top of page

Yumiko Tanaka

(Shamisen/Electric Taisho-koto/Shaminome/Voice) profile


Majored in musicology at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and its graduate school.

She studied Gidayu-shamisen under the late Kinshi Nozawa the Fourth; a living national treasure of Bunraku, and studied Gidayu-bushi under Komanosuke Takemoto; a living national treasure of women's Gidayu, and was awarded the 1990 Art Encouragement Prize from the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the 1993 Seiei-Kai Foundation Encouragement Prize, the 1999 Japan Music Competition Committee Special Prize, the 2006 ACC (Asian Cultural Council) Grantee, and the 2008 Agency for Cultural Affairs Overseas Study Special Dispatch to New York for performing arts training. In 2009, she was certified as an important intangible cultural property as a member of the Gidayu-bushi Preservation Society.


Since her debut performance in 1981 in Tokyo, Tanaka has been very active as a Shamisen player and vocalist, not only in the world of traditional Japanese music, but also in contemporary music, new music and theater.


Tanaka has participated in several music groups, including the traditional Japanese instrumental ensemble Pro Musica Nipponia led by composer Minory Miki, HANIWA ALL STARS led by Kiyohiko Senba, the group ITO, led by Kazuko Takada and produced by composer Yuji Takahashi, and the band Ground Zero led by turntable and guitar player Yoshihide Otomo.


Her credits range from performing with orchestras, such as Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, to collaborating with pioneers in the world of jazz and improvisation, including turn table player; Otomo Yoshihide, guitarists; Keiji Haino, Kazumi Watanabe, Elliott Sharp, John Russell, Jim O'Rourke, Kazuhisa Uchihashi, Seiichi Yamamoto, Makoto Kawabata, drummers; Samm Bennet, David Moss, Tatsuya Yoshida, SABU Toyozumi, Roger Turner, laptop musician; Carl Stone, sax players; Ned Rothenberg, John Zorn, Akira Sakata, Kazutoki Umezu, Naruyoshi Kikuchi, Yasuaki Shimizu, Axel Donner, electronic musicians; Toshimaru Nakamura, Yoshimitsu Ichiraku, Aki Onda; basists; Motoharu Yoshizawa, Tetsu Saito, vocalist; Koichi Makigami, and conductor Butch Morris.


In the contemporary music scene, she premierd new pieces composed by Michio Mamiya, Hikaru Hayashi, Makoto Moroi, Yuji Takahashi, Michio Kitazume, Masahiro Miwa, Makoto Nomura, Motoharu Kawashima, Sachiyo Tsurumi etc.


She performed and acted in the music theater "Hashirigaki" directed by Heiner Goebbels, which won the Herald Angel Award at the Edinburgh Festival 2001. Since its premiere in 2000 at Théatre-Vidy in Lausanne, Switzerland, this production has been performed all over the world, including the Edinburgh International Festival and BAM in NY in 2003, and was selected by The Guardian magazine in September 2019 as the 9th place of “The best classical music works of the 21st century”.


And she was the musical director and performer of the theater piece ‘dogugaeshi’ by MacArthur Genius Prize-winning puppeteer artist Basil Twist premiered in NY in 2004, for which she received strong praise from The New York Times, and the piece got The New York Innovative Theater Award and The Bessie's Awards in 2005, and toured in Japan, the US, replayed in Paris, London and Lausanne.


In December 2010, she presented a multidisciplinary stage work at Asahi Art Square, combining music, dance, act, video, lighting, puppets, and other media. She presented the results of her overseas training supported by ACC and the Agency for Cultural Affairs Overseas Training Program, and released DVD ‘Yumiko Tanaka Music Performance’ in 2017.

In 2011, she acted and performed shamisen in the film "Under Snow" directed by Ulrike Ottinger; the Hannah Höch Prize winner of New German Cinema, and performed solo at the premiere screening opening.


In 2012, she participated in the world tour of “Overcoming the Disaster, Gratitude from Japan to the World concert by Tohoku Folk Performance groups & Ondekoza Taiko group & musicians” under the auspices of the Japan Foundation, and performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center and UN Headquarters in New York, at Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, and at Palais des Congrès in Paris, and so on. 


She had a shamisen workshop at Japan Society NY in 2013, and performed traditional Gidayu-shamisen with the national treasure of Gidayu-bushi Komanosuke Takemoto, and performed improvisation to the silent film Crossroads (Jujiro, 1928) film by Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or winner Teinosuke Kinugasa.


In March 2014, she appeared in the TV programme "Schola Sakamoto Ryuichi Music School Season 4 Traditional Japanese Music(5)", in which she discussed and performed with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Junichi Konuma, Tomiko Kojima and Kyōji Hoshikawa. The program was published as a book, and she helped with CD selection and writing.


In November 2014, she had a shamisen workshop, and accompanied the Gidayu-bushi narrative of a living national treasure Komanosuke Takemoto with shamisen in the performance "The Essence of Shamisen Music, and provided an improvisational soundscape to the silent film Crossroads (Jujiro, 1928) by Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or winner Teinosuke Kinugasa in a film series curated by John Zorn at the Japan Society in New York.


She joined in the tour of “Multipletap” composed of experimental musicians in Europe and Mexico in 2014 and 2015.


In 2016, she performed and filmed for the documentary film "Haiku on a Plum Tree" directed by Mujah Maraini-Melehi, which was mixed into a soundtrack piece composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto.


