A Japanese singer, composer, lyricist, actress, and a committed environmentalist, Tokiko Kato, will perform live Japanese and Bhutanese music tomorrow afternoon at clock tower square in Thimphu.
Kato will perform 16 Japanese ‘Rigsar’ songs and one Dzongkha. Veteran Bhutanese Singer Jigme Drukpa will sing along with her and perform three Japanese numbers.
People should relate their lives to the environment and balance it with the development, but they often seem to eliminate human participation, says Kato.
Kato’s songs are inspired by nature. She wants people nurture the treasured memories of the place where they live in. This could be a lesson for the Bhutanese youth who today are all too eager to embrace western culture and music, abandoning their essential values.
This is Kato’s second visit to Bhutan. During her first visit, she visited Punakha and interacted with the farmers there.
“The unique lifestyle of the farmers there inspired me,” she said. She found Bhutanese people ‘very friendly’ and their hospitality unmatched. She wanted to come back to Bhutan and learn its overarching development philosophy of gross national happiness.
And then Japan was hit by a massive earthquake. Bhutan, a tiny nation, the beneficiary of Japan’s largess since first embrace modern development programmes, rendered a small monetary and emotional support to the people and the government of Japan. A visit by His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Druk Gyaltsuen brought smiles to the faces of grief-stricken Japanese people, she said.
Kato was among the privileged artists to perform during the royal visit to Japan last year.
Sympathy and help rendered by the Bhutanese to the afflicted Japanese was something that touched her deeply, she says.
And she wanted to come back to Bhutan and repay the goodwill shown by the Bhutanese on behalf of her countrymen. It had to be October to commemorate the royal wedding anniversary of Their Majesties.
“I on behalf of Japanese government and people want to thank Bhutan and her people for all the support rendered to us during difficult times we had to go through,” she said.
Jigme Drukpa,a popular Bhutanese musician, said Kato is the first woman artist performing in Bhutan who sings and plays music by herself.
“Over the past decades we [Japanese] have placed too much importance on industrialisation, value on things that are big, strong and fast. From now on, we must value the things that are slow and sensitive,” said Kato, rehearsing the songs at Aa-Yang Music School in Thimphu with Jigme Dukpa.
“We must value the environment if we must pursue happiness. If Bhutan is able to do that, then it could be replicated to other countries,” she said.
Kato, whose music is inspired by simple things in the nature, is also a staunch environmentalist.
“A musician can use music as a means to promote environmental work,” she said, smiling.
Following her appointment as WWF Councilor in 1997, she was named Special Envoy for the UNEP in October 2000. She has traveled extensively throughout Asia and Oceania. In April 2008, Kato reported on her activities as UNEP Special Envoy and performed live at the UN General Assembly Hall in New York City. She resigned from her post as UNEP Special Envoy in March 2011 and started an organization called “smile revolution” to bring happiness to the people affected by tsunami.
During the massive earthquake and tsunami that affected a large number of Japanese, she visited the disaster-affected areas and performed concerts to raise people’s hope. She released a new album, “Nuchiyui,” in September 2011. The songs “Are you safe now?” and “Nuchiyui,” have drawn much attention as music that gave comfort and support to the people in the hard-hit regions.
Tokiko Kato was born in Harbin in 1943. In 1965, she won the Japan Amateur Chanson Competition. She made her debut as a singer while she was an undergraduate at the University of Tokyo. Since then she has had many hit songs and has made more 70 albums.
In addition to over a dozen concerts at home, Kato has perform at Carnegie Hall in New York in 1988 and 1990. In 1992, she received the prestigious Chevalier Medal for Culture from the Government of France for artistic achievements and cultural activities.
Kato is also an actor. She has acted in films like lzakaya Choji (1983) and Porco Rosso (1992).