Originally classically trained on piano in Kobe (Japan) and New York, jazz percussionist Akiko Horii attended the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles on a scholarship and obtained her bachelor’s degree in West African Music and Dance in 2004. At CalArts, she studied with a family of Ghanaian masters: Alfred, Kobla, and Beatrice Ladzekpo. She then attended California State University’s postgraduate Afro-Cuban music course, studying with pianist/composer Paul De Castro and percussionist Robert Fernandez. During the same period, she also studied and worked with master djembefola Mamady Keïta in Los Angeles and in Guinea (and what’s more, began to learn how to play the balafon with Bala Camara), as well as spending some time in Ivory Coast and Mali. During her stays in Africa, Akiko actively took part in local traditional ceremonies, playing for weddings, circumcisions, harvest festivals, and accompanying mask dances and rituals.
Following advice given to her by Mark Levine (jazz pianist and famed author of the Jazz Piano Book), Akiko moved to Paris in 2005. Truly versatile, she toured for many years, working with critically and popularly acclaimed British jazz big band Loose Tubes (led by pianist Django Bates), steel drummer Andy Narell, all-female Brazilian batucada Zalindê, rappers Oxmo Puccino and Kery James, slam poet Grand Corps Malade, jazz-rock fusion trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf, Senegalese percussionist Mamadou Gtcho Traore, tango trio Tres Fieras, Caribbean neo-soul artist Sébastien Drumeaux, opera singer Adèle Belmont… She also led her own West African percussion group, Les Elles du Tambour, in which she played, composed, and arranged. They released an album (Les Elles du Tambour, 2012) and performed throughout France, notably opening for Ethio-jazz unit Akalé Wubé.
As an educator, Akiko Horii was musical director for Cardiff University’s West African drumming and dance ensemble “Lanyi” in 2016. She has led numerous workshops and master classes and teaches regular ensemble and private lessons.