Back in August, I had the real pleasure of sitting down with the blues singer and pianist Yoko Noge. I had seen her play blues at the Art Institute many years ago and recently at the Ginza Festival in Lincoln Park. Below is a small portion of the incredible interview that we had.
I asked her to describe her work. She told me, “I’ve tried to make people happy. Music is something in me and I have to release it. I’ve been singing since I was 18/19 years old as a professional. Neither fame nor money has been my first priority. That’s not my purpose of playing music or singing. The reasoning for doing it is [that] I just have to do it. I’m happy when I believe I can make people happy listening to my music. Life is very tough sometimes for all of us and we need something to put our mind away. I can do that with my music for myself and for somebody else and that’s why I do it.”
I asked her what it was like to come to Chicago to see the blues scene year after she had established herself as a blues singer in Japan. Yoko Noge told me, “People are awfully nice and welcoming. I didn’t expect that openness of people, so it was very happy experience. I didn’t think of myself singing on the stage of Chicago, I was there to observe and see the scenes. So when they said, ”Yoko sing. You are a singer, right? You sing.” I was like: “What? I can’t do that.” But they persuaded me, so I sung and they liked it. The other time, I had my ex-husband who was a blues’ guitar player, Japanese blues’ guitar player, I had a band with him in Japan. He became side guitar player for Willie Kent Band. I was a guest singer for the band. Here and there, they gave me a little bit of money. When they gave me $20, it was a big deal for me. Wow! And when I went to over to Maxwell Street before they moved, they had had always street band, right. So I joined them and sung with them and tips always came in, so they wanted me to come back week and week, so I did that.”
That’s just a small part of our interview. Check out Yoko Noge’s website and Facebook for upcoming performances, music, and much more: