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Ima Ima by The Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble

The Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble will record a collection of works by Meg Okura, exploring Asian and Judaic musical cultures.

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IMA IMA to be Released on MOTHER’S DAY 2018!

Posted on January 24, 2018 by Meg Okura

Thanks to your support, on Mother’s Day, 2018, my Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble will release our 4th and the most paramount album IMA IMA. Inviting Tom Harrell and Rez Abbasi as guests, the ensemble creates an orchestral sound within its chamber setting. Ima means mom in Hebrew and now in Japanese. It’s a celebration of motherhood and womanhood! Here is one full track for your to sample!

IMA IMA  by Meg Okura (feat. Sam Newsome)

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“So Why Did You Convert?”

Posted on February 25, 2014 by Meg Okura

So here is why I converted my daughter and myself to Judaism- my blog post on Chording to Meg where I discuss, religion, culture, race, motherhood and all that jazz. Hope you enjoy!


Dan Bilawsky (All About Jazz) called her “the queen of chamber jazz,” a Tokyo native, violinist/composer Meg Okura made a difficult switch to jazz after graduating from Juilliard as a classical violinist. Having worked with Michael Brecker, Lee Konitz, Tom Harrell, Steve Swallow, Dianne Reeves, and Sam Newsome, she founded her Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble in 2006. This mixed ensemble of 5-8 musicians has appeared in over seventy concerts including NYC Winter JazzFest, the KL International Jazz Festival (Malaysia), Lincoln Center, Levitt Pavilion in California, sold-out concerts in Japan. Hailed by the New York Times as “vibrant” and “sophisticated,” the ensemble “successfully blends the musical cultures of East and West for a new and exciting direction in modern jazz expression” (Inside New York Magazine). The group has released three albums to date, the award winning self-titled debut album Meg Okura’s Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble (2006), Naima (2010), and Music of Ryuichi Sakamoto (2013).

My vision for the PACJE is to weave together the languages of modern jazz, classical and indigenous music of Asia by incorporating Japanese and Chinese scales, traditional melodies and idioms played on traditional instruments such as erhu, shinobue, or taiko, performed by the great Satoshi Takeishi. Our tribute album “Music of Ryuichi Sakamoto” features Helen Sung, one of the greatest jazz musicians of Asian descent.

The new album Ima, Ima is a collection of original works reflecting my personal journey of conversion to Judaism from an Evangelical Christian, born and raised in Japan. The music will explore the usage of “ma”, a Japanese word for space (silence), and Middle Eastern and Japanese modes including the Iwato and Miyakobushi scales. Instrumentation: violin, flutes, bassoon, piano, bass, drums, percussion, shinobue, and erhu.

The title “Ima, Ima” is a play on words. In Hebrew, Ima means “mom” and in Japanese, it means “now”. Being a recent convert and a first-time mother, “Ima, Ima” portrays my present life’s state. I now have a strong desire to pass on values of Jewish and Japanese cultural traditions to my child. This is also known as “l’dor vador,” a Hebrew prayer, which means “from generation to generation.” Although I had been touring with Jewish bands for over ten years, it wasn’t until I became a mother, that I felt compelled to go through this complicated conversion process.

This grant will fund recording of the works I have written during my pregnancy, “Himalayan Odyssey” and “Birth of Shakyamuni”,  commissioned in 2010 by Ruben Museum. I would like to start recording those two pieces representing my Asian side, while I continue to work on the new work “Ima, Ima”, a multi-movement suite to complete the rest of the album.

This album will impact my audiences as I publicly “come out” as a Jew and share my true story for the first time. Music is the language I speak fluently, and the best way I know to address this sensitive topic. I hope to raise questions about race, culture and religion, while creating music that gives me great artistic satisfactions.

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Features: Meg Okura

“Afrasia” is inspired by music from Africa and Asia, a rounded binary form with an extended bridge with a metric modulation, featuring Satoshi Takeishi on percussion, Mamiko Kitaura on piano. The 1st theme is a depiction of Africa’s continental landscape, and the 2nd theme is a Japanese melody played on shinobue by Jun Kubo. The funky (B) section features Okura on violin and Anne Drummond on flute. In recapitulation, the erhu plays a solo and the 1st theme while the two themes are played simultaneously.

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Features: Meg Okura

This is the second movement of my suite “Lu Chai” based on a poem of the same title by a great Tang Dynasty poet Wang Wei. The introduction starts with shinobue playing a melody on the miyako-bushi scale. The movement starts with pizzicati, joined by different instruments one by one, playing various rhythmic ostinati. When the flute enters with the main theme in Eb, it creates tonal ambiguity on top of the metric one. I added contrapuntal writing in order to further depict “echo of voices”. Solos: Mamiko Kitaura (pf.) & Rubin Kodheli (vc.)

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Features: Meg Okura

My arrangement of GRASSHOPPERS from our latest album, Music of Ryuichi Sakamoto, is what I call a “reverse remix” — creating an acoustic version of a techno pop/electronica original version. The Grasshoppers is from Sakamoto’s 1978 debut album “Thousand Knives.”
Meg Okura (arrangement/violin), Helen Sung (piano), Anne Drummond (flute), Dezron Douglas (bass), E.J. Strickland (drums).

Start and End Dates



New York, New York

2 updates
Last update on January 24, 2018

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New York, New York
Meg Okura is the 2018 recipient of Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works Grant. The New York Times recently described her music as “grandiloquent beauty that transitions easily from grooves to big cascades to buoyant swing.” She is the founder of the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble, in which “Okura’s classical virtuosity combines jazz, Jewish…


One response to “Ima Ima by The Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble”

  1. Hi Meg, I just checked out some of your music & I really like what you’re doing.
    I’m doing something similar with a string quartet, jazz quintet, & electronics.
    You can check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8jMIXo-oGk&list=PLe7bZ8DNNMyZgR3PnK-d5W-ElJpcJNhwb
    or http://www.richardsussmanjazz.com.

    Good luck with your music & your family!

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