In July 2019, she presented "Kiyohime," a contemporary Joruri play with shamisen at the National Theatre Okinawa, and perform with kojun Arai, who is a  Shomyo master.


She released CD ‘tayutauta’ in 2004 and published a book titled “The book entirely about Shamisen” in 2009.

She performed shamisen and talked with Ryuichi Sakamoto on a TV program in 2014, and provided articles for“commons schola 【vol.14】 Ryuichi Sakamoto Selections: Traditional Music in Japan”.


In February 2021, she launched the “Jsound channel”, which provides an opportunity for people to become familiar with the interesting and profound world of Japanese sound, which has been handed down by the Japanese people from generation to generation, as well as its evolution and development over the same period of time and its potential for the future, through interviews with currently active performers.


Former Associate Professor at Hyogo University of Education and co-researcher at the Research Center for Japanese Traditional Music attached to Kyoto City University of Arts.

In 2020, she played the shamisen in a theatre band composed by Akira Miyagawa for the music play Shakespeare in Tempo XII by Hisashi Inoue and starring Issei Takahashi at the Nissay Theatre.

In 2022, she played the gidayu shamisen in the instrumental ensemble of the "100+1 Year Anniversary Concert - Opera Sonezakishinju" at the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan.

In 2023, she performed in the multi-media work "Nami no shita nimo Miyako no saburafuzo", a collaboration between the Taiwanese media art team of Hsu Jia-wei, Chang Shuo-yun and Cheng Hsien-yu and the Yamaguchi Centre for Arts and Media,;YCAM, in which she improvised and composed and performed a new Joruri piece.









『schola vol.14日本の伝統音楽』




『Yumiko Tanaka Music Performance』DVD





古典の修行と現代邦楽の演奏をほぼ同時に始め、1991年に仙波清彦の「はにわオールスターズ」、1994年に巻上公一プロンプターの「JOHN ZORN'S COBRA 東京作戦」、1995年に大友良英のバンドGROUND ZEROに参加したことで、実験音楽シーンにおける即興演奏や特殊音楽に新天地を見出し、これまでカール・ストーン、ジョン・ゾーン、ネッド・ローゼンバーグ、エリオット・シャープ、ジョン・ラッセル、アクセル・ドナー、ジム・オルーク、ロジャー・ターナー、坂田明、梅津和時、清水靖晃、菊地成孔、灰野敬二、内橋和久、山本精一、一楽儀光、吉田達也、芳垣安洋、七尾旅人ほか、国内外のミュージシャンと共演。



シアター作品では、エジンバラフェスティバル2001でHerald Angel Award を受賞したドイツの作曲家ハイナー・ゲッベルス演出による音楽劇 ”Hashirigaki” 世界ツアー(2000年シアターヴィディ初演~2008年)におけるパフォーマンスが、The GuardianやNew York Times誌で好評を得た。


また、ニューヨークのジーニアス・プライズ受賞アーティスト、バジル・ツイストによる舞台作品”Dogugaeshi” (2004年ジャパン・ソサエティー初演~2015年各国ツアー)では音楽監督および演奏を行い、同作品はThe New York Innovative Theater Award、The Bessie's New York Dance and Performance Awardsを受賞し、2015年までに日本公演、北米公演、イギリス公演、フランス公演を重ねている。



そのほかのユニークな活動としては、ボーカリスト三橋美香子のエクスペリメンタルお笑いカバーバンド「キッチンドリンカーズ」、現代音楽の作曲家たちによる作品をレパートリーとした高橋悠治プロデュース・高田和子主宰のアンサンブル「糸」、フォルマント兄弟(三輪眞弘&佐近田康展)による音声合成キーボード作品「NEO都々逸」、マルチディシプリナリ―な自作自演シアター作品「ミュージック・パフォーマンス’tayutauta’」、野村誠との共同作品「だじゃれ音楽第六番 千寿万歳」、コムンゴのホ・ユンジャン、中国琵琶のミン・シャオファンとの日中韓弦楽器トリオ、デーモン小暮の「邦楽維新」、坂田明の「平家物語」など。


また義太夫三味線のみならず細棹三味線、胡弓、箏、エレクトリック大正琴、新楽器'三味nome' ’三味nome2' も演奏し、オルタナエレキ大正琴バンド「JETA」を主宰。





2013年秋には、バジル・ツイストの"dogugaeshi"北米ツアーに参加し、NYのジャパンソサエティー、LAのRedCat、CAのCAL performancesなどで公演。また、サン・ディエゴのラホヤ海岸から巨大なヴィーナスが出現する新作“Seafoam Sleepwalk” の音楽を演奏。

そのほか、NYのHERE ART CENTERで、自作の「ミュージック・パフォーマンス’tayutauta’」を行う。

2014年3月放送、Eテレ『スコラ 坂本龍一 音楽の学校』シーズン4「日本の伝統音楽」(5)に出演し、坂本龍一・小沼純一・小島美子・星川京児と対談、演奏。


2014年~15年、日本のノイズ音楽、即興音楽、メディアアートのアーティストによるエクスペリメンタルシーンを海外に紹介する”multipletap” に参加し、ロンドン、パリ、メキシコなどで演奏。 









2021年2月に「Jsound channel」を立ち上げ、現在活躍中の日本音楽演奏家へのインタビューを通じて、日本人が代々受け継いできた日本の音の世界の面白さや奥深さ、そして同時代における進化や発展、未来への可能性を身近に感じてもらう機会を提供している。



bottom of page