An interview with Shimatani Hitomi

interview - 12.12.2007 07:00

JaME interviewed the pop artist Shimatani Hitomi about various aspects of her career and her newest single 'Shinku.'

Shimatani Hitomi is one of many female Japanese pop artists, but unlike the others, she presents herself with elegant grace and possesses a beautiful voice that fits with any kind of music. Shimatani Hitomi is known for mixing various musical styles with pop, which results in a unique, catchy blend of pop with often an exotic tinge.

Recently, she released the single Shinku and we took this opportunity to hold an interview with her.

Could you please introduce yourself to our readers who don't know you yet?

Shimatani Hitomi: I'm a Japanese singer who debuted in 1999 and I'm still trying lots of different musical styles. My most well-known work is a cover I did of a former musician's song, Amairo no Kami no Otome. My sound also takes influence from classical and world music.

You've been in the music industry for 8 years now. How do you feel, having come such a long way?

Shimatani Hitomi: I think music is a wonderful thing that crosses borders and resounds throughout everyone. From here on out, should I persist with music I think I could touch many different people.

Your songs tend to have a lot of cross-over using different elements. How do you choose the style you are going to use when making your singles?

Shimatani Hitomi: I think about what I want to say at the time, the emotions I want people to feel. In order to cultivate this idea in the imaginations of the wider world, I discuss with the songwriters how best to go about doing this. I strive to expand upon the image in different areas.

You've been singing a very wide range of pop songs. Is there another style you would like to try?

Shimatani Hitomi: I'd like to challenge the jazz world - where adult sensuality and elegance is considered a must-have.

How come you sometimes use foreign words for your songs, such as Falco, bella flor or La Fiesta? Do you listen to a lot of foreign music yourself?

Shimatani Hitomi: Besides using the 'sound' of words in other languages, the songwriters who write my songs for me use words from a variety of countries as a way of painting an image of my music and me.

Who is the artist that influenced you the most?

Shimatani Hitomi: The artists that have influenced me the most are The Carpenters and Dreams Come True.

When did you decide to become a singer? What do you think you would be doing if you had not?

Shimatani Hitomi: For as long as I could remember I thought "when I grow up I want to be a singer." Since I love fashion, perhaps I'd work in a boutique or something?

Why did you decide to start your career as an enka singer first?

Shimatani Hitomi: When I embarked on my dream to be a singer, I was pleased to do anything. Likable songs never get old, and I think enka is a part of Japan's magnificent culture.

Have you any plans to make another enka song?

Shimatani Hitomi: I'd like to do something that shows the depth we have as people as we get older - the kind of encounter that makes us feel this.

What made you decide to cover a Janet Jackson song? Are there other artists you would like to do a cover song of, and who would you like to cover one of your songs?

Shimatani Hitomi: The song had a big impact - when the staff went overseas it was played repeatedly. Also, I really like it. Recently at work I've been singing Love by Nat King Cole.

What made you choose to have a theme of 'office ladies' for Neva Eva?

Shimatani Hitomi: It's a song of support for people who always try their best. I wanted people to really feel this idea of a world where the heroines are the countless women standing together to do their best as office ladies.

In the PV of Neva Eva, the 10-girl brass band Pistol Valve makes an appearance. What was it like to work with them?

Shimatani Hitomi: I think that thanks to them we managed to paint a more brilliant picture of womanliness, don't you think?

What would you like to achieve next in your career? What is the next step for you?

Shimatani Hitomi: I'd like to broaden my horizons, take influence from music all over the world. I want to spread the message that music has no borders.

Is there a place abroad where you'd like to perform?

Shimatani Hitomi: I still haven't been to America. People of so many countries gather there, so I'd really like to try.

Besides performing is there somewhere else in the world you would like to travel to?

Shimatani Hitomi: I want to see the wonderful cities and scenery of Europe. I'd like to hear classical music and appreciate the art galleries in Paris.

Your new single is called Shinku. What are the main stylistic influences behind this song?

Shimatani Hitomi: I wanted to convey the feeling of courage and hope when you stand against something, to express a feeling of sheer scale using music. The intro was made to make you think "is this the beginning of a movie or something?"

What does 'Shinku' mean in the context of the song? Can you explain the story of that song?

Shimatani Hitomi: It stands for that feeling of courage and hope to gently pushing you on at a time you have to stand up to something. I wanted people to feel the power of being spoken to by a goddess.

Ai no Shi has an intriguing sound, the piano is quite jazzy but it also feels traditionally Japanese. Was this your intention, to bring out a slightly more traditional sound into the ballad?

Shimatani Hitomi: I wanted to play gently, to make you go forth honestly without thinking too much. It became a peaceful piano sound, but I also thought I wanted to express myself as an Asian, too.

Do you often like to make ballads to accompany fast songs - to complement the fast with the slow? Or is it just how you feel at the time?

Shimatani Hitomi: I make songs following whatever theme the song is conveying - and everything that comes from the moment you encounter others. It's that kind of precious feeling.

The single is a tie-in with the game A.C.E3; how much of the game influenced how the music was created for Shinku?

Shimatani Hitomi: When I first saw the opening movie for the game, I thought, "This is it! This ambience!" I wanted to preserve the spirit that fires you up completely and the magnitude of feeling you get when you start a game.

Please give a message for your overseas fans.

Shimatani Hitomi: Music has no borders! This is what I'm thinking. I may be Japanese, but in the future I'd like to show everyone the scenery of the world I live in. I'd like everyone to empathize and understand each other. I'll do my best to make music with love. Please continue to support me! Thank you.

Thank you very much for the interview!

JaME would like to thank Shimatani Hitomi, her management and Avex Entertainment inc. for this interview.
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