Aisa Ijiri, A Japanese living in London, in love with Serbia: Belgrade is One of My Sweet Homes!

And it does not end there. British female composer, Melanie Spanswick (official Schott Composer&Writer) wrote a piece dedicated to her, named “Sand, Silk and Love”. It draws an inspiration from a true love story behind pianist’s name – Aisa meaning Love (Ai) and Silk (Sa) which love was found in the sea when her parents first met. The piece was published officially in January. Aisa visited Belgrade in February, so we talked to her about her experiences in the Serbian capital

You seem to be very much connected to Serbia, although you are coming from Japan and living in London. How come? What particularly attracted you to Serbian music, a civilisation pretty different from your own?

When I was 14 years old, I became a first Japanese student to be awarded a full scholarship at the Kungliga Musikhögskolan, where I met one of my closest friends, a pianist, Milica Sekulić. We were teenage girls who had a totally different backgrounds, cultures, languages and life style. But we both held one important thing in common- love for music and friendship! This story is going back to 20 years ago which is a scary fact, I then moved to London  and she has moved to the USA. But we remained best friends wherever we have lived, and it was in 2013, I visited Belgrade for a first time to give a concert with Milica at the City Hall. Since then, a circle of my musician friends in Belgrade has expanded and my feelings and interests for Serbian culture has grown so much.

You are preparing a concert dedicated to Serbian music in Tokyo in April. Can you give us some more details – it sounds astonishing!

I had a wonderful concert with LP DUO from Belgrade at one of the prestigious concert halls in Tokyo on 4th November 2019, which was presented by the Serbia-Japan Society, and the Tokyo International Piano Association which I’m the Artistic Director of. To celebrate this special collaboration, the Serbian Embassy hosted a private concert for me and LP DUO. Both events were fantastic success, we now have a very nice group of fans and friends who develop a precious friendship between Serbia and Japan. My upcoming concert in Tokyo will take place at the Serbian Embassy in Tokyo. I’ll perform a music by Serbian composer, Aleksandar Vujić as well as Chopin and Beethoven to celebrate their birth anniversaries.

Tell us more about the AISA – Sand, Silk and Love piece.

AISA – Sand, Silk and Love was written and dedicated to me by British female composer Melanie Spanswick in August 2018. The meaning of the title, Sand, Silk and Love, necessitates a slow tempo with a feel for the sentiment behind these words. AISA is in the style of a power ballad; melodic, expressive and slightly sentimental. ‘AISA’ was first performed by myself in November 2018 as part of the Shiga Bank Festival in Japan, I have performed it recently on RTS TV show in Belgrade and it has just been published in Germany by the Schott Music on 4th March 2020 in the Schott Series called ‘Simply Driven’.

Melanie, MIA and you are all female artists. In the era of women empowerment and ahead of the International Women’s Day, 8th of March, it is a splendid thing. what is the difference between the male and female energy in music, if there is any?

I had to actually reflect and think of my response to this because I have never thought of the gender when I’m working with an artist. Every artist is very unique. I have worked in music and films with many European male artists; composers, writers, actors, theatre and film directors. And when I look back our working process, I could say male artists showed me a new view I have never thought of, we can bring a new inspiration to each other. Working with female artists is a beautiful gift too! E.g. they were caring in our working process, Melanie asked me for my personal thoughts as a performer while she was working and we have constantly listened to each other to make a harmony and create such a pleasant atmosphere as a team. It almost reminds me of having the only Lion King or a great team of lioness in our working field, if it makes sense? Both ways are wonderful in their own ways.

You played in Belgrade in November 2017, in February 2020 and you are coming here again in October. You feel like home here, sort of?

Definitely! I feel so home in Belgrade. Ever since I was a child, I have been travelling throughout Europe, the USA and Asia for concerts, festival or competitions. I got so used to learn a new languages, customs and cultures, make new friends and make a new home. So I have several cities in the word which I can call my home. Belgrade is one of them, and will always be. Home for me is not a place, city or country, home for me is the space I have people I love and feel connected with. And I’m so grateful to have my dear friends and colleagues in Belgrade who created me a sweet home!


What is the next endeavour you will plunge into, what the future brings?

Apart from my concerts and upcoming recordings, I’m working with my full dedication and commitment on two of my festival academies in Tokyo and historical spa town, Montecatini in Italy, offering an open platform for all musicians, students, children who are studying music to become a professional concert artist one day. And I’m hoping to bring my festival academy to Belgrade in the near future!

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