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I first heard Ami Yamasaki’s voice in 2016 at a studio where I hosted a radio show in New York. She popped by to promote an upcoming performance at the Japan Society with composer Mamoru Fujieda, koto player Kayoko Nakagawa and shō (free reed mouth organ) player Ko Ishikawa.

At that point, I’d never even heard of Yamasaki, though I’d wanted Ishikawa on my program for a while. The studio was dingy, with a grey carpet, flickering fluorescent lights and terrible acoustics. But when Yamasaki began to sing, I heard the sounds of a brook, then birds, trees and a waterfall. I was amazed.

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