Japanese Opera Singer Promotes Rwanda-Japan Relations Through Music

Sakamoto and Pianist Miku Neubert perform at Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Kigali.

Japanese Germany based Opera singer Mayumi Sakamoto has launched her solo album showcasing in songs the harmony and relationship between Rwanda and Japan.

The 11 song album “Umubano: Harmony from Rwanda and Japan” was launched this Wednesday at an exclusive concert “Twilight Soprano and Piano Concert’ held at the Japanese embassy residence in Rwanda’s capital Kigali.

Umubano album is comprised of songs like the Rwanda National Anthem-RwandaNziza and the sun of Rwanda; back to me in Rwanda, Sakura sakura (cherry blossoms), Nobra (wild roses), Karatachi no Hana (Three-petaled orange blossoms), Matsushima Ondo(a Matsushima folk song), and Furusato (Home Town).

This concert follows Sakamoto’s two consecutive performances in Kinyarwanda of the Rwanda National Anthem – Rwanda Nziza, during the 2017 and 2018 (84th and 85th) birthdays of the Japanese Emperor Akihito in Kigali.

“The message in the album is to outline and set a bridge of connection between Rwanda and Japan through my songs” Sakamoto told KT Press.

The celebrity Opera singer Sakamoto, and wife to former Japan Deputy Chief of Mission in Rwanda told KT Press that she started in 2013 practicing how to sing in the Rwandan local language Kinyarwanda, with help from a Rwandan female friend.

“I started with the Gakoni and Wirira songs but continued with other children’s melodies such as Akazuba keza. I practiced phrase by phrase, repeating it over and over and in a day, I had mastered the lyrics and language phonetics,” said Sakamoto.

Using her music background as a graduate in vocal Music at University of Tokyo, Sakamoto admitted that it was not easy to learn Kinyarwanda but didn’t give up because she had some help from Rwandan friends.

Sakamoto managed to pull off a thrilling solo performance of the Rwandan anthem in 2017 at the emperor’s birthday.

But in order to perfect her performance this year, Sakamoto came along with her friend Pianist Miku Neubert whose touch of the piano tabs gave a better test of the sound of music in both the Rwanda and Japan national anthems performed.

The combination of the duo put up a silent thriller performance inside a fully-parked house at the ambassador’s residence, sending children and spouses of envoys serving in Rwanda to the flow to dance local beats.

The performance, filled with famous Christmas carols also marked a festive season’s celebration for friends of Japanese people living in Rwanda.

Sakamoto is also set to perform at the Rwanda Coffee concert next year – an initiative she founded to bring Rwanda and Japanese culture into harmony and plans on continue her pursuit of engaging Rwandans and Japan cultures through music.




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