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Akiko Yano needs little time to know if a musical partnership will work. “I can tell from the first sound I hear from someone I’m thinking about collaborating with,” the 65-year-old singer and musician says over Skype from her home in New York.

Luckily for Hiromitsu Agatsuma, who, like me, is looking at Yano’s image on a large television screen in a downtown Tokyo office while she relays this info, she realized right away that the 46-year-old shamisen player would make for a good partner. The feeling was reciprocated.

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