#4 Anna Saeki
Anna Saeki, a tango singer, has been delighting audiences all over the world for 21 years. After being crowned Miss Sapporo, she made her debut as a tango singer and her talent has kept blooming as an actor, musical theater performer, and TV host since then. Through these experiences, she has established her own world of music by integrating different cultures’ music with her highly individual style. In this interview, she tells us about how she started promoting international exchange through tango, and thoughts about New York; as it was the first place she performed abroad.
Interview with Anna Saeki
– You have been singing on stage all over the world, and we heard that New York became a very special place for you; it was a turning point as a tango singer. Could you tell us about that?
Actually, going abroad itself was the turning point for me, but New York became special since it was the first place I went. S.O.B.’s was my first stage. I was very nervous before the concert because people told me that the audience in New York was very critical so they would boo or leave if they didn’t like a performer. But in fact, so many people came and enjoyed my performance. We all had a wonderful time. After that, I had another concert in New York and I think I got off to a good start. However, to tell you the truth, once I received a critique that my relatively clear voice was unsuitable for singing tango. In Argentina, most tango singers have a hoarse and croaky voice, so my voice is not mainstream. When I just started singing in Japan, some people disapproved so I gave some serious thought to it. A few years after the concert at S.O.B.’s, I performed in New York and Paris without a break. After the concerts, writers from both local newspapers said to me, “Your voice is really good”; it was as if ‘the scales fell from my eyes’ when I heard a writer saying, ” Your voice is very new and original unlike other tango singers.” I guess I always had the critique about my voice somewhere in my mind, but the compliment made me so relieved and pleased. At that moment, I felt I was right about not giving up being a tango singer. In my mind I was saying, “I wasn’t wrong! My voice wasn’t wrong!” That gave me a supportive push so I was determined more than ever to try my best as a tango singer. This is why New York became the special place for me.
–You have mentioned that you had another memorable concert before. Why is it so unforgettable?
I guess somehow I am closely connected to New York. I can’t forget the charity concert at Florence Gould Hall in 2001—the year that the 9/11 attacks occurred. On September 11th, I was having a recording session for my new tango album in Paris. I was recording an Astor Piazzolla’s song called “Las Ciudades” when the attacks occurred. To my surprise, the lyrics of the song were similar to what happened in New York City—”Let’s build a new city on this empty space.” We already scheduled the concert in New York so I was really shocked. Surrounding me, everybody had a different opinion about me going to New York, but a staff member in New York said, “Especially in this kind of time, people would appreciate your songs.” I thought about what I could do, and the answer was to go and sing for people in New York. So we changed the concert to a charity concert. Since people in New York embraced me whenever I went there, I was not afraid of going to Paris. Because of the success in New York, I could go to many countries with unshakable courage. That’s why I am really thankful for the people of New York.
– Your impression of New York must has been changed over time—before going to New York and after having done many concerts. Now, what do you think about New York?
For me, New York is a city where I am able to challenge something new. I always had some transitions in New York, and I have special feelings for the city in many ways. In fac