Jazz - Musician/Composer/Producer
Press

Producer promotes Asian women singers

May 5 2008

BIG IN THE EAST - By YASUKI MATSUMOTO

 

Chika Asamoto is a professional saxophonist in her own right but nowadays she works chiefly as a producer to promote talented Asian female singers.

 

Last summer she produced and marketed a recording titled “Forever Peace,” a duet sung by her husband Masaki Ueda, and Indonesian singer Resa. It was released in Japan, Malaysia and other parts of Asia and topped the charts for a long time in Indonesia.

 

Asamoto has also put an album by Ash, a Vietnamese artist who grew up in the Midle East, Europe and the United Sates and who new lives in South Korea. She sold the albums through AMS Record, a recoding company she established in 1999. She also re leased her own work, “Humble Heart” last year.

 

Music critic Hiroshi Matsumura, who is well-versed in the Asian music scene, regards Asamoto as a pioneer. “Many Japanese tourists go to South Asia, but few are interested in the local music."

 

The Japanese media have not taken up (Asian) music much recently, he said. “It must be hard (for Asamoto) to introduce Asian Singer to (Japanese and other Asian markets)”.

 

A third-generation Korean resident of Japan, born Osaka in 1960, Asamoto studied music at schools in Japan and U.S., including the Berklee College of Music in Boston. She became the first professional female saxophonist in Japan when she joined the fusion group Crystal Moon following her return from the U.S. in 1985. She turned solo three years later and went on to play with such Luminaries as David Mafthews and Mark Egan.

 

Her solo career seemed to be taking off  when suddenly, in 1994, her record company came under new management and terminated its contract with her, axing an album she recorded in London that had just been released. That experience, she recalled, made her realize first hand the tough realities of the music business. Asamoto fomd out the hard way that an artist like her was in a weak position despite the confidence she had gained as a performer.

 

She was down in The dumps until a friend in the U.S. suggested she capitalize on music sites on the Internet that were growing fast at the time. Without the support of a recording company, she believed she could continue as an artist via the Internet. She went on to produce dance music albums for herself and young artists and sold them over the Internet.

 

Asamoto set her eyes on global perspective in an effort to create music that could be accepted universally. In this respect,  she views Asia as one of the world’s markeys.

 

She and her husband were impressed by Reza when they heard her sing in Bali, where they own a villa. They bought her CD contacted her re cording company to get permission to sell music in Japan.

 

“Chika and Masaki came to see me and said they wanted to release my song in Japan,” Reza said. “I was really surprised.”

 

Ash, who has performed live in Japan a number of times, regards Asamoto as a big sister.

 

Malaysian singer Nig calls her a “sincere person whom I can trust,” adding, “She and I are headed in the same direction.”

 

South Korean rhythm and blues singer Kim Johan prompted Asamoto to take an interest Asian  music. She had some knowledge of Korean artists since Asamoto’s husband had earlier made in roads in to South Korea. Kim’s singing talent gave her an understanding of the depth of Korean music.

 

“ I wondered if Korean (musicians) realizzed that no one in the world can imitate them in their performance as Asan,” she said. A copy of asamoto’s “phantom album” that vanished in 1994 turned up recently in the corner of the secondhand bookstore. Next to its title, “Asian heart,” was the line, “what I want more than a kiss is a sax.”

 

A letter dedicated to Myanmar’s democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi was printed on the reverse. While writing it, Assmoto’s first step to focusing her attention on Asia.