Japan Photo Gallery Logo

Send  E-Mail

Cibo Matto o Kudasai
Cibo Matto Review
Part 1 of 4

Skip to Part Two - Click Here
Skip to Part Three - Click Here
Skip to Part Four - Click Here

Japanese Music Review
By: W. Dire Wolff

Although initially, some people latched on to the lyrics of some of their songs, there is much more to the band, "Cibo Matto", than meets the media coverage. This band's music contains some really tasty bits of Jazz, Hip-Hop, Brazilian music, African Drumming, and Disco samples shimmered together in a big melting pot. The music crosses over the usual boundaries and creates an international musical experience that is unique unto itself. At times the listener is challenged to accept such a variety of musical influences in a short period of time. But their music is mixed with a high level of quality, good humor, and fun. Cibo Matto is composed of five main members, Yuka Honda, Miho, Timo Ellis, Sean Lennon, and Duma Love; with special guest appearances by their network of musical associates and friends. This is a lively group of people with far reaching conceptual ideas that are reflected in lyric, mixing, production, and performance of their music. Cibo Matto can not be easily defined or explained, instead their music must be experienced to be appreciated.

Yuka HondaYuka Honda came from Japan to America's Big Apple in the mid 1980's. She began her career in the American music industry soon thereafter. Yuka came to America by an invitation from her friend Dougie Bowne of the "Lounge Lizards". When Dougie had come to Tokyo while the Lounge Lizards were touring, he and Yuka met. Once in America, Yuka began cutting her teeth in the New York City music scene by playing in a broad range of bands. Her musical bio makes up a small volume of "Who's Who" in the New York underground. She has jammed with Dave Douglas of Masada to develop a feel for avant garde jazz. To name just a few other bands she worked with, Yuka played hip hop with Sha Key, jammed with John Zorn, and played acid jazz with the Brooklyn Funk Essential. She developed her style and musical skills on keyboards and then created more advanced musical ideas using the sampler. From the start, Yuka wasn't afraid to try something new, and she has always been open minded to experimenting with different musical styles. Through use of conceptual sampling, Yuka began to create her own interpretation of music that blended her diverse musical background into a sound she can call her own.

MihoBy the time Miho came to America in the early 1990's, Yuka had already started digging a small nitch in the New York music scene. Miho had met some minor success in Tokyo while singing Hip Hop in a Japanese band named "Kimidori". She developed her ability to get the dance floor grooving, while working as a club DJ in Tokyo. In addition, she learned about different styles of music while working in a record shop in Tokyo. She left Tokyo to study at an English school in the United States. Like Yuka, Miho has eclectic tastes in music. Miho wasn't viewing music as having to be one way or another, and was searching for something she could call "Cool!"

Although they grew up in the same area of Tokyo, Miho and Yuka's paths did not actually cross until Miho had already been in the United States for about one and a half years. They started their musical careers together by doing informal improvisational musical presentations at a small club in New York. They were not an instance success, but the people around them encouraged them to continue with their music. They lived a modest lifestyle, and they shared each other's interest in musical exploration. This love for music probably was what gave them the staying power to survive their early years together. Whatever dreams of grandeur that may have been deep inside their hearts, it was secondary to their desire to have fun and play music. They were open to other musicians and took every opportunity to make new friends and join in improvised jam sessions. They're fun loving personalities helped them to develop their names in Big Apple's network of underground artists. After meeting, Miho and Yuka began getting together to develop informal musical arrangements, in the comfort of their living rooms.

Cibo Matto didn't spring out of nowhere, it evolved over time as the two friends continued their musical careers together. Before settling into the current forum of music collaboration, Yuka and Miho formed a loose punk jam band know as "Leitoh Lychee". In Leitoh Lychee, Miho sang and played a violin through a distortion pedal and Yuka played the guitar. While hanging out writing music or after a night's gig, they often wandered over to one of the many great New York restaurants to relax, talk, and enjoy the food. New York is a place where any time, day or night, food from a diverse set of cultures can be found. Like their eclectic tastes in music, they shared the same eclectic taste in food. Slowly there developed a fusion between Yuka and Miho's friendship, their shared love for food, and their desire to make music. Out of this fusion, the band Cibo Matto was born ("Cibo Matto" can be roughly translated to mean "Crazy Food" in Italian).

As the "Leitoh Lychee" project fell by the wayside, Cibo Matto was born. Although they spent a lot of time making avante garde arrangements of other composers songs, Miho and Yuka began writing their own songs as well. Their creative process evolved from musical passages and samplings that Yuka would piece together on her keyboards and sampler. Miho would listen to Yuka's musical ideas and she would begin constructing lyrics and vocals. They listened to each others ideas, and exchanged opinions on where the song should go. Cibo Matto does not reach a final version of a musical composition, instead their songs are living organisms that continue to change and evolve with every performance of the piece. Since they shared an interest in food, Yuka and Miho initially took pleasure in creating a smorgasbord of musical arrangements that contained lyrical symbolized associations with culinary delights.

