Biography

Ki-Yo (known as “Kiyotaka” in Japan) started playing piano at the age of five,  and that passion for music remains in him even now. He is a multi-talented artist who is capable of performing the entire music-making process by himself. Ki-Yo is strongly influenced by a variety of music from different styles and various eras including the classical music of Frederic Chopin and Maurice Ravel; the jazz music of Nina Simone, Bill Evans, Nat King Cole, and Diana Krall; the soul music of Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, and Luther Vandross; the gospel music of Smokie Norful and Kim Burrell; and the pop music of Billy Joel, Elton John, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, and Whitney Houston.

Originally from Sendai, Japan, Ki-Yo has acquired many talents including singing, songwriting, arranging, and producing. At sixteen, he was discovered by hit-maker Hideya Nakazaki after sending in a self-produced demo tape. As a seventeen-year-old, he released his first single, No No No. It quickly went into heavy rotation on seventeen radio stations in Japan, a record for new artists. Ki-Yo’s third single, The Only One, sold over 400,000 copies and his album I’ll Be There was number seven in the Oricon charts during its first week out. A special promotional concert for the album was attended by more than 6,000 fans. That same year, he received the All Japan Request and JFN Listener’s Awards.

Ki-Yo hosted six radio programs across a number of cities in Japan. He interviewed many well-known artists including Justin Timberlake, Boys II Men, and Craig David. Despite being busy, Ki-Yo still found time to write, sing, and produce several singles and albums. A bevy of his songs were used in Mezamashi TV and Pure Soul as well as by the Japan Foundation. During his time as a radio personality, his total album sales reached over 1,000,000 copies. Ki-Yo also appeared live at a number of festivals, such as the Jounetsu Tairiku Special Live Summertime Bonanza where over 40,000 people attended. Ki-Yo teamed up with other artists to work on the Tokyo musical Seven Seas in which he was the musical composer and director. Ki-Yo’s desire to grow as an artist is limitless, as he has mastered piano and keyboard, learned guitar for composing, and picked up cello for fun and inspiration.

Seeking even greater inspiration and a more global perspective on music, Ki-Yo moved to New York in 2010 and became a lead singer in the Harlem Japanese Gospel Choir. Together, they took first place out of 40,000 entries in the 2010 McDonald’s Gospel Festival, the first time in history an internationally-assembled group had done so. After their win, the choir was invited to perform as the Apollo Theater’s first-ever Japanese guest singers. Ki-Yo went on to appear in the off-Broadway musical Black Nativity Now in December of 2010. He further performed the USA national anthem at the 2010, 2011, and 2012 All-American Open International Karate Championships.

Ki-Yo and his family were greatly affected by the tragic events of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Northeast Japan. Wanting to do something to help, the Harlem Japanese Gospel Choir went into the streets of New York to raise money and awareness for those in need. They sang in Union Square, Columbus Circle, and other venues to earn money to support aid programs in Japan. CBS saw one of the several videos of their work that were uploaded to YouTube and interviewed Ki-Yo as a representative of the group. He has continued to perform at concerts for Japanese tsunami relief efforts since then.

Ki-Yo’s international debut single #1 topped Amazon’s Japanese music charts in three different categories: MP3 total sales, pop, and R&B/soul. Dear All My Loves, Spend My Life With You, Need Somebody Tonight, and Reborn rose to the number one slot as well. After successfully producing his first full English album, Ki-Yo went on an eponymous tour in Japan. Having returned to the States, he is working on developing his brand on the West Coast.