One of the larger charity events to have taken place in the wake of the March 11 disaster was the Japan Benefit Concert at New York’s Columbia University, held on March 27. On a bill that included Yoko Ono, John Zorn, Sonic Youth and Mike Patton, the reunion of Cibo Matto – the influential J-girl duo that grew out of the NYC art scene in the early ’90s – gave punters an extra reason to dig into their pockets. A couple of days later, Yoko Ono pulled together a second event, this time featuring the Plastic Ono Band, Patti Smith and, again, Cibo Matto.
The following week, an email appeared in my Facebook inbox. It was from a delighted Miho Hatori, and read: ‘We raised 71,103 dollars on Tuesday. Amazing!’
You brought Cibo Matto back together for the charity concert. How did the idea to do that come about?
It seemed very natural and the most effective thing we could do.
Have you performed together often since your official split?
Just once, at Yuka’s birthday party.
Is it easy to play together again? Did you need a lot of rehearsals?
It felt very easy. I think it’s because Cibo Matto is about who we are and not what we try to be. Living our lives is our rehearsal.
Do either of you have any direct connection with Tohoku?
Miho Hatori: All of my family is in Tokyo, but I have one friend in NY who is originally from the area near the Fukushima plants. She said she has accepted the reality of the impact of the disaster on her family. It made my heart move a lot. Also, I feel very close to Tohoku in a metaphysical way, because I sing a Tohoku folk song sometimes as it is about life and wisdom in the northern fishing town. I believe music can bring about deep understandings of the landscapes in the human mind.
Yuka Honda: I agree with Miho. I don’t have any relatives there but I know some friends whose families live there. Also, my cousin is in the defense army and is working in the Tohoku area now. My father lives 100km from the Fukushima power plant. They are channeling into their utmost calm, strong, and concentrated mind state right now.
You’re part of a small Japanese musical community in the US, including the Ono-Lennons. Was it instantly obvious that you should all do something together? Who took the lead in pulling it together?
At the very beginning of Cibo Matto, we did a remix for Yoko. We met Sean and he joined Cibo Matto. It all happened around 1995, so we have had a long history together. It wasn’t only about us being Japanese, but we instantly knew that we are all the kind of people who want to stand up in an occasion like this.
John Zorn put together the Miller Theatre [Columbia University] benefit. He acted very fast. After we announced the show, the tickets sold out in six hours. We felt the energy in the air. People in the US are really wanting to help Japan and the concert, wherein lots of musicians got together for the cause, [and it] seemed a very exciting, nice way to raise the money, while we also got to feel the unity of spirit. We got many messages from people saying they wanted to buy tickets but it was sold out.
Yoko said, ‘let’s do another one.’ We, of course, said yes right away. Sean called Patti Smith. The dream event came together extremely fast. We all want to do something… everything we can to help Japan.
How will the money be delivered to Tohoku?
We are donating the money to the Japan Society Earthquake Relief Fund. The Japan Society is a great Japanese non-profit organization in New York.
Any plans to come and perform a charity gig in Tokyo?
We don’t have one right now.
Originally published on Time Out Tokyo