Akiko Shikata Live

Akiko Shikata, in a live concert performing some of her songs. Most of the pieces are soundtracks from video games.

Shikata composes her own music, arranges the instruments, and provides the vocals.

And to that end she is a genius. Her music relies on ridiculously complex but symmetrical overlaying of tones and vocals, powerfully complicated rhythms, and strikingly sharp contrasts of pace, but each piece surprisingly produces a distinct motif, often borrowed from existing musical traditions (traditional Japanese, Celtic, Arabian, Greek, etc.). The array of these traditions she borrows from is extensive, and the diversity of instruments she employs reflects that – you can hear a guzheng playing with a bagpipe in one piece, while a Japanese Sho may play with a sitar in another. She has exquisite command of the traditions she borrows from, distilling the quintessential musical motifs of each tradition and producing music that is stereotypically, and thereby distinctly, of that tradition. But the diversity of her sources, along with her electro-synth editing, serve to give her music a cosmopolitan and modern feel, highlighting the stylistic similarities across different traditions, and making them appealing to modern tastes. Her vocals, ranging from western Classical contralto to Japanese Minyo folk singing, demonstrate this best.

With a Shikata piece there is nothing but intensity. You cannot believe how she can provide all the almost 200 vocal recordings in each piece, and your emotions fluctuate rapidly from one extreme to another as you listen to her. With the experience of her music Shikata touches on the human feeling where no artist has probably ever touched before. You don’t need an eloquent explanation to get how good her music is. Bang, it hits you on the face on the first note. Every single time.

Perhaps her music’s only flaw is that you can barely sing any of her pieces in karaoke. And I’m just fine with that.

My favourite Shikata pieces are Katayoku no Tori (the first song by her I heard, from the ‘Umineko no naku koro ni’ anime), The Wind Knows the Distant Tomorrow (I mentioned this in one short story, reminds me of Mati, Davao Oriental somehow), Seiren -Íroes Argonáutes (the sudden fast movements at the beginning and the end always get me), Pantalea (my soundtrack during the Silliman Writers Workshop in 2012, and my Negros Oriental soundtrack in general),  and Akakakushi (my soundtrack during my summer vacation in Hong Kong).

(Warning: when you’re going through very emotional times, DO NOT use an Akiko Shikata piece as soundtrack. It will take your longer to forget those emotions. Those last two songs took me three years.)

Shikata’s latest piece, Akatsuki (second closing theme for the anime series Akatsuki no Yona) may not be her best, but it’s definitely one of her most typical.

Want me to recommend a good composer? Akiko Shikata!

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