Sweet as a ...With only a short time in the United States, Miho found herself struggling to express herself lyrically in English. Through the use of food as symbolic metaphors, she found a way to communicate more complex emotions and ideas in a vocabuary that she had already encountered. The younger people in Japan's larger cities have a wide variety of restaurants and tea houses to choose from. In particular, the boom of the Japanese economy during the late 1900's provided a wide array of choices of international cuisine to explore. Little restaurants spring up and people rush to find out what new recipes they will encounter there. The little cafes often are very short lived, and a new place opens where the old business was before. The wide variety of food available in Tokyo offers all the finest treats that Asia, Europe, and the Americas have to offer. The Japanese people place a great deal of importance on the presentation and visual arrangement of food dishes. Miho's cultural background provided her with a vivid representation of food that she translated into musical themes and lyrics in her singing.

Yuka is responsible for the musical composition of the songs that Cibo Matto writes and/or arranges. Using the keyboards and sampler, she works on a song for weeks to bring together a variety of ideas on melody, beat, and movement. Yuka blends the ideas of melody that she performs on keyboards and tinkers with the various ideas and passages. As the idea becomes more defined, she reduces her reliance on the technology of the sampler and turns the concept into a more pure performance piece. Yuka prefers to not use a sequencer in developing her music, and plays the sampler more like a live instrument. She views sampling as an art and uses an unwritten code of ethics in her selection of borrowed works. Along with Miho's input, Yuka builds a musical idea over time into a song. When Yuka and Miho fell into the inevitable periods of dry creativity, they recorded samples from TV programs they were watching, old albums, or whatever sounds might float into the room. After a long incubation period, Yuka and Miho bring a variety of musical ideas into one song.

When first starting out, Cibo Matto played anywhere they could find a gig. They paid their dues in tiny New York clubs, small art galleries, and any place that would let them set up and jam. Slowly they began to build a small following and an ever increasing repertoire of songs. The idea of the band was started as something just for fun, but as their following started to grow they became more earnest in their song writing. Miho and Yuka enjoy taking material from already popular songs and completely rearranging them into new musical ideas. They sing the songs that they perform in languages that include English, Japanese, French, and Spanish. Like their love for gourmet food, their musical styles take on a very cool international flavor. One of their first singles included an arrangement of the grunge band Soundgarden's hit song "Black Hole Sun". Miho sang the arrangement of the song in French. Cibo Matto enjoys doing covers of top 10 hits, this provided a recognizable theme for audiences that were seeing and hearing the band for the first time. They released the songs, "Birthday Cake" (an original) and "Black Hole Sun" on their first 7-inch single. Slowly they received some bits of airplay on small radio stations and began to receive some wider recognition in the New York area.

Talk of Cibo Matto had spread outside of the New York area, thus Cibo Matto recorded their first mini CD on the Japanese recording label known as "Error Records". The self named mini album "Cibo Matto", was released in Japan by the Error label. This CD was released in 1995. The CD included material already prepared in the United States for demos and their two independent 7" singles. The mini CD included performances by such guests as Sebastian Steinberg of "Soul Coughing", Russel Simins of "The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion", and Dougie Bowne of the Lounge Lizards. Included on the Japanese release of the CD were 5 songs. "Birthday Cake" and "Black Hole Sun" are songs that had been previously released on their first 7-inch single. "Know Your Chicken" was a live version of a song that would grow to be an early Cibo Matto signature piece. The mini CD included a version of their song "Beef Jerky" that was initially recorded as a demo. Finally a abstract art piece with a far east sound titled "Crumbs" closed the mini CD. From the publicity of their recording ventures and their growing fan base, Cibo Matto managed to sign a record contract with "Warner Brothers' Records".

You were born in the 60's
We made a war with the Vietnamese
We loved LSD, We died easily
Can we just say c'est la vie?

You Know my love is sweet.
Birthday Cake - CIBO MATTO(Copyright © 1995 Soul Urchin Song)

Continue to Part Two - Click Here

Skip to Part Three - Click Here
Skip to Part Four - Click Here

Cibo Matto Si Vous Voulez

Cibo Matto Official Homepage


Search Yahoo


Lead Story
Next Page of Cibo Matto

Shibuya River Home


Japan Gallery Home
Table of Contents
Music and Articles
News and Links
Japan Book Sore
Cyber Beat Home
More Photos
Comics Get Shocked




Japan Photo Gallery - Take a tour of beautiful Japan. Visit Japanese places including Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagoya, and Sapporo, and see cool people on the streets. Click "Next Photo" to continue the Tour and view the next photo. Or review a table of contents of photos contained in the gallery. Return to Gallery to obtain more information and options.


Caught in a Frame? Click Here!

Back to Top