Ki-yo (well-known as KIYOTAKA in Japan) started playing piano at the age of five with a passion for music that has remained throughout his life. Early on, he was moved by the classical variations of Frederic Chopin and Maurice Ravel, and the jazz stylings of Nina Simone, Bill Evans, Nat King Cole, and Diana Krall. As he got older, pop music legends, Billy Joel, Elton John, Mariah Carey, and Whitney Houston, as well as soul music icons, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, and Luther Vandross were his inspiration.
Ki-yo was discovered at the age of 16, and released his first single, “No No No” at age 17. It was immediately put into heavy rotation on 17 major radio stations in Japan - a record for a new artist. His third single, “The Only One”, sold over 350,000 copies, and his debut album, “I’ll Be There”, reached Number 7 on the Japan Pop Chart its first week. That same year, Ki-yo received the “ALL JAPAN REQUEST AWARD”, and the “JFN LISTENER’S AWARD”.
Currently, Ki-yo’s total album sales have reached over one million copies. He has appeared live at a number of festivals, such as the “JOUNETSU TAIRIKU SPECIAL LIVE SUMMER TIME BONANZA” before over 40,000 people. Ki-yo expanded his reach by co-writing the score and serving as Music Director for “Seven Seas”, the musical theatre production in Tokyo.
Seeking inspiration and a more global perspective on music,
Ki-yo moved to New York in 2010 and became a lead singer of the “Harlem Japanese Gospel Choir”, which took first place, out of 40,000 entries, in the McDonald’s Gospel Festival in 2010 – the first time in history for an internationally assembled Gospel group. After their win, the Choir was invited to perform as the first ever, Japanese guest performers at the Apollo Theater.
Recently in New York, Ki-yo has appeared Off-Broadway in the musical, “Black Nativity Now” and has graciously supported the IKO Kyokushinkaikan by performing the USA National Anthem at “The 2010 and 2011 ALL AMERICAN OPEN INTERNATIONAL KARATE CHAMPIONSHIPS".
Ki-yo’s international debut single last year, "#1", topped the Amazon Japan Pop Chart in 3 different categories (MP3 total sales, Pop, and R&B/Soul). This year, he has been working in Harlem, NY on his eagerly awaited, second studio album.
Ki-yo was born and raised in Sendai, Japan, the region on the Pacific Ocean directly hit by the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami of 3/11/11. In the aftermath of the disaster last year, Ki-yo has been working with aid charities in Japan and in the USA, to raise funds and give hope through music, for the people of his community in Sendai, to help recover and rebuild.