Interview and photos by Mike Sullivan
Please introduce yourself and your background.
My name is Sachika Taniyama and I am a pianist based in London. I was born in Toyota city in Aichi prefecture and I moved to Birmingham, England, when I was 7 years old due to my father’s job. We eventually went back to Toyota city after 2 years. When I was 13, we then moved to Michigan in USA and then came back to Birmingham a year later. You could probably tell from the various industrial cities I lived in, that my father worked for a car company! I started playing the Piano when I was 4 years old. I grew up in the 80’s of course, I saw lots of white pianos on TV.
I dreamt about having a beautiful white piano as a child and innocently asked my mother if I could have one. She said pianos are extremely expensive and if they purchase a piano for me, I will have to learn to play the instrument. So I agreed to learn and they kindly purchased a piano for me. I remember clearly the day when my piano arrived because the piano which turned up to my home was black! As a 4 year old I remember feeling slightly disappointed but ended up loving the instrument so much! Being able to play the piano saved me every time I moved countries as a teenager. Because I could play the piano, I made new friends in the new environments very quickly even when I couldn’t speak English very well.
You can see Sachika Taniyama’s website here:
Where is your family originally from in Japan?
My family are from Kyoto. I am from Toyota city in Aichi Prefecture. I always wished that I had their beautiful Kyoto-ben as supposed to my Mikawa-ben!
I understand that you studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London?
Yes, I studied Piano accompaniment at the Royal academy of Music with professor Michael Dussek and I studied Solo piano at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Charles Owen.
You perform frequently in concerts, what would you say has been your favourite experience
It was in the Japanese tsunami charity concert I did in the city of London. My very young student was in the audience and she started dancing to the music in front of the piano whilst I was performing! I thought that was the sweetest audience experience and I think that was such an honest reaction to listening to music.
What is your favourite piece of music from your repertoire?
This is a very very hard question…! I love all good music from the Medieval genre to the Modern genre. At the moment I love playing Bach. We can be so creative playing Bach and I love the freedom in being spontaneous.
You also teach piano, what do you think is the most important aspect of teaching a musical
I think the most important aspect of teaching a musical instrument is allowing the students to feel a sense of achievement, which enables them to have fun making music. Learning an instrument is a hard commitment, but the results can be joyous and very gratifying.
Have you had any thoughts about making an album in future?
I’m not in a rush, but if I could choose to record a specific project I would love to record some English Songs in Japan. I think that English Songs deserve wider recognition in Japan. They are amazing!
To what extent do you feel that your music is influenced by your Japanese roots?
I have been living in the UK longer than I lived in Japan, so I don’t feel very Japanese in everyday life. However, whenever I work on pieces by Japanese composers, I don’t have to try to understand the style. The Japanese way of expression is very specific and I understand it immediately in music making.
Do you have any concerts coming up?
My next performances are on 26th July in Aberdeen International Youth Festival with Kangmin Justin Kim, who is an incredible Counter Tenor. From 27th July, I will be in Aberystwyth Music Fest accompanying singers. From 10th August, I will be teaching and performing at The Piano Week taking place in Bangor University.
Do you have any thoughts about performing in Japan?
Yes. I have performed a song recital with Bass Baritone Lancelot Nomura in Tokyo and I enjoyed it very much. I heard that English Songs are not taught much in Japanese conservatoires. I would like to do more some recitals of English Songs in Japan to introduce people to beautiful English Song Cycles..
How often do you visit Japan?
I visit quite often to see my parents. I always find returning to Japan is good for the soul!
What is your favourite thing about Japan?
Food! Especially Ramen!
In the below clip you can see Sachika Taniyama playing piano accompanied by singer Kangmin Justin Kim
What do traditional Japanese crafts mean to you? What is your favourite Japanese craft?
Seeing all types of Japanese craft inspires me so much. Details in the wide variety of Japanese craft is always perfection, and they make perfection so beautiful. This is something I really appreciate.
My favourite Japanese craft is Suibokuga. What these artists can create with one brush stroke is just mind blowing! I love drawing and painting! I would love to learn how to draw Suibokuga.
Also, I have to say, I am constantly impressed by the photos my friends post on social media in Japan. They photograph Bento they’ve made for their children. They make a work of art in their bento boxes! Incredible. I would love to be able to make Totoro in my future child’s bento box too!
Finally, any last words for anyone interested in Japanese culture?
Read our amazing literature. Especially books by Soseki, Tanizaki, and Murakami. These books gives amazing flavours of Japan. And of course, one must visit!