As a part-time job, Yoko started singing at local jazz clubs, and it didn't take long before her great talent was discovered. In 1996, she was asked to join the salsa band ‘Conjunto Mamborama' as a vocalist. They performed regularly at a salsa club in Osaka called Pata Pata De La Salsa. With her big voice and powerful lungs, singing in a large club like Pata Pata was a great opportunity for Yoko. At that point she completely abandoned her career as a jazz singer. Word of her talent got out among musicians in Japan, and she was invited to sing as the main vocalist for ‘Las Estrellas', a salsa band formed by the former members of the famous Japanese salsa band "Orquesta De la Luz". In 1997, she moved to the United States and started performing with local bands and her own group. In 2004, she was invited to perform in Japan with Herman Olivera, a prestigious figure within the New York salsa scene who is currently the lead singer of the Eddie Palmieri Orchestra.
In 2006, Yoko found a great production team, who believe strongly in her talent and potential. Mr. Willie Ruiz, Yoko's producer, comments that, “if you don't see her in person, you'd never know if it was a Japanese or an Hispanic woman singing."
After her debut with Chino Nunez and Friends at the 2006 New York International Salsa Congress, she became a lead singer of the band and sang a duet with international salsa star Ray Sepulveda “Hoy les cantamos” on Chino's 2nd album “Dr. Salsa”. This became an international hit topping the chart in Pamana. The song was also featured on XM Caliente in April 2008. In January 2008, she made a trip to Greece in 2008 with Chino. This Japanese salsera is ready to sing out her fantastic music for all the world to hear!
On October 25, 2008, Yoko's debut album entitled “Yoko, La Japonesa Salsera” was released at New York City's prestigious SOB`S, and was immediately greeted with critical acclaim and praise. Since the album's release, it has made several astounding achievements. Descarga.com, the largest resource for Salsa music online, chose “Yoko, La Japonesa Salsera” as one of its best albums of 2008. The album reached the number one slot several times on Latin Beat's New York Chart, and Yoko has also topped the internet radio charts, which is a remarkable accomplishment for a debut album. In addition, several tracks were chosen to be on several salsa compilation albums, including Rough Guide to Salsa Divas which features the most important divas in salsa history like Celia Cruz, La Lupe and Graciela.
In December 2008, Yoko had a chance encounter with the legendary Johnny Pacheco at a New York club and was asked to sing with his band. An instant allegiance was formed and the salsa superstar contacted Yoko the next day to invite her to perform as the only female performer at his 74th birthday concert which was held in March 2009 at Town Hall in New York City.
The performance was a tribute to his legendary life in music, and Yoko shared the stage with one of Salsa's biggest international stars, Andy Montañez from Puerto Rico.
Also she was invited to perform at the concert to honor Johnny Pacheco's contribution to the salsa music which took place at the United Palace Theatre in November 2009. She shared the stage with Domingo Quiñonez, Johnny Ventura, Isidro Infante and Fania All Stars.
On September 4, 2010, she performed at the New York International Salsa Congress as one of the first female solo artists in its 10 year history.
After a long absence in Japan, on March 11, 2011, Yoko found herself performing in Osaka the day of the devastating Tsunami. Immediately, she felt the urge to give back to her homeland. Upon returning to New York City, she organized a wildly successful charity concert at the landmark BB King’s Jazz Club in Times Square. Then she went on to record Salsa Para Japon with artists such as Grammy winners Chino Nunez, Marco Bermudez of The Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Frankie Morales, Ray Sepulveda, and Ray Viera, and all proceeds went to victims of the Tsunami.
In February 2012, Yoko was invited to perform at the Chicago International Salsa Congress with salsa legends such as Fruko y Sus Tesos, Cuco Valoy and Tito Nieves.
Also, Yoko was a part of Tribute to Las Diva at Lincoln Center’s Mid Summer Night Swing concert series with Mambo Legend Orchestra (formaly known as Tito Puente Orchestra) to perform songs of a Cuban lengendary singer La Lupe. Being non latina, this was a big accomplishment for her. Since La Lupe was the most exciting singer and had a original style to her performance in the history.
She has performed at most of the well know venues in New York City. Being a Japanese and female it is not easy to survive in this industry. But Yoko is definitely breaking into this genre and has become one of the most recognizable faces in the Salsa industry, and an iconic force in keeping the spirit of Salsa music alive!
For Yoko’s updated news and show schedule please visit:
GingerNewYork found on Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) since launching in November, 2010, has been showcasing the “Kool Kats…Gotham Nights” greats of music and culture of New York and beyond. What defines GingerNewYork is its host Ginger Broderick’s unique insight, connection to and pulse on the music and culture of Gotham making GingerNewYork one of the most sought after programs to appear on.
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