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Thursday, March 27, 2008


Maki Rinka at SXSW: My music goes well with alcohol

Staff writer

Far from the glorious cacophony blasted out by the majority of the Japanese acts at South by Southwest, Osaka's Maki Rinka plays a coquettish, kitsch pastiche of 1950s and '60s jazz and good old Hollywood glamour. At the first of her two SXSW shows, at The Rio on March 12, she took the stage dressed as a retro-futuristic air stewardess, dazzling the crowd with her warm, playful voice and authentic, skilled backing band.

Maki Rinka
Maki Rinka outside The Rio DANIEL ROBSON PHOTO

Before the show, a half made-up, giggly Rinka, pondered the night ahead as her band members quietly noodled away on their guitars backstage.

"Austin's wonderful. We arrived in Los Angeles on March 5 and we did four gigs there, which were great. We played at a bar in Santa Monica and at a restaurant, a kind of American diner. I like to play at a place where people can drink and eat food and talk, because my music goes well with alcohol (laughs).

"It's great here, though. We have something like SXSW in Osaka, for three days every October. It's very fun because people can look around all the live houses."

"This is my first time to play in the U.S. Last year I went to Europe to sing, and it's fun to perform abroad. I like American roots music and swing jazz, so I wanted to come to America, and especially the south. I've written lyrics about Arizona in the song 'Drivin' Cowgirl,' about a cowgirl who falls in love with a native American. I happened to find out about the SXSW festival, so I thought I'd like to try to come here, and I applied for it myself.

"The experience of playing abroad changes my ideas, so it's really important to me. Maybe this tour will influence my next album a lot. I did a home-stay in London in 2002, near Piccadilly Circus. It was fun, although it was only for a month. I really liked London. I like British rock, such as The Kinks and of course The Beatles; mod music.

"After I graduated, one of my current band members gave me a Chet Baker CD, and I really liked it. From then on, I listened to jazz CDs and I grew to like movies where the actress sings songs, like Marilyn Monroe. It made a deep impression on me. At first, I sang not original songs but Marilyn Monroe covers.

"I'm looking forward to my show tonight. I looked at the other bands' MySpace pages and they seem really great, so I think I'll really enjoy them. In Osaka it's difficult to find bands to play together with, because I play such old-fashioned music and people don't really know what it is. Mind you, there are bands playing swing jazz or ska music or roots music, and we often play together. It's a good fit. But here in Austin, I just hope the audience enjoys my show. I'd like them to be happy with my music."

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