Japanese pianist and singer Naomi Suzuki has had many difficult obstacles to face in her musical journey
Naomi Suzuki is a talented composer, pianist, singer, actress and presenter from Japan who has now been living in the UK for 15 years. Kreol spoke to her about the challenges she has had to face in her quest to show her talents to the world, and discover how her passion for charity and music has kept her strong throughout it all.
Overcoming great obstacles
Many musicians say their passion for their art began at a very young age, and this could not possibly be truer than for Naomi Suzuki. The talented pianist and singer received her first award for her musical talent at the age of just nine years old, marking her out as one of Japan’s most talented young musicians.
However, a terrible accident when Naomi was young made her future in music seem uncertain, when she broke her arm beyond repair after falling from a great height. The pain in her arm was so severe that Suzuki recalls it vividly, even to this day. ‘I thought ‘I’ll die’ but I was still okay. But the doctor said [they] needed to cut my arm [off] because it [was] too broken.’ Her thoughts in that moment were only with her passion for piano, and her mother begged they allowed Suzuki to keep her arm so she could play, despite the fact there was no feeling.
Suzuki had to practise tirelessly after the accident, with the numbness and lack of feeling in one arm making playing the piano an incredibly difficult feat. She knew things would be difficult from this point on, and that to make it in a music career she would have to devote every hour of spare time to practising piano. As she grew older, she realised that to reach her life goal of becoming a professional musician, the most straightforward route would be to go to music college. Naomi realised that many people might underestimate her due to her disability, but was determined to prove those people wrong.
Music is always beside you
Against all odds she secured admission at a specialised music school, where she found honest mentorship in the form of one of her teachers. At a time when she was really struggling due to her handicap, Naomi recalls them saying to her ‘Know only music is always besides you.’ They told her that to succeed in her dreams of making a career out of her music, she should consider singing alongside playing piano – this opened up a new avenue for Suzuki that she had never considered before.
However, it turned out to be an avenue that Naomi was to be very successful in. One of her connections during her time at university was a student a few years older than herself who graduated and landed a job at a renowned music production company. After hearing Naomi’s singing, they recruited her to sing for movie theme songs and TV commercials, and her big dream began to seem more and more achievable.
Not one to restrict herself to just one big dream, though, Suzuki began at that time to learn skills at her university in TV presenting, modelling and acting. To be a modern star, it seems, is often to understand that whilst your music should of course be the main string in your bow (and not just for violinists, but pianists too!), you need other skills that will work in your favour once you’re under the watchful gaze of the public eye.
Shooting for the stars
It turned out that these skills were to come in very handy for Suzuki, who gained a place on the soundtrack for a beautiful animated film. This break meant she was heavily involved in promotion for the film, travelling all over Japan to talk to fans and the press. Those skills in TV presenting, acting and modelling leant themselves to a natural air when interacting with the public that stood her in good stead for this new stage of her career. Her charisma and effortless talent when speaking to so many different people also allowed her to shine as an MC for shows all over Japan.
For years she worked incredibly hard to prove herself as a true rising star, and in the end all her hard work paid off. She moved to the UK after a producer offered her a CD deal, and since then her career in music has gone from strength to strength. She has performed in concerts around the world, both as a solo artist and as part of her duo, AJ Unity. She has also performed at the Houses of Parliament in London.
A role model for the music industry
Naomi is renowned for her charity work, and has dedicated much of her life to making things easier for those who have found themselves in difficult situations. This has taken many forms, whether performing at music festivals and concerts in Japan and the rest of the world for charity, organising gigs to raise money with other musicians, collaborating with NGOs, or donating the profits from her tours to worthy causes.
Suzuki was particularly moved by the Japanese tsunami disaster in 2011, and collaborated both with other musicians, and with victims of the disaster, to create music that would raise money as well as getting the thoughts and feelings of those affected out into the world. Speaking about the single, Suzuki said that: ‘Somehow I wanted to help, but I couldn’t go there and I can’t build a bridge, [the] only thing I can do is use my music to support them.’
She undertook these massive feats whilst in great pain and suffering herself due to cancer, and proved yet again her determination to help others and her belief that anything is possible.
Kreol asked Naomi if there was a message she feels is important and carries itself through her music.
‘I think nowadays people forget about… not everybody, but [some people] forget about looking after each other… if [in] the world [more] people look[ed] after each other and took care of each other, I think the world would become more beautiful.’
These truly are words to live by, and words that are suitably compassionate from an artist who has spent so much of her life working to help those in need, after so much suffering herself. Suzuki continues to be an inspirational figure not just within the sphere of Japanese music, but for the entire music industry.