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In The News

Lighthouse Magazine San Diego

Satoko Furusawa - Editor-In-Chief

Watashi No Tenki "My Turning Point" P.20

In 2019, singer-songwriter Aico Simon released her first single, "Habana"; a song composed and performed by her. She is fascinated by salsa music and was interviewed about the musical journey that led to her solo debut.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve always loved singing. For as long as I can remember, my dream has been to become a singer. I attended the Yamaha Music School when I was in kindergarten. Later on, I became a fan of the Japanese idol, Namie Amuro. As a result, I developed a new interest in dancing. I worked with a talent agency during my junior high school years, and I also started voice training and went on many auditions. I was in love with J-pop music but I started listening to R & B, hip-hop, and American pop music. I said to myself, “I will need to be able to speak English in order to become a versatile singer”.  I went to a public high school in Washington State for my senior year and while I was there, I joined the competitive dance team. After returning from my study abroad, I encountered Latin music when a Cuban documentary film, "Buena Vista Social Club" became popular in Japan. The moment I heard their music, I fell in love with it. Electricity ran though my whole body. "This is it! I want to sing this music!" At that time, I learned that Cuban traditional music was just a part of Latin music. As my interest increased, I discovered other exciting forms of Latin music. I liked salsa very much. Salsa music was born in the United States; but with deep roots in traditional Cuban music. I am the type of person who goes after what she wants. I decided to leave Japan and live in the U.S so that I could learn more about the music and also how to speak Spanish. My decision was made. While I was still in Japan, I saved money by doing gigs and working many other jobs. I came to San Diego and graduated from college. After graduation, I returned to Japan but I came back to San Diego in 2011.

A song came to me after a trip to Cuba 

Shortly after returning to San Diego, I became the lead vocalist in a Grammy Nominated Salsa band, and this is how it happened.  Following my friend’s recommendation, I visited a local Mexican restaurant. That night, there was a live performance at the restaurant and the musician was playing traditional salsa music. That solo performer happened to be the director of a salsa band. He saw me playing the clave rhythm with my hands and invited me to meet his full band a month later at a club in downtown San Diego. I told the band director that I wanted to be a singer in his band. He was surprised at first but he gave me a chance to audition and I passed. I worked a full-time office job during the day and performed at various places nights and weekends. This was my life for 8 years. I learned many, many songs and I started to realize that all of the styles that I liked had strong connections to Cuba. After this discovery, I visited Cuba alone in 2016.  I had not made any musical plans prior to my visit to Cuba, but fate guided me to meet several prominent musicians after I arrived. My actual experience surpassed my wildest imagination when I met the members of The Buena Vista Social Club, the band that first inspired me. I also spoke with Jesus “Aguaje” Ramos, the musical director of the Buena Vista Social Club.  I also met one of my favorite singers, the legendary Omara Portuondo. "I can't believe it!" I said to myself. "This is the music that resonates with my soul. I am where I need to be”.  I felt as though Cuba was home to me. Soon after I returned from Cuba, I was driving my car when suddenly I heard the melody and lyrics to my song in my head.  It was how "Habana", my first single was born. I wanted to finish this song so badly but I did not know how. It took me 3 years to finish my composition while still working day jobs and performing nights and weekends. During this period, I quit my day job to become independent in order to focus my attention and energy on my passion. With the help of many artists, friends and family, I released the self-produced single. I visited Cuba again to shoot the music video before the pandemic struck. During the pandemic, I was able to make a music video and I released it on YouTube last year. It was seen by many people in various countries and I received a lot of positive feedback. When things settle down, I plan to tour the U.S and Japan.

Music in general, and especially salsa music in particular, has the power to energize anyone of any age. That's why I became so passionate about salsa music. I have dedicated my life to the idea that I can deliver the same passion to as many people as possible through my music. I am living my dream.

Translated by Aico Simon

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