Who/What is AfuriKo?!
AfuriKo - a Japanese portmanteau word combining "Afurika" (アフリカ) and the suffix "Ko" (子) which means "child" - is an African infused jazz duo comprised of percussionist Akiko Horii and pianist/keyboardist Jim Funnell.
Propelled into existence when Jim & Akiko’s paths crossed in Paris as a result of following a shared, irrepressible call to Africa, its culture, and its Diaspora, AfuriKo began experimenting in 2010. A playful blending of tones and rhythms came to life, and a unique dialogue between the ancestral stories of the djembe and the modern voice of digital pianos and synthesizers was quickly instigated. In 2017, the duo relocated to Queens, New York, to let the energy that emanates from the most ethnically diverse part of the world nourish their creative process on a daily basis.
They have released two albums (On the Far Side, 2014, and Style, 2016), both of which were chosen to receive full funding by SACEM (the French Society of Authors, Composers, and Music Publishers), toured extensively in Japan (Kanazawa Jazz Street, Asahi Shimbun’s Asacom Hall), the UK (Cardiff University Concert Hall, Vortex Jazz Club), France (Sunset Sunside, Le Baiser Salé), Germany (JazzLab), Holland (Theater Vrijburcht), Nepal (Jazzmandu-Kathmandu Jazz Festival, Jazz Upstairs), the United States (Rockwood Music Hall, Beats in Bliss Plaza), and collaborated with artists such as Hiroshi Fukutomi (Japan), Jade Choi (South Korea), Eddie Parker (United Kingdom), Bill Sims, Jr. (United States), Bruno Wilhelm, Philippe Lopes de Sa, and Chris Hayward (France).
The "Tao Team"
Sure, AfuriKo firmly believes in the "less is more" approach. That's why at its core, the band is a duo consisting of Akiko Horii on percussion and Jim Funnell on keyboards. But Tao is all about letting go, letting you and others into our world, surrendering to external conditions, integrating outside influences, and accepting constant change. And little by little, since the inception of the project and by the mysterious action of gentle outer forces, a few people have come to become close friends, indispensable collaborators, and form an integral part of what can affectionately be called "The Tao Team":
- Laurent Maget - filmmaker and anthropologist for the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), Laurent started living with and filming the Baka Pygmies of Cameroon 15 years ago. One brief encounter at a performance in a beautiful backyard (the house is out in the French countryside and used to be a presbytery) was all that was needed to spark his passion for documenting human interaction... He immediately pulled out his camera and began shooting! Laurent has been following our own "tiny little tribe" since 2016 (when we were still in the embryonic writing stages for Tao) all the way up to the studio recording sessions that took place earlier this year (in January and July). Which means we now have the luxury of presenting the project to you, dear friends and fans, with unique footage straight from an anthropologist's mind, eye, and lens! We sincerely hope that this special connection will make you feel part of the AfuriKo family and help you immerse yourself in the wonderful journey of creating and sharing this music together.
- Charles Frossard - sound engineer and owner of Studio MESA for the past 30 years in Soignolles-en-Brie (France), where we recorded. Charles is literally AfuriKo's third voice, providing a sonic space for each instrument to live, breathe, pulsate... Always bearing in mind what benefits the music, he generously offers his gentle creative input throughout the sessions (volume, panning, effects...), overall just making the record sound terrific!
- Chris Hayward - musician and producer involved with a myriad of fascinating projects over the past few decades (including fun collaborations with AfuriKo!). We went to Chris for advice and he gladly acted as a "consultant" for Tao. His input about technical aspects - such as mixing and mastering the album in particular - has been of tremendous value, greatly improving the general quality of the recording.
- Margaux Couet - freelance visual artist based in Paris. She is currently working for Illumination Entertainment, the studio that is home to Gru, the Minions, and the Grinch! We love collaborating with Margaux who totally gets the vibe from our music and transforms it into beautiful images. She designed the AfuriKo logo a few years back and worked on the cover art for Akiko's percussion album Les Elles du Tambour. We're thrilled that she's also on board to illustrate our new album Tao.
- Diana and Ray Xecu - New York based yoga instructor and software developer respectively, our amazing neighbors helped us be ourselves on camera during an incredibly fun photo shoot in Sunnyside. Without forgetting a special shout out to Yuki, their husky, who was our mascot for the day :)
Tao at Work...
OK... So you know the team now, and it's time to give you a taste of some of the tracks that will be featured on Tao. Without consciously planning this, it turns out that we made a few homemade videos over the past two years to document the writing process. And that's a stroke of luck because we're now able to share those early drafts of this new music with you!
Our first "work in progress" video was shot in the Bronx in late 2016 (we were staying there with friends at the time while working on our artist visa applications for the United States), the one entitled "Up in the Air" was made in Yonkers (a temporary residence for AfuriKo from May to July 2017), and the most recent clips were shot and edited at our current (much loved!) dwelling place in Sunnyside, Queens. So... without further ado, here they go in reverse chronological order:
Where YOU come in!
At this point, let me invite you to join the adventure: this is your opportunity to take an active part in producing AfuriKo's new album, Tao. We're indeed in this together, and it would make no sense to do any of it without you: music is a language, and the active listening part you play when exposed to it is just as important - and requires just as much musicianship - as the message we send out on our end, concealed within all the notes and rhythms...
So do not hesitate to make a pledge if you feel so inclined! The amounts corresponding to the rewards on the right hand side of this page are merely suggestions: you are of course welcome to pledge any amount, and if it falls in between the cracks (or skyrockets above the highest reward!), we will gladly work out the specifics with you to make sure you are happy with what you get.
AfuriKo sincerely hopes that many of you will enjoy seizing this opportunity to deepen the connection between us. "The great Tao flows everywhere" - and you are already part of it. Thank you for reading this and existing in AfuriKo's world!
Risks and challenges
Back in 2014 and 2106, AfuriKo got funding for "On the Far Side" and "Style" through SACEM (the French Society for Authors, Composers, and Music Publishers), who generously offers financial help to independent artists in order to self-produce their first two albums.
This time however, things are different. We're on our own... or rather, we're in this together! Tao will be AfuriKo's third full length, entirely self-produced album, and it's just you (fans, friends, family) and the Tao Team!
With great risks come great rewards, and Akiko and I feel that this is an exciting transition in our lives, reaching out to include you in this wonderful journey. For the past two years now, we have been investing most of our time and money in materializing this music and making it tangible, sharable, available for you to enjoy. After having composed, rehearsed, recorded and mixed all nine tracks on the album, we are now in the final production stages. We plan to master the recording at Metropolis Studios in London this November, replicate it with Disc Makers, and distribute it via CD Baby. Margaux is working on beautiful artwork for the CD cover and posters. And we're getting ready to do the necessary promotional work, send out all of your reward packages (between December and March), book the CD release show in New York (April) and route a tour that will take us to as many places as possible throughout 2019 (hopefully including your hometown so we can have a drink and a good time together!)
So there you have it! We are very much looking forward to it all and would like to thank you once more for being part of this. Of course, you will be updated throughout and beyond this campaign. We hope you'll have fun following and taking part in Tao.
All the best,
Jim & Akiko (AfuriKo)Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)