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Monday Michiru

Born of Japanese and Italian-American ancestry, Monday is quick to reject the “hah-fu” (“half”) label favored by the Japanese for those of mixed heritage, instead suggesting “double.” “‘Half’ sounds like you’re half a human being,” she quips, “and I’m proud to be a genesis of two great cultures. So I’m a double.”

Monday Michiru, so named to reflect both heritages, is also the genesis of renowned musicians, jazz pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi and jazz saxophonist Charlie Mariano, as well as stepfather Lew Tabackin (also jazz saxophonist and flautist). While she showed natural talent playing flute from a young age, studying classically at the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy on scholarship through the school and the Armstrong Flute Association, her inspiration in music caught fire with singing and later in composition. “I love classical music and still dabble on the flute, but for me music is a medium to express what I’m about, and I feel that I have a more modern perspective to music and life,” she explains.

It was in 1987 that Monday was scouted by Japanese movie director, Shinji Somai, to debut in the lead role as an opera singer in his movie “Hikaru Onna” (“Luminous Woman”). Somai was renowned to pick up unknown talent and throttle them to stardom, and the film did not disappoint, garnering Monday Best New Actress awards through the Japan Academy, Kinema Junpo, and the Yokohama Film Festival. Catapulted unexpectedly into her newly found career as an actress, opportunities continued to expand for Monday through movies, stage theatre and television, as well as in other fields such as hosting her own radio programs (J-Wave, FM Tokyo, etc.), modeling for major commercial ads (Kohdansha, Yubinchokin, NTT, Four Roses, etc.), appearing on variety TV shows as a “personality,” and journalism with steady columns in the Tokyo Journal and other publications such as Switch, Bar-f-Out, etc. Monday notes, “I knew I was super lucky with all these interesting opportunities, but as great as it all was, I felt like a fish out of water being away from music.”

Frustrated by her inability to break into the music and recording industry in Japan, Monday fed her hunger for music by haunting record and CD shops. What started as a desire to stay in the loop of U.S. releases turned to a fascination over the selection of imported musics from other countries such as the U.K., Brazil, France, Jamaica, etc. “I’ve always been into music outside the mainstream, especially groove heavy music, but I couldn’t believe how much stuff there were that I didn’t know about and from cultures and genres I’d never explored before.” Monday’s expanding vinyl/CD collection and knowledge eventually earned her license to select the music played on her radio shows and later led to DJing in clubs, as well as laid the foundation for her own multi-genre inspired music.

Finally, in 1991, Virgin Records opened its doors in Japan, and amongst their first releases included Monday’s debut solo album entitled “Mangetsu,” released under her then stage name, Michiru Akiyoshi. “I didn’t want to be pegged as an artist of a certain genre, so went a little schizo with the variety of musical styles,” Monday readily admits. Amongst the tracks is “Wagamama” in which she tries her hand at rapping, enlisting then little known Krush Posse, with DJ Krush providing the beats and MC Muro as her rap counterpart. “I convinced Virgin to press up 500 copies of the track to pass around to DJs to try and get an underground buzz going,” she says. While the album and track never blew up, the latter provided a seed that helped plant Monday’s placement in the burgeoning Japanese acid jazz movement, starting with the “Jap Hip Jazz” compilation CD and later with her involvements with United Future Organization, DJ Krush and Mondo Grosso.

By 1993, Monday steadily began recording and releasing albums in Japan, expanding later to Europe, Australia, and South America, both as a soloist and as a featured singer/writer, collaborating with groups and artists such as Kyoto Jazz Massive, Basement Jaxx, UA, Masters At Work, Joe Clausell, Lisa Ono, Da Lata, and many others. More recent collaborations include m-flo, Jazztronik, Shinichi Osawa, Soulfeenix, P’taah, Jephte Guillaume, Louie Vega, etc. Remixes of her tracks by Masters At Work, Jazztronik, Mondo Grosso, Blaze, Phil Asher, DJ Kawasaki and many others have made Monday a favored artist on the dance floors worldwide. She has also written, produced and remixed tracks for artists such as Mondo Grosso, bird, Wyolica, Soul Source Productions, Grand Gallery Records, etc., as well as going on board as a vocal producer for artists such as bird, Double, Eri Nobuchika, Mink, etc. While Monday’s name has become synonymous with the 90s Japanese underground scene, even earning her the title as “acid jazz diva,” she is quick to rebuke such labeling. “I’m proud to have been a part of and maybe even been one of the pioneers of that scene, but I hope and believe I’m continuing to evolve musically and developing my own style,” she reflects. “And I’m definitely not a diva,” she adds with a smile. One only needs to explore her vast collection of works to hear the musical development over the years in which she has crossed over and beyond the scope of club music to a style that is undeniably hers; Monday is the rare female singer/songwriter who also produces her own works.

Monday has appeared in numerous music festivals and clubs worldwide as a solo artist, including the Blue Note Clubs in New York and throughout Japan (2002-2011), Billboard Clubs in Osaka and Tokyo (2009-’13), Toyang Art Festival in Taiwan (2013), Java Jazz Festival (2013), Sapporo Jazz Festival (2011-’12), JakJazz (2006-’07), Jazz On the Vine in Long Island (2010-’13), the Newport Jazz Festival in Madarao (1999), the historical Bohemian Caverns in D.C. (2008-’09), Greater Tokyo Music Festival at Honmonji, Tokyo (2003 & 2006), the Okayama Jazz Festival (2003), The Baltic Jazz Festival (1999), North Sea Jazz Festival (1997), Montreux Jazz Festival (1997), Stuttgart Jazz Festival (1997), The Phoenix Festival (1996), Beppu Jazz Festival (1995), etc.

While she has won countless favorable reviews over the years for her numerous releases largely in Japan, Asia and Europe, Monday’s 2012 recording, “Soulception” (Adventure Music), is the first to catch the attention of the American jazz and latin media winning many accolades. That same year, she won American fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar’s “Fabulous At Every Age” award in the 40s category, and also got signed to a two year contract to be the face of Indonesian make-up brand PAC as their “brand ambassador.” “Not bad for a woman in the dark ages of her 40s,” she jokes, adding, “I never would have dreamed this could happen at such a late age, and hope this can translate into more musical opportunities.”

Monday currently resides in New York with her family, and continues to record and tour with her own group as well as collaborating with other artists. The 3-disc 10th Anniversary CD for Adventure Music which she compiled was released in 2012 to positive reviews, and her latest project “Brasilified” released July 10, 2013 from Billboard Records-Japan and produced by Simone Giuliani (which marks a first time for the artist to have an outside producer completely arrange and produce album) is already causing a buzz; “Celebrate” (cover of Marcos Valles’ “Parabens”) debuted at #46 in J-Wave’s Tokio Hot 100. A compilation of her previously released tracks is slated for release through Adventure Music at a future date. She is now plotting her next project.