Sandii (Suzuki) is one of the most successful Japanese artists overseas, and certainly one of the most accessible. Her music has been championed over the years by a succession of musicians from David Bowie and the Eurythmics to David Sylvian and Sly & Robbie. She has evolved from an effervescent rock singer, a graceful singer of Asian and ‘world’ styles to in the last twenty years or so, a performer of Hawaiian music and hula master and teacher.
Her first solo album “Eating Pleasure”, produced by Haruomi Hosono of YMO fame, was released in 1980 to critical acclaim and quickly gained attention overseas. After touring Europe, she formed the group Sandii and the Sunsetz with top producer Makoto Kubota. During the 80s, Sandii & the Sunsetz toured throughout the United Kingdom, Holland and Australia as support act for groups such as Japan, INXS, Eurythmics, Talking Heads and The Pretenders. They headlined a tour of Australia and reached number 2 in the Australian national charts with the song “Sticky Music”. Britain’s Melody Maker wrote that Sandii combined the striking looks of Debbie Harry with a voice to rival Kate Bush.
In the latter half of the 1980s, Sandii and the Sunsetz toured in the United States and Canada and took part in the tenth annual “Reggae Sunsplash” with Maxi Priest and Ziggy Marley.
The beginning of the 1990s saw Sandii and Makoto Kubota turn their attention towards the rest of Asia, to create a pan-Asian music scene. Now recording as a solo artist, with Kubota’s presence enhanced as producer, Mercy was released in 1990. Also featuring Singaporean Dick Lee, the album’s songs included Japanese favourites such as Sakura and Sukiyaki but mixed with Indonesian and Malaysian flavours. This theme was further explored on the 1992 release Pacifica, the borders stretching further to include Polynesia and Hawaii.
1993’s Airmata was devoted entirely to Indonesian dangdut and Melayu classic songs sung in the native languages, inspired by Sandii’s and Kubota’s idols such as Malaysian songstress Saloma and the king of dangdut Rhoma Irama. The following year saw Sandii going more global than ever with Dream Catcher. Sung in English, French, Japanese and Indonesian, recorded and mixed in Malaysia, London, Singapore, Indonesia and New York and encompassing musical styles as diverse as dangdut, rap, ragamuffin, Brazilian pop and West African guitar. The title track was written by one of Japan’s foremost composers, Kazufumi Miyazawa of the Boom. Songs from Dream Catcher were later remixed by top producers including Ray Hayden, Sly Dunbar and Bally Sagoo on World Remix.
It was this global outlook that contributed to Sandii being chosen in 1995 to sing the theme tune to the Universiade Games in Fukuoka. She wrote the lyrics to “There is Nothing Higher in Your Life” a song composed by Haruomi Hososno.
On Watashi released in January 1996, Sandii and Kubota delved deeper into the music of Brazil, producing an album with a late-night feel together with the now trademark Indonesian, Malaysian and even Turkish elements.
In the same year, Sandii released her first album of Hawaiian album, titled ‘Sandii’s Hawaii’, where she explored the music of her birthplace. Some of the songs she learnt while dancing hula in Hawaii with Bella Richards of Kailua Oahu.
Since this time she has concentrated on the music of Hawaii, in a series of superb albums. In addition to her graceful voice she is a Hula teacher and has graduated as a dancer and chanter. She currently runs a successful hula school in Tokyo.
She has released seven albums in Sandii’s Hawaii series. Others, such as ‘Sandii’s Lemurian Heart’ combine Hawaiian with elements of Asian music from Okinawa, Indonesia and Malaysia, plus Jamaica and traces of Madagascar, the Indian Ocean and other Pacific Ocean music. She has two released albums of Ukulele music, two of Tahitian music and two, as Sandiibunbun, with kalimba player, Bun. In addition she has compiled nine volumes of ‘Hula Hula’ of Hawaiian music for Tipness fitness clubs in Japan.