Akiko Shikata (志方あきこ) is an avant-garde folk artist. She's also a composer who writes soundtracks for television, games and movies.
Akiko has a very personal music style, basically a mix of ethnic folk and neoclassical darkwave, in which she likes to use her multi-faceted soprano voice as an instrument, among other oddities. Known for her eclecticism that can be confusing at times, she has covered many styles that go from experimental rock to jazz, symphonic metal, ambient, progressive pop, industrial and classical music, as well as many subgenres of folk, just to name a few. However, most of her songs have in common an ethnic vibe, a non-linear, progressive structure with stylistic, tone and rhythm changes, quirky dissociated choirs and/or layered vocals at some point or another, simultaneous use of low and high vocals, and a lot of them could be labeled as neoclassical.
One of the pillars of her style and most interesting aspects of her music is that she likes to switch between very different vocal styles, sometimes within the same song: a deeper, ominous low-pitched voice (contralto); a high-pitched, child-like voice; and her regular, unique soprano voice, of which a more operatic variant can also be heard, for instance in her performance of "Oh smania! oh furie! ~ D'Oreste e d'Aiace" from Mozart's opera Idomeneo.
As for the lyrics and album concepts, Akiko usually draws inspiration from themes such as nature, mythology, pagan rituals, fantasy worlds or ancient legends, and sometimes more "common" themes such as death, love, traveling, melancholy or nostalgia.
Besides being an established singer-songwriter, composer, producer and arranger, Akiko is also a musician. She plays the piano since childhood, as well as folk instruments such as the lute, bouzouki and guitar. She is known for singing in many languages, including minor ones such as Amharic, Tibetan or Uyghur, and fantasy languages as well, including a conlang of her own (in songs like Ta Fatie, Leyre or Arcadia). She's particularly involved in Italian, a language she's been using since her very first independent demos called Midori no mori de nemuru tori (The Bird Sleeping in the Green Forest) and Haikyo to Rakuen (Ruins and Heaven) in 2002/2003.
Paradoxically, this quirky artist is also known for her legendary shyness, which explains why she gives few concerts and doesn't feel comfortable with photoshoots. So far, she hasn't made any music video for this reason. We don't known much about her personal life either, except her interest for tea (she even created her own tea blends and sold them at her concerts), cats, and bath salts, which she mentioned on her blog years ago. She also is a fan of the Doctor Who series.
Parallel to her career that officially started in 2001, Akiko has also done soundtracks for movies, TV shows and video games, including both well-known and indie works. The Ar Tonelico game series, which features mostly ethnic-inspired songs used as invocations and rituals, is the most famous of them, which brought her to fame in Japan. However, the Shadow Hearts soundtrack, which contains some of her most ambitious pieces to date, is also a highly recommended listening for cinematic music lovers. She also composed many tracks for the indie game Hanakisou in the beginning of her career. In 2014, she will be composing the soundtrack to an anime series for the first time: Cross Ange, a new series by Sunrise, which takes place in a universe mixing fantasy and mecha.
Akiko is known for her knowledge of several different languages and for her use of these in her songs. While she most frequently sings in Japanese and Italian (she has been writing and singing in Italian since her debut), these also include: French, English, Latin and German; and a host of truly unusual languages, including Uyghur, Turkish, Ainu, Greek, and Ancient Tibetan. She also has made use of the constructed languages for the game series in which she worked: Hymmnos, Ar Ciela and Carmena Foreluna from the Ar tonelico series; and Emotional Song Pact and REON-4213 from the Surge Concerto series.
She was born on the 7th of January (1989) and works for several labels, including the underground neoclassical/folk label, HATS, and FrontierWorks. She founded her own indie circle, Vagrancy, in 2001, through which she has been releasing several albums in addition to her solo works.
Akiko has also contributed to several game soundtracks, such as the visual novel Hanakisou and its multiple adaptations, Shadow Hearts from the New World, the Ar tonelico series and the Umineko no Naku Koro ni visual novels. She currently also serves as the main composer and sound director of the Ciel Nosurge video game.
Akiko arranged and released a dozen music box albums, which feature instrumental covers of her songs. She keeps releasing them every year. These albums are sold a lot cheaper than the regular ones; they usually have a brighter and colorful cover art, usually cats (for the old ones) or artworks evoking childhood or nostalgia. As an independent release, they are however rather hard to find outside of Japan. She also released in 2007 an all-piano album, Kalliope, featuring ambient instrumental versions of both soundtracks and songs of hers.
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