Masumi making waves in American R & B
By TOM LAVENTURE
(September 17, 2009) – Masumi is an emerging pop star who’s Japanese and English songs from her new CD “Baby You” (America’s Fortress Records) has built a multicultural and mainstream fan base. Her most recent hit, “Slow Down” was at #8 on the Billboard R & B singles list last week. Masumi writes her own songs and works with the producer and the sound engineers to develop her songs, phrase by phrase, track by track. That helps especially when singing in Japanese and communicating bicultural artistic ideas.
“English has its own tempo and Japanese has its own rhythm; they are totally different,” said Masumi. “I choose the language depending on the track or the song.
“English is not my first one and I am still learning, but I love to sing in English,” she added.
Singers that do not speak English as a first language have often made English versions of songs to reach an audience in another cultures. If you listen to both Spanish and English versions of Gloria Estefan or Shakira, the versions in their native tongue seems to have an energy or flow that would still appeal to people that don’t speak the language.
“The songs are great and if can’t understand Japanese, you can still feel the music and (the mood and tempo help to) get the meaning from the music,” she said.
Her personal favorite is “Dangerous,” the first song on the CD, and said she was a little surprised that “Baby You” was the first hit.
Born in Niigata, Japan to a famous Japanese drummer, Masumi started playing piano at age 4, and was performing in concert by age 6. She went on to study other instruments and English literature at Kanagawa University in Yokohama. She wanted to be a composer and came to America to study.
Through friends she met Frank Winfrey, a voice teacher who trained Misha, a phenomenal Japanese artist. He introduced her to producer Trevor Lawrence Jr. (Eminem, Alicia Keys), who said he was impressed with Masumi and signed her America’s Fortress Records. The two worked on several songs and released Baby You as a single.
“I think she is really smart,” said Trevor Lawrence, Sr., producer. “She is a unique person, and she is a musician.”
Lawrence said that the language barrier seemed to dissipate quickly. If something didn’t seem right during recording, he would talk to her about enunciation and the nuance of inflection in the lyrics, and that she would come back the next say and have it down.
Lawrence said that Masumi’s fan base is largely college age kids, and other people who just like songs, “good time dance and fun songs.”
“R & B music touches all music,” said Lawrence. “Masumi really moves very well and those songs are really dance songs. There are also a couple of ballads and J-pop.”
The studio has an online presence and radio stations around the globe regularly check the site for new songs. Masumi is so popular that stations are requesting her to do voice drops, where she basically says, ‘this is Masumi and your listening to this station’.
Since the release Masumi has been in demand for public appearance all over California and Japan. She performs at festivals and events to promote her CD as it continues to climb the charts.
She has also made a couple of sound tracks for films and even had a brief singing appearance. She hopes to have a bigger presence in films, and may even try some acting. (myspace.com/masumimusicgroup)