BAY GUARDIAN goldies
Miya Masaoka Global warming By Derk Richardson
IN THE TWO years since she recorded her debut album, Compositions/ Improvisations (Asian Improv), Miya Masaoka has insinuated the unique sounds of her 21-string koto into an extraordinary array of musical settings. In addition to directing and performing with the San Francisco Gagaku Society, in which the zither like koto finds a natural context in ancient Japanese court music, Masaoka has performed with the Sonocentric Ensemble, pianist-composer Jon Jang, bassist and multi-instrumentalist Mark Izu, and guitarist Henry Kaiser.
She was also tapped by jazz tenor saxophone giant Pharoah Sanders to join his band at Yoshi's last year; recruited into saxophonist Steve Coleman's Mystic Rhythm Society, which recorded in Paris this year and included in Cecil Taylor's Creative Music Orchestra during its extensive Bay Area rehearsal sessions. In August of this year Masaoka performed in Madison Square Garden both solo and in a symphony composed by Indian violinist L. Subramaniam and featuring Trilok Gurtu, Swapan Chaudhuri, Larry Coryell, and others. Born and raised in San Mateo, Masaoka occasionally heard traditional Japanese music at Buddhist church bazaars and funerals. She was exposed to the koto through a cousin but took up the instrument herself just nine years ago.
Although she had been trained as a classical pianist, she began pursuing a musical career only after working in various political organizations, toiling on a Mack Truck assembly line in Hayward, serving as a UAW shop steward, and living in Paris for two years with her husband and daughter. After returning to the Bay Area Masaoka earned her master's degree at Mills College and immersed herself in the new/improvised music and Asian American jazz scenes, collaborating with and gleaning inspiration from Lisle Ellis, Larry Ochs, Willie Winant, Chris Brown, Alvin Curran, Jon Jang, Izu, Frances Wong, Lee Yen, and others.
Currently Masaoka teaches at both San Francisco State University and the San Francisco Community Music Center. She is completing work on her second solo CD, which will incorporate her recent experiments with electronics and computers, and on a duet CD with composer, trombonist, and electronic musician George Lewis. She has also recorded CDs with bassist Ellis and guitarist Kaiser. After her Sept. 29 solo concert at New Langton Arts she will travel to Europe to perform with the Rova Saxophone Quartet, Lewis, and others, and she has been invited by L. Subramaniam to perform in India next February and by Steve Coleman to return to Paris in the spring. The exceptionally free and personal qualities of expression in her writing and performing have carried Masaoka into a global network that both transcends her Bay Area roots and confirms her as local artistic treasure.
Goldies '95 The Seventh Annual Guardian Outstanding Local Discovery awards
THE BAY AREA'S rich cultural tapestry is made up of thousands of dancers, musicians, writers, actors, filmmakers, inventors, and improvisers who pour themselves into a stunning array of projects and productions -- creative enterprises too often taken for granted.
The Bay Guardian founded the Guardian Outstanding Local Discovery awards -- or Goldies -- in 1989 to support the Bay Area arts and honor those individuals and groups whose contributions during the year were particularly noteworthy, from young artists whose careers are about to take off to more-experienced artists who haven't received the recognition they deserved to one special lifetime achievement award. This year's 12 winners are an appropriately diverse lot. Among them are the founders of the San Francisco Mime Troupe -- our 1995 Lifetime Achievement Award winners -- who've taken their politically acute, good-humored productions around the globe for the past 31 years; koto player Miya Masaoka, a fixture in today's new and experimental music scene; gifted jazz saxophone player Sonny Simmons, who recently revived his decades-old career with a strong new album and hot performances; and dancer/choreographer winner Robert Henry Johnson, who has dazzled Bay Area audiences with his imagination and showmanship. We are happy to honor these artists who, along with the other winners, were essential contributors to the vision and spark that made this past year in Bay Area arts a memorable one. 1995 Goldie Award winners were selected by Bay Guardian editors and critics, led by arts editor J.H. Tompkins.The 1995 Goldie Awards will be presented Sept. 19 at Slim's.