Asian Improv aRts Midwest (AIRMW) celebrates the release of Kioto Aoki’s debut solo taiko album No Traffic in Space with an artist talk and performances featuring special guests Tatsu Aoki & Michael Zerang.
The evening serves as a prelude to the full lineup of spring 2021 solo album releases from Asian Improv Records on March 20.
Kioto Aoki is a taiko artist, descending from the Toyoakimoto performing arts family in Tokyo with roots dating back to the Edo period. Studying under her Tokyo-born father, Kioto is carrying on the artistic family lineage in Chicago as sole professional taiko artist in the city. She has been performing on stage since the age of 7 and also plays shamisen and tsuzumi. Kioto plays in both traditional and contemporary musical contexts and is active within the experimental and creative music communities in Chicago and the Bay Area. She also leads the National Gintenkai Project – the performance unit within Tsukasa Taiko, the Japanese drumming program at Asian Improv aRts Midwest.
Kioto is also a visual artist and educator using the material specificity of the analogue image and image-making process to explore modes of perception as a politics of vision. Her photographic work oscillates between the still and the moving image, attentive to the apparatus of the human eye and the camera; while installation and artist book works engage mechanisms of structural tangibility and site-specificity. Forming a rhetoric of nuanced quietude, her practice considers the intimacies of vision through the experience of sight from inception through presentation.
Musical projects include Yoko Ono’s SKYLANDING, Tatsu Aoki’s The MIYUMI Project, The Reduction Ensemble, and the Taiko Legacy / Reduction series at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Kioto is also a multi-year Ethnic and Folk Arts Master Apprentice Program Awardee from the Illinois Arts Council. Her solo taiko album produced by Asian Improv Records is to be released Spring 2021.
Tatsu Aoki is an artist, composer, musician, educator and a consummate bassist and shamisen Lute player. Based in Chicago, Aoki works in a wide range of musical genres, ranging from traditional Japanese musvic, jazz, experimental and creative music. Born in Tokyo, 1957 into the Toyoakimoto artisan family, a traditional house for training and booking agents for geisha. Aoki was part of his family’s performance crew from the age of four. By the early 1970s, Aoki was active in Tokyo’s underground arts movement as a member of Gintenkai, an experimental ensemble that combined traditional music and new Western forms. In 1977, Aoki left Tokyo and is now one of the most in-demand performers of bass, shamisen, and taiko, contributing more than ninety recording projects and touring internationally during the last thirty-five years. 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.
His Miyumi Project ensemble was chosen as the official musical presenters for the groundbreaking and unveiling of Yoko Ono’s installation, “SKYLANDING” in Chicago’s own Jackson Park; which also resulted in the group recording the album “SKYLANDING”, produced by Yoko Ono. In 2017, the group contributed their unique vibe to the soundtrack of the Japanese American Incarceration film documentary: “And Then They Came for Us”, and released a corresponding album. In May of 2018, Aoki was honored as the first recipient of the “George Award”, for his years of support, recording, and performance with renowned American Jazz and soul guitarist George Freeman. This year (2020), he received the United States Artists Fellowship for Traditional Arts and also the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship Award for Ethnic and Cultural Arts.
Michael Zerang was born in Chicago, Illinois, 1958, and is a first-generation American of Assyrian decent. He has been a professional musician, composer, producer, and educator since 1976, focusing extensively on improvised music, free jazz, contemporary composition, puppet theater, experimental theater, and international musical forms.
As a percussionist and composer, Zerang has over eighty-five titles in his discography and has toured and performed nationally and internationally to 35 countries since 1981, and continues to work with and ever-widening pool of collaborators.
As an ensemble member, Zerang has worked in a concentrated fashion with many working bands over the years, contributing as a composer and performer to the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet, Liof Munimula, Survival Unit III, Brötzmann/McPhee/Kessler/Zerang Quartet, Resonance Ensemble, Friction Brothers, and The Winter Solstice Concerts with Hamid Drake – an annual event in Chicago since 1990.
As an arts activist, Michael founded and was the artistic director of the Link’s Hall Performance Series in Chicago from 1985 -1989 where he produced over 300 concerts of jazz, traditional ethnic folk music, electronic music, and other forms of forward thinking music. Michael was a Board Member of Links Hall from 1989 – 2013. He continued to produce concerts at Cafe Urbus Orbis from 1994-1996, and at his own space, The Candlestick Maker in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood, from 2001 – 2005. All of these efforts at grass-roots activism yielded expanding opportunities for contemporary local, national and international artists in Chicago, and have added to the vibrant underground culture of the city. All of the concerts he produced at Links Hall and at Candlestick Maker have been documented on audio-tape and are available for scholars, researchers, and the public at the Creative Audio Archive at the Experimental Sound Studios in Chicago.
Michael has sat on the Board of Directors of several small arts organizations including Links Hall, Experimental Sound Studio, Curious Theater Branch, The Children’s School, and The Elastic Arts Foundation.
He’s also taught countless master classes as a guest artist, including those at Universitè Toulouse, Gulbenkian Museum (Lisbon, Portugal), Irtijal Festival (Beirut, Lebanon); The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Dance Center of Columbia College, Northwestern University, and MoMing Dance and Arts Center.