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Chapter 1

Akiko Fujii

Akiko Fujii

Akiko Fujii performing Kageboshi "Shadow" at her recital in the Kioi Hall, Tokyo, October 2008.
Photograph by Hideyuki Masuda. Copyright Akiko Fuji.

Telling the Musical Life Stories
of a Hereditary Jiuta Singer of Japan
by Shino Arisawa

Akiko Fujii was born into a prestigious musical family in Japan in the 1960s, having both a mother and grandmother who were renowned singers of jiuta, an inherited male-dominated vocal tradition. Throughout childhood Akiko was apprenticed to her mother and expected to inherit her music school; however, when Akiko was in her forties, her brother became the head of the school forcing her towards major life decisions, which included a career as a professional jiuta performer, rather than as a teacher. Following a path of independence, passion, and inspiration, she chose to break new ground by adapting her performance style to draw in audiences and create intimacy, resisting criticism of an older generation and risking disapproval of her mother, even as she nursed her through illness. Within a traditional context of profound family pressure, Akiko has created a singing career for herself through perseverance and determination.

Shino Arisawa: "I have known Akiko since 2003 when I began conducting field research in Japan concerning musical transmission within the jiuta tradition. As Akiko came from one of the representative families of the tradition, I decided to investigate her lineage through Akiko as she was a younger member and also looked like a friendly and approachable person. When I first visited her concert where her family members, including her mother and brother, performed together, I initially felt they were a happy family with smiles on their faces.

"However, as my field research progressed, Akiko gradually revealed her complex feeling towards her family and her musical career. In my research, therefore, I also aimed to investigate emotional aspects in musical transmission where tradition is handed down from father to son, from mother to daughter, or from grandparents to grand children, who are family members, but are also masters and disciples. I looked at musical transmission as an emotional act, which is a blend of love and hatred, faith and betrayal, and many other complicated feelings. Akiko's mother, who was also her master, passed away while I was conducting field research. Akiko initially did not talk much about her feelings, but later expressed how much her mother's death had impacted on her emotional transformation, as I describe in my chapter."

Akiko Fujii performing "Wet Fan"

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