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Made in Japan

Few people are likely to see connections between the cultures of Japan and Africa. But for Japanese-born bass player Tatsu Aoki melding traditional Japanese music with jazz just comes naturally.

From his childhood days in Japan as the son of a Geisha, to his teenage years he spent immersed himself in rock 'n roll, Tatsu Aoki has always been surrounded by music. Since founding the Asian American Jazz Festival, which began in Chicago in 1996 and now travels the country, Aoki has been sharing his far-reaching musical influences with the rest of the world. Whether playing with fellow innovators like Malachi Favors, Joseph Jarman and Roscoe Mitchell, or jamming with his taiko drumming group, Aoki forges musical styles that draw from traditional cultures at the same time that he expands their boundaries.

Related Links

Find out more about JASC Tsukasa Taiko, the Japanese drumming group where Aoki teaches the three-stringed shamisen, and learn how to play Japanese music.

Check out the lineup for Aoki's Asian American Jazz Festival, an event the Chicago Tribune has called "a crowning event on the city's cultural calendar."

Visit Asian Improv Records, a recording label for Aoki and other Asian-American artists.

Drop by another of Aoki's labels, Chicago-based Southport Records.

Check out the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, another group in Chicago's innovative jazz scene.

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Find out how Tatsu Aoki's early life shaped his career in music.


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Tatsu Aoki pounds away at the drum at University of Chicago's Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture.

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Mwata Bowden, Tatsu Aoki and Francis Wong improvise a song at the University of Chicago


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