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Music / Yoko Kanno

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"You have got to hear this shit. It's like she's hitting you over the head with a sock full of Jonny Quest!"
Alternate John Williams, John and Yoko

Yoko Kanno (born March 18, 1963) is a famous Japanese composer and musician, known primarily for her work on anime soundtracks. Her name being attached to a project has caused many rejoicing moments for many fans.

Born in Sendai, Japan and having begun her career composing video game soundtracks for Koei in the mid 1980s, she has written or otherwise contributed to the soundtracks of a large number of anime, television shows, and movies. Kanno has also occasionally ventured into pop music; she has released two solo albums, and has served as producer for several albums from other musicians (including writing at least four of Maaya Sakamoto's albums). She sometimes sings under the pseudonym of "Gabriela Robin," which for many years was her Secret Identity. She publicly revealed herself as Robin by singing one of Robin's songs at a venue that Robin was slated to perform at, though she has not otherwise publicly acknowledged the alias.

Kanno can write in any genre known to mankind — and even a few that haven't been invented yet. She is the master of the Genre Mashup. Surprisingly enough, she isn't a One Woman Band, something that would make her even more awesome. She is a keyboardist and frontwoman of The Seatbelts, a jazz fusion band created exclusively for the soundtrack to Cowboy Bebop.

A more in-depth biography can be found here, and a slightly more in-depth discography can be found here.

Not to be confused with Yoko Ono.

Notable musical contributions include:

Tropes associated with Yoko Kanno:

  • Genre Mashup: Expect even her most cohesive works to cross pollinate genres at some point.
  • Genre Roulette: Cowboy Bebop's soundtracks are a perfect example of this. While the series' music is anchored around bebop and blues, Kanno spun the wheel and added Hard Rock, drum and bass, chiptune, and Hip-Hop to the score (not to mention several forms of jazz other than bebop.)
  • Gratuitous English: Her titles sometimes slip into Word Salad Title territory.
  • Multilingual Song: Yoko is quite famous for mixing multiple languages together in her music. Examples include:
    • "Inner Universe" combines Russian, English, and Latin.
    • "Rise" switches between Russian and English.
    • "Velveteen" switches between English and Italian.
    • "Player" is mostly sung in Russian, but features a full rap verse in English.
    • The aptly titled "Genesis of Aquarion" starts off in Japanese before moving into full English with the Japanese word "Aishiteru" ("I love you") peppered in the refrain.
    • "The Garden of Everything" from RahXephon is a duet between English singer Steve Conte and Japanese singer Maaya Sakamoto. The later portions of the song features both of them singing a round with each other in their own languages.
    • "Voices" from Macross Plus is mostly sung in Japanese, but the chorus kicks in with a full verse in English halfway into the song before going back to Japanese to finish out.
  • Secret Identity: Her vocal performances are credited as "Gabriela Robin". This was pretty much an Open Secret for years, though Kanno has not explicitly confirmed nor denied this. In 2009, she announced that Robin would perform in front of a live audience for the first time. During said concert, after conducting the orchestra, Kanno turned around and sung Robin's song "Moon" from ∀ Gundam. This was her only public acknowledgement of her secret identity.
  • Sampling:
    • When she does sample, it's usually something obscure. Macross Plus' "Idol Talk", probably her most sample-heavy song, takes the beat from Wendy & Lisa's "Lolly Lolly"; the ever-sampled turntable scratches from hip hop group Beside's "Change the Beat"; as well as a phone sex operator's very explicit dialogue as it appeared on industrial artist Scanner's debut album (with the most graphic words edited out.) The intro features a field recording of pigs squealing and has a build-up similar to the intro of "Lolly Lolly" as well.
    • Sometimes, choices are more overt: the tune to "Pop Goes the Weasel" and a very-close-to-the-original homage to Pink Floyd's "On the Run" made it into two separate Cowboy Bebop songs.
  • Speaking Simlish: Kanno has written gibberish lyrics for several of her soundtracks and most of these are sung by herself (credited as Gabriela Robin.) Her use of it in Macross Plus is credited to the Zentraedi race present in that work. Examples include "Green Bird" from Cowboy Bebop, "Sora" from The Vision of Escaflowne, "Moon" from ∀ Gundam, "Grace Omega" from Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade and "Torkia" from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. They all have made-up languages.
  • Stop and Go: Multiple aspects of this for her band the Seatbelts.
    • "What Planet Is This?!" seems to grind to a halt around the 3 minute mark, but then it re-starts with another solo and repetition of the main theme.
    • "7minutes" does the same, pausing right before the 5:15 mark before jumping into the loud chorus.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: When she writes lyrics, this can happen. And sometimes what sounds like word salad is actually a nonsense language. The Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex soundtrack in particular has a lot of this. However, the ultimate example is "LIVE in Baghdad" from the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack. While the lyrics are in full English, absolutely none of it makes any coherent sense.

Alternative Title(s): The Seatbelts