Born and raised near Kobe, Japanese-French jazz percussionist Akiko Horii was never afraid of bold moves growing up: after leaving her native Japan alone at the age of fifteen to attend high school on Long Island (NY), she made a radical shift from studying classical piano to devoting herself to West African music and dance in college (CalArts), with a particular focus on the djembe and Ewe drumming from Ghana. She later spent several months in Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Mali, learning, practicing, and performing for local ceremonies.
Her deep sense of rhythm and graceful abstractions notably brought her into the spotlight with several performances on Congahead. In addition to displaying an impressive array of intricate grooves on the various albums and singles she produced with AfuriKo (African infused jazz duo co-led with pianist/keyboardist Jim Funnell), Akiko’s skilful arrangements and original compositions are showcased on her own percussion group’s eponymous release Les Elles du Tambour (2012). The band played throughout France, including appearances at Art Rock Festival and at the Studio de l’Ermitage opening for Ethio-jazz unit Akalé Wubé.
A multifaceted artist versed in numerous musical styles of the African Diaspora, Akiko has toured for many years, working with Jim Funnell’s Word Out, Django Bates’ Loose Tubes, Andy Narell, Monette Marino (under the direction of Mamady Keïta), Zalindê, the Mariachi Divas de Cindy Shea, Oxmo Puccino, Kery James, Grand Corps Malade, and Ibrahim Maalouf to name a few. She has performed in numerous countries across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas, at venues and festivals such as Jazz a la Calle (Uruguay), the London Jazz Festival, Kathmandu Jazz Festival (Nepal), Ronnie Scott’s (London), Herts Jazz Festival (UK), Kanazawa Jazz Street (Japan), Jazz à la Villette, the Palais des congrès and the Olympia in Paris, Coburg Samba Festival (Germany), Festival International de Timgade (Tunisia), Festival +KSamba (Mallorca, Spain), and the Cannes Film Festival.
As an educator, Akiko was musical director for Cardiff University’s West African drumming and dance ensemble “Lanyi” in 2016, and has led workshops and master classes at several other institutions (Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Middlesex University in London, l’Union des Musiciens de Jazz in Paris, Munich International Ballet School, etc.). She was nominated Djembe Teacher of the Year for 2022 at Lessonface.com.
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Check out Akiko’s profile at All About Jazz here.