Photo by Dave Farkas
Emi Makabe is a Japanese composer, vocalist, shamisen player, and educator based in New York City. Her songs, described by New York Music Daily as "rapturous, adventurous Japanese folk-influenced jazz," encompass jazz, pop, classical and improvised music, and also reflect her background in Japanese music. She has performed in renowned venues in New York City, Europe and Japan. She sings in English and Japanese as well as wordlessly, and plays piano and shamisen, a Japanese traditional string instrument.
She was born in Chiba, Japan, and has been involved with music from early childhood. Her mother, who taught music at elementary school, was her first piano teacher. Early musical activities included singing, playing flute, and learning the Japanese koto and shamisen, and as a teenager she began to play and compose original songs.
Moving to New York in 2008, she earned a Bachelor of Music degree in jazz performance and Pro Music award from the City College of New York, and went on to complete a Master of Music from Aaron Copland School of Music while singing in the Billy Harper Voices. Her focus was on jazz and classical harmony, theory and vocal technique, and her teachers include Theo Bleckman, Jen Shyu, Donna Doyle, Janet Steele, David Schober, Jeb Patton, Billy Harper and Thomas Morgan. Counterpoint is at the heart of her approach to composition, and she is taking ongoing counterpoint lessons with Paul Caputo and Judith Berkman.
She participated in the 2018 Copenhagen Jazz Festival, singing and playing shamisen in a duo performance with Thomas Morgan. She is currently composing and performing her compositions at jazz venues in New York such as the 55 Bar, Cornelia Street Cafe, Rockwood Music Hall, ShapeShifter Lab and St. Peter's Church, performing with musicians such as Kenny Wollesen, Thomas Morgan, Vitor Gonçalves, Johnathan Blake, Rudy Royston, Nate Wood, Gerald Cleaver, Fabian Almazan, Ches Smith, Chris Tordini, Jacob Sacks, Fung Chern Hwei, Billy Mintz, Satoshi Takeishi and Billy Harper.
She is also a Steinway-associate educator, teaching voice, piano and music theory.
Time Out NYC:
"Composer Makabe makes imaginative Japanese-folk–influenced jazz, weaving her shamisen-playing and vocals with combos, string quartets and other diverse arrangements."
New York Music Daily:
"rapturous, adventurous Japanese folk-influenced jazz"