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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

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The GW Hatchet

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Cibo Matto blends variety of genres to produce its own sound

From the start, it’s clear that Yuka Honda, one half of the New York City band Cibo Matto, doesn’t like to stay within the lines. When asked to name five albums that everyone should hear, she rattled off all of Stevie Wonder’s records, everything by Earth, Wind, and Fire, Sly Stone, all of the Beatles’ albums, John and Yoko, Talking Heads, all of Brian Eno’s stuff, and Antonio Carlos Jobin. When asked to offer up a simple description of Cibo Matto’s music, she shyly responded Oh.I don’t think I could do that.

Her unwillingness to accept boundaries is an excellent metaphor for Cibo Matto. When it comes to the group’s music, the keyword is fusion. From heavy metal to bossanova to hip-hop, Cibo Matto mixes everything to produce an eccentric recipe for sound.

Honda was born in Japan and came to the United States in 1987. She says her experience gives her a different perspective on making music.

I am not only from Japan, but I lived in Europe for sometime, Honda said during a phone interview Nov. 12. I have learned that although people have very different mind sets, they also have a lot in common. I don’t know why people like to categorize things between country and genre and like to put a border between things.

It was open-mindedness that eventually led her to form a musical union with another Japanese-born New Yorker, Miho Hatori. At first, Cibo Matto came together to play only one gig for fun.

We were just really having fun, a lot of fun, and thinking we can just do whatever we want, Honda said. There was a lot more freedom to try out and be experimental for one gig.

A fan base started to form from Cibo Matto’s random performances and then led to a recording contract with Warner Brothers. Cibo Matto’s first album was released in early 1996. Entitled Viva! La Woman, the debut album conveyed what was on Honda’s and Hatori’s minds – food. Of the 11 songs on the album, 10 were about food. In fact, cibo matto is Italian for food madness.

Viva! La Woman was highly innovative, built on the hip-hop loops produced by Honda’s extraordinary keyboard skills and Hatori’s vocal power.

I started getting into hip-hop in 1986, Honda said. It was always very exciting, especially since I did computer music.

I always try to build the song as much as I can. I look at it from different angles, but I don’t want to lose the live feel. I try to think about aspects of the music and realize as much as possible in every song.

Her openness to musical exploration paid off. Cibo Matto went on tour opening up for Beck, Luscious Jackson and other headliners. Viva! La Woman was named in Time magazine as one of the top 10 hip-hop albums of all time. As Cibo Matto grew more successful, new band mates joined to support the duo on the road. Sean Lennon was added on guitar and bass, and Timo Ellis and Duma Love on percussion. The group played at the Tibetan Freedom Concerts and opened the one in Chicago in June.

Yuka thinks that the Tibetan Freedom concerts have brought together the most diverse of today’s artists. Cibo Matto is especially close with two groups that also call New York City home – the Beastie Boys and Luscious Jackson.

We don’t help each other out in writing stuff, but we’re good friends, Honda said. We definitely have a sense of family in the music industry.

This past June marked the release of Cibo Matto’s second album, Stereotype A, which Honda produced. A more pop-oriented album, it shows that Cibo Matto is growing in leaps and bounds. Honda said a pop album should have something that sounds familiar, but also has to show you something new about it.

Like most things, Honda had something to say about the title of the group’s latest release.

People have a lot of stereotypes, she said. They are not used to women handling machines. If we have problems with the equipment, and we call a friend, they always want to talk to Sean first. Even if a producer walks in, they will always look to the man. People aren’t use to women pushing buttons and pulling strings.

With a new album out, Cibo Matto has been on the road for a long time. Honda has no preference for the audience, whether a club or a stadium, just anywhere the P.A. system works good.

Cibo Matto will open for Live at the Smith Center Saturday. When asked how she thinks the crowd will respond to Cibo Matto’s innovative and truly different sound, Honda said, It’s my lifetime battle, everything I’ve done has always been different. It’s a timing thing. Some days, people are ready for new things, some days they don’t want them. I’m just waiting for everyone to have the right moment with us.

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