Joji Hirota

Japan

Percussionist, composer, singer, flautist - Joji Hirota joyously eludes definition. Trained as a classical musician in Japan, he has now spent over half his life in England freely blending instruments and influences to create a music that is uniquely his own. His flute sounds like singing, his singing sounds instrumental and his drums sound like nothing on earth.

Joji Hirota was born in Hokkaido in North Japan. He began to study percussion at the age of eleven and by the time he was thirteen he was composing his own music. He then went on to study at the Kyoto Municipal Arts University.

In 1972 he was invited to come to England by the illustrious Stomu Ymashta to be Musical Director and Percussionist of the Red Buddha Theatre. This was a turning point. As Joji himself says, but for that invitation he might have stayed with the Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra playing Beethoven's 5th for the rest of his life. It led to Joji becoming Musical Director and Solo Percussionist for the Lindsay Kemp Dance Company in 1977, presenting shows in Europe, Canada, South America and Japan. In 1991 the company won the Time Out award for Best Dance Company for their production 'Onnagata', for which Joji wrote and performed the music.

Joji found England such an exciting place to be, "so full of possibilities", that he has lived here ever since. The serious interest in folk music in the West inspired him to explore the folk music of his own culture long before it was taken seriously back in Japan. He denies that he is mixing traditions.

"I happen to be a Japanese man - but as a musician I am drawing on all these traditions to create my own style..." The distinction is an important one and Joji, whose English is fluent and flawless, hesitates and uses the word 'weapon' before quickly changing this to the more acceptably Western concept 'style'.