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Tatsu Aoki

is a leading advocate for the Asian American community, as well as a prolific composer and performer of traditional and experimental music forms, a filmmaker, and an educator. 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. In the late 1960s, he shifted his energies from the traditional to American pop and experimental music. 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. Aoki is Founder and Artistic Director of Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival, which celebrated its twentieth year in 2015.

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“Aoki (…) has not been alone in championing the exotic interweaving of Asian music and American jazz. But thanks to a relentless work ethic and a visionary’s approach to the art of improvisation, he surely has been the most influential.”– Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune

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