Zahatorte are not like any other guitar trio, paying tribute to the accordion jazz musette sound of pre-war France. Not only because they come from Kyoto – after all, at this stage we know that any genre can emerge and flourish in any part of the world. Not only because they are a trio featuring the irregular orchestration guitar-accordion-cello. But mainly because they have created a unique signature sound, presenting a ‘chamber music’ version of ‘jazz musette’ that is rich, sweet and dreamy. Pretty much like the dessert they are named after.
What is the Zahatorte backstory?
We met at university – we were all members of the world music club, or ‘circle’, as we call them in Japanese. We played together for a while and everything just seemed to click.
How did you pick your name?
Our accordionist used to eat the Austrian cake sachertorte three times a day – if you don’t know what it is, it’s a rich, delicious chocolate cake. We thought this was an apt name for our band, because of that, but also because we really wanted to play in cafes.
How would you describe your music to those not familiar with it?
Basically, we make music inspired by so many different strains of world music. We break down those parts from various genres and assemble together in our own way. Like a globally crafted musical mosaic. Hopefully, when you hear us, you’ll feel like you’re travelling around the world.
How did you develop your sound?
We arrange songs constantly, and we perform a lot. We play around 100 shows every year, and we’ve been repeating this cycle for 15 years, so everything is all pretty organic now. To keep it fresh we’re always trying to change it up while still strive for perfection.
How did you decide on the orchestration?
Accordion, cello and guitar are instruments that all play a melody, so we often switch up who backs who. It’s very transformable. We don’t feel like there are any limitations. Except that as people, we love to play music outside but actually can’t stand the rain or the sun (laughs). That’s about the limits of our art, the weather.
How does your music work in the current cultural context?
We want to always make sure everyone is appreciating and enjoying the type of music we play. Most music around the world has a vocalist who definitely impacts how people feel and listen to the music itself. You could even argue that having a vocalist limits the interpretations of music. We hope that instrumental music like ours enables you to feel a story and landscape in your mind, by using your own imagination.
Who are your heroes?
Our accordionist Tomaru is inspired by the extraordinary French accordionist Richard Galliano, as well as American jazz pianist Chick Corea. Our guitarist Uecoo is a big fan of Django Reinhardt, and self-taught guitarist Stephane Sanseverino. If you haven’t heard those guys before, you really should check them out!
If you could pick any artist to join you in a quartet setting, who would that be?
Maiko Isobe (Violinist), Kotaro Hata (Piano), Yosuke Watanabe (Percussion) these three musicians are outstanding musicians in Japan, very talented indeed- as well as being very close friends to us.
What is your greatest aspiration?
We hope to play outside of Japan as much as possible, if we are given the opportunity. So, we’re really really looking forward to playing in Australia.
What should people coming to your shows expect?
We are an instrumental band, so we expect people to listen and feel our music freely, there are no strict rules. Some people may want to dance, and we encourage that. But also we get that some people may wish to just to chill out or become dreamy, and we support that too. Anything goes!
Which tune best describes your current state of mind?
Its called ‘Furui Tsuki’ / ‘Old Moon’ – It’s an original song of ours, so you may not be familiar with it. It’s very romantic, musically the timing is irregular, so it’s unique, like free-flowing chaos. There’s a lot of ad-libbing in the song too. That pretty much sums up our current feeling!