Sumie Kaneko

Traditional Japanese music with a jazz inflection

Japanese Koto & Shamisen player and Jazz singer/songwriter Sumie (Sumi-é) Kaneko creates music that spans a millennium. A master in the traditional repertoire of these ancient instruments, she has also pioneered their use in jazz and experimental music, through solo and group performances worldwide. Her appearance as part of MIT’s World Music Day features new works by Christine Southworth and Evan Ziporyn, a first-ever collaboration with MIT’s Gamelan Galak Tika, and solo works from her acclaimed new album, Dead of the Night.

Sumie Kaneko’s visit to the Institute is part of MIT Sounding, an innovative annual performance series that blurs the boundaries between contemporary and world music. Curated by Evan Ziporyn, Faculty Director of the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology, the 2016-17 season of MIT Sounding integrates the avant-garde sounds of ancient instruments and traditional practices with cutting-edge composition and technology to present various visions of a new, evolving music that defies genre. 


The 2016-17 MIT Sounding Performance Series is presented by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) and MIT Music and Theater Arts.

Sumie Kaneko began playing Koto at age 5, by the following year she was appearing on Japanese radio NHK. In 1995, she won the Takasaki International Competition in Koto performance. She studied Japanese traditional music at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, and in 2006, studied Jazz vocal at Berklee College of Music. She has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Getty Center, Boston Ballet, Silk Road Project and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She has also given workshops at Harvard University, Princeton University, Wellesley College and Berklee College of Music, among other institutions. In 2014, her group was invited to the Washington, DC Jazz Festival, which is co-sponsored by the Embassy of Japan.

Kaneko has collaborated with many world instrumentalists, such as Kenny Endo, Kaoru Watanabe, On Ensemble, Yumiko Tanaka, as well as painters, dancers and calligraphers. She has toured internationally in Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Jamaica and Bangladesh. In 2015, she performed in Delhi, Islamabad, Karachi and Dhaka.  In 2016 Kaneko released her second album, Dead of the Night.


More at the artist’s website: Sumie Kaneko.

Past Events

MIT World Music Day
Saturday, December 3, 2016

4:30pm: Gamelan Galak Tika featuring Sumie Kaneko
MIT Kresge Auditorium, W16
48 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA

6:00pm: Food Festival
Lobdell Hall, Stratton Student Center, W20
84 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA

7:30pm: Rambax (MIT Senegalese Sabar Ensemble), Lamine Touré, director
Lobdell Hall, Stratton Student Center, W20
84 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA

This multi-cultural celebration will include traditional and new music from 3 cultures, as well as the intersection between them.  It will feature world premieres by Sam Schmetterer, Christine Southworth and Evan Ziporyn (Kenan Sahin Professor of Music at MIT and Faculty Director of the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST).  Also on the program will be a solo set by koto/shamisen master Sumie Kaneko, the first performance by the newly formed Cambridge Youth Gamelan and by members of the Balinese Gamelan class, and traditional Balinese and Senegalese dance.  Sample world cuisine between sets, and end the evening with the infectious rhythms of MIT’s Rambax.


MTA Composer Forum presents Sumie Kaneko
December 1, 2016 / 5:00–6:00pm
MIT Lewis Music Library

Interview with Eien Hunter-Ishikawa


Evan Ziporyn, Kenan Sahin Professor of Music at MIT and Faculty Director of the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST)

Sumie Kaneko. Courtesy of the artist.
Sumie Kaneko. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.