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Pink Martini song to benefit Japan Red Cross

Our hearts have been with our partners, our friends and their families in Japan.

Two weeks ago, we asked Pink Martini to create song for our friends in Japan. Pink Martini, the “little orchestra” from Portland, Oregon has been a favorite of ours since their debut release “Sympathique” in 1997. We love the band, we love their music and we consider them part of the Starbucks family. A few days after our phone call, the band recorded this beautiful song, “Yuuzuki”, with guest vocals from Japanese actress, Saori Yuki.

Pink Martini is donating all net proceeds from the purchase of the song on iTunes to Red Cross Japan.

We asked Thomas Lauderdale of Pink Martini about the song, you can find the conversation below.


Q & A with Thomas Lauderdale

How did you discover Saori Yuki?
I discover a lot of music by rummaging through the bins of old records at Everyday Music here in Portland and 10 years ago I was there buying records and in the Japanese/World Music section I found this record called “Scat In The Dark” by a singer named Saori Yuki. It was a beautiful record cover with a very intriguing name. So I bought it and discovered that it was unbelievably beautiful and that she’s gone on to make 30-40 more albums.

Pink Martini covered her song “Taya Tan” (from Scat In The Dark) on our 2007 album Hey Eugene! After we released the song she somehow found out about it and liked our version so when we played in Tokyo in 2010 she joined the band and sang a duet with China Forbes. She was so incredibly gracious and welcoming on our first trip to Japan, she even sat through a day of interviews with us.

Then in May of last year we were in the midst of working on our Holiday Album (Joy To The World) and I thought it would be amazing to record a verse of “White Christmas” in Japanese. In the process of doing so we discovered that there was potentially a legal problem as Irving Berlin, the author of the song, forbade it from ever being recorded or performed in Japanese— because he fought in WWII. But fortunately the heirs to the Berlin estate allowed the recordings to be released so we were able to include her on our Holiday Album.

Her voice is really amazing. She has the same range as she did years ago. After 42 years in show business she still has full facility of her voice, it’s amazing. I’m actually trying to get her to sing lower!

What instruments do we hear in this arrangement?

What don’t you hear?! This piece has “kick-ass” drums, it has bongo, congas, bass, 12-piece strings sections, harp, koto, the flute (played by Tadashi Nagai –the former Consul General to Japan for Oregon and also the Japanese ambassador to Serbia & Montenegro), The Pacific Youth Choir and piano. We put it together very quickly and I love it!

Where did you play last time you were in Japan? What are your Japanese fans like?

In the summer of 1986 I went to high school for a summer in Japan. I went to Makahati High School and lived with the most amazing Japanese Mormon family who made their living selling Tupperware. And quite the living it was!

So we played in Tokyo at the Billboard Club in March of 2010. It was our first ever show in Japan and between performing with Saori Yuki and the fantastic fans it was an amazing show. The band really loves traveling in Japan and the hope is that we get to spend a lot more time there.

Who are your favorite Japanese artists?

I love Hiroshi Wada and his Mahina Stars, of course Saori Yuki then there’s Naomi Sagara…Actually at one point the concept for our second album was “Floating World” inspired by Ukio, which is a Japanese concept in which the sadness is left behind and you experience small moments of joy amidst a larger world of sadness. That world eventually became, not “Songs of A Floating World” but Hang on Little Tomato. Which in a way is it’s own floating world.

Why do you think the Japanese language/sound meshes so well with Pink Martini?

The Japanese language is entirely phonetic. The most difficult part of the language is writing. It’s very much like the culture - structured, beautiful & simple. So actually it’s not so hard to pronounce. There’s no tricks or silent letters. And it’s organized by syllables.

Starbucks is proud to work with Pink Martini to help to continue to provide relief to those in need in Japan. As a company, Starbucks contributed ¥100 million (US$1.2 million) to the Red Cross, and we are using our store footprint around the world to help customers support donations to the Red Cross and other relief organizations. Donations to these organizations are occurring through our stores in the U.S., Canada, U.K. Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines' and other markets in Asia Pacific and around the world.

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