Music by trailblazing women

As part of the On an Endless Road tour, the Howard Assembly Room presented a unique opportunity to see renowned singer and musician Akiko Kubota perform in the UK, together with violinist Midori Komachi and pianist Yura Zaiki, in a programme of music by and about trailblazing Japanese women to celebrate International Women’s Day (8 March).

At its heart is a new composition for voice and biwa, written especially for Kubota by British composer Francesca Le Lohé, first heard in Tokyo in December 2023. The biwa is a stringed instrument traditionally used to accompany narrative songs that chronicle the achievements of warriors in battle. This new work celebrates the brief life of a brave and radical woman: writer and feminist anarchist Itō Noe (1895-1923), killed by Japanese state forces when she was just 28. It is sung in Japanese with English surtitles.

La storia della femminista giapponese Noe Ito e il folk celtico dei ...

Alongside this new work sat beautiful music for violin and piano by three of Noe’s contemporaries, women who broke new ground writing in the Western Classical tradition: Kōda Nobu (1870-1946), Toyama Michiko (1913-2006) and Yoshida Takako (1910-1956). Special guest speaker Dr Irena Hayter (Associate Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Leeds), gave fascinating insights into the culture of and context in which these pieces were created.

Akiko Kubota has performed across Asia, South America and Europe including with the Vienna Philharmonic. Francesca Le Lohé’s is active in the UK and Japan. Her opera ‘The Key’ won the prestigious Keizo Saji Prize in 2019 and she is an LSO Soundhub Associate 2022-2024.

“An outstanding British talent…This is the timeless way creation should happen.”
– The Asahi Newspaper on Francesca Le Lohé

久保田晶子 薩摩琵琶 | Kubota Akiko biwa

Presented by Hera in association with Illuminate Women’s Music


This post currently has no comments. Be the first to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Sign up with your email address to receive news and updates in the form of our regular news bulletin.