Taku Sugimoto & Minami Saeki live in Lisbon

Event information

Performers Taku Sugimoto & Minami Saeki preceded by Sã Bernardo
Location Galeria Zé dos Bois
Date Thursday, April 19th, 2018


Around 2002 or 2003 I came across the Improvised Music from Japan boxed set. At the time, my journey into electronic and experimental music was tightly coupled.

For a long time, the most impacting names were those of performers using electronics or unusual elements to produce sound. Among those were Otomo Yoshihide, Sachiko M and Toshimaru Nakamura.

With time, Toshimaru Nakamura became my favourite, which led me to explore his recorded output — worthy of note is his 2010 release Egrets on Samadhisound, being one of my all-time favourites.

The Improvisation Meeting at Bar Aoyama came to my attention as another source of further exploration, with the bonus that T. Nakamura performed in the most of the tracks. The two other major performers in the release were Tetuzi Akiyama and Taku Sugimoto. This was around 2012 or 2013. At the time, my perception of electronic and experimental music was no longer coupled. I finally perceived both as two separate entities, which could sometimes intersect.

Here was when I finally listened with attention to the sounds of T. Akiyama and T. Sugimoto. Today, like T. Nakamura, they are my favourite performers to came to my ears through Japan Improv.

Taku Sugimoto

Having seen T. Akiyama live on a previous date, I still had 2 performers to see live. Finally, the opportunity had come to see one more of the trio. I was going to see T. Sugimoto live!

Until the concert date, Minami Saeki was unknown to me.


I arrived quite early to the venue, as per usual. Being on a weekday, my routine for concerts was to leave work, head over to a place near the venue to eat and at 20h30 I would go to the venue to pick up my tickets. I would then wait for the concert to begin. The advantage of it being at Galeria Zé dos Bois, is that it has an alternate bar on the rooftop. Later in spring and during the summer, it is quite lovely to go there and watch the sun go down and unwind. All around you is Bairro Alto rooftops, and the busy sound from the streets. Luckily every time I went there, the rooftop was empty.

Taku Sugimoto and Minami Saeki

On stage were 2 chairs, and a microphone. The concert began and no amplification was used. The sound was as loud as T. Sugimoto played his guitar or M. Saeki sang. This was unusual for me, as I had always seen concerts with some amplification. The microphone was connected to a recorder, perhaps for T. Sugimoto’s personal use later.

T. Sugimoto’s guitar playing is quite restrained, notes and phrases are given space to sound, and the short phrases are spaced with silence. His minimalist approach is like someone painting; strokes are made in the canvas with care and precision. A pause is made between each phrase.

M. Saeki’s voice is the perfect companion to T. Sugimoto’s guitar. There is a sweetness in her voice that entrances you, just like the guitar tones.

The lack of an amplified sound required us to be more attentive, to better absorb the sounds. They no longer were being push on you; they existed and it was up to you to perceive them the best you could. This attention requirement makes the sounds be more relevant, as if you lack attention you might miss some nuances in the tones.

Bairro Alto is a traditional nightlife zone, with many bars and restaurants. It is quite calm during the afternoon, but at night the streets are filled with noise from bars blasting music loudly to attract patrons and people shouting in the streets.

As soon as both M. Saeki and T. Sugimoto became aware of the situation, they started to interplay with the outside sound. Whenever the sound seemed to be less aggressive, they would use that to play and so that we could hear better. At first, there were laughs, and the situation seemed quite amusing, which then turned into a big annoyance. The exasperation was clearly visible in the performers faces.

There were multiple interruptions to the concert, and I believe it was cut short due to the noise outside.

Probably 23h00 was not the best time for this wonderful performance to have happened.

Minami Saeki

Despite all of this, it truly was a wonderful performance. I am glad to have been present and I only have 2 more performances to see to close my Improvised Music from Japan list: Toshimaru Nakamura solo and the three (T. Nakamura, T. Akiyama and T. Sugimoto) as a unit.

Hopefully it will come to fruition soon.