Thursday, May 13, 2010

Jeepney Press May-June 2010 issue page 9

PASAHERO by Elena Sakai

Koji Ishikawa: In Love with Filipino Music

A producer and musician, Koji works both in Japan and in the Philippines.

Born in Sendai, Japan on 1978, Koji Ishikawa spent his youth in Munich, Germany.
After returning to Japan at the age of 7, his first turning point was during his junior high school days. Koji was not exactly a straight-A student. He was not so good in sports either. Life was not interesting to him at all until he met with an artist’s music. He was so moved, and found out that music has the power to move people’s emotions, and even change one’s life. He found out that one can make music with just a computer and keyboard. After entering senior high school, he started learning and composing his original songs. He poured over manuals all the time, to learn more about using the software. Since then, music was the most important thing in his life.

Koji couldn’t find the importance of attending classes, yet he was somehow able to graduate, and stayed home to work on his music. He participated in auditions and live shows, and brushed up his music.

When he turned 20, Koji started to travel around the world to expand his borders. He first went to Europe, the place where he spent his childhood days, and then continued to travel to USA and all parts of Asia.

His first encounter with the Philippines was in year 2000, when he was traveling from Singapore to Bangkok by land. At the 2nd month of his travel, short of money, he decides to return to Japan using the cheapest airline available, which was bound for Tokyo via Manila.

Until then, Koji did not know the Philippines much, but when he first stepped on to the grounds of Manila, and heard the music, he was shocked. This was his second turning point. Koji then listened to Side A’s album, “Will I Ever.” Until then, his image of the Philippines was “poverty,” but with this CD, all images changed. The music quality, and the linguistic ability of the Filipinos were much higher than that of Japan.

After returning to Japan, Koji found out that Joey Benin was the producer of the album. Even while he was studying in a college in L.A., Koji listened to Side A’s music at a Filipino record shop, and even went to their concert with many other Filipinos.

In 2004, Koji gathered his courage to go to the Phili-ppines again, and visited Joey Benin, to ask him to let him work with him. Joey Benin gladly accepted this, and ever since then, Koji started working as a recording engineer in Manila, and worked with various artists such as South Border. He also worked on his own pieces, and produced enough songs to make 2 full albums.

Koji devoted to his work in the Philippines until 2008, when he was 29 years old. He then started to think of returning to Japan, to build his base in his home country. He was confident of the knowledge and know-how he earned in the Philippines.

After returning to Japan in 2009, Koji met with a music label producer, and together they released his first mini album, “HEARTWARMING” on May 27, 2009. HEARTWARMING is composed of the 25 songs Koji produced while he was in the Philippines, and although 5 of the 6 songs were in Japanese, Koji included one English song, “I Guess This Is Love,” that maximizes the Filipino taste in his music.

As a result, “I Guess This Is Love” has become a big hit. Koji then earned the confidence that Filipino music quality could be understood in Japan. He was also being focused by the media, as the only Japanese musician that works both in Japan and in the Philippines.

Looking back, Koji says, he does not like how the Japanese media focuses on the Philippines as a poor country. “The Philippines has been chosen as the ‘Happiest’ country in Asia by recent studies” says, Koji. He also mentions, “Japan may be a developed country, and although we are so materialized, there are many people ailing. Philippines may be suffering economically, but the people there can care for their family, and know how to live happily. There is much we can learn from their mentality.”

What is it, of Filipino music, that keeps Koji so attracted? Koji says that the most important thing in music is the respect to the language. Respect of culture should be through respect of the language. Filipinos are capable of doing that. Koji values “words” more than anything when making his music.

Koji will continue to be based in Japan, and continue to record in the Philippines. His style, made in the Philippines, sold in Japan will not change. By continuing this style, he aims to bring opportunities to musicians in the Philippines to appeal their work to Japan, and for the Japanese market to know how high the quality of Filipino music is.

This year, Koji plans a live show in the Philippines with Side A, and is now producing his second album.

Participating musicians are those who recorded with Sarah Geronimo, Gary Valenciano, Regine Velasques and Nino Regalardo and so on.

Koji Ishikawa’s CDs, “HEARTWARMING” and “SPIRAL” can be bought through
More information can be found at

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