lion Award from the Venice Biennale. In the same year, he was named the Artistic Director of the Tokyo Metropolitan Theater’s Born Creative Festival. 

 In 2019, his Shamisen Concerto was premiered at Mostly Mozart festival in New York Lincoln Center and there have so far been 9 performances of this work by various orchestras. 

 2020 saw the premiere of his fourth piano concerto Akiko’s Piano, dedicated to Hiroshima Symphony's Peace and Music Ambassador, Martha Argerich and performed as part of their "Music for Peace" project. His third opera "A Dream of Armageddon" was premiered in New National Theatre Tokyo in the same year. 

 Fujikura’s works are recorded by and released mainly on his own label Minabel Records in collaboration with SONY Music and his compositions are published by Ricordi Berlin. 

 Dai is currently focusing his attention on upcoming works including an opera on the life of Hokusai, a concerto for two orchestras, and a double concerto for flute and violin.