Boi Akih: Monica Akihary & Niels Brouwer

photo: Maarten Mooijman

Guitarist and composer Niels Brouwer and vocalist and lyricist Monica Akihary have formed a duo under the name of BOI AKIH since 1997. BOI AKIH forms the solid and inseparable core of collaborations with a wide range of musicians and poets.

For more than twenty years, boundless curiosity has driven BOI AKIH to ever new experiments and discoveries. As a result they are now at home in musical traditions from all corners of the world – from modern jazz to classical Indian music and from Melanesian, African and European folk to improvised music. For the musicians, all these different traditions and influences are not the final destination, but an inspiration and a starting point for musical development. They can be heard in the colour and texture of their music, in complex compositions and free improvisation, in their use of voice and playing techniques, in daring line-ups and also in the unusual collection of instruments they use – often self-built and tailored to their own individual musical ideas.

BOI AKIH’s unique sound emerges in the constant interaction between the musicians and the sources they draw from. This sound, at once unconventional and accessible, always surprisingly new and yet completely recognizable, mixes acoustic sounds and electronic soundscapes with the versatile, warm voice of Monica Akihary, who sometimes sings in English and sometimes in Haruku, the language of her father’s island.

In BOI AKIH’s musical projects, their deep, personal musical explorations result in a harmonious blending of seemingly incompatible sounds, rhythms and tonalities. Examples include the symbiosis of European, Indian and Indonesian traditions in Uwa I (2004) and eclectic musical reinterpretations of Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell (Circles in a Square Society 2012). In the award-winning Controlling the Swing (premiere Holland Festival 2017), Boi Akih brought together a whole range of musical extremes in one dazzling composition. BOI AKIH’s latest project, Storyteller (2020), further dissolves the boundaries: between old and modern, between music, story and poetry, and between east, west, north and south.

BOI AKIH has worked with such musicians as Ernst Reijseger (cello), Eric Calmes (bass), Ernst Glerum (bass), Sean Bergin (sax), Sandip Bhattacharya (tabla), I Made Subandi (gamelan), Onno Govaert (drums), Tobias Klein (reeds) Ryoko Imai (marimba, perc.) and has toured in Europe, South Africa, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, China, Canada, Brazil, South-Korea.

Club appearances include Bimhuis (Amsterdam), Sunset (Paris), Unterfahrt (Munich), Schloss Elmau, Das Konzerthaus (Vienna), Theater Musee Quai de Branly , Salle Gaveau (Paris), Indian Habitat Centre (New Delhi), Blue Frog (Mumbai).

The group has played at such festivals as North Sea Jazz, Berlin Jazzfest, Elbjazz (G), Jazzkaar (EST), Awesome Africa Festival (SA), European Jazz Nights Oslo (N), Bray Jazz (IRL), Fest.GlattundVerkehrt (A), Festival Radio France et Montpelier, Jazz D’OR, Jazz Sous Les Pommiers, Jazz Grenoble, Djazz Nevers (F) SunFest, TD Ottawa Jazz Fest, TD Vancouver Jazz Fest (CA,) World Expo Shanghai , Guangzhou Jazz Festival (PRC), EFG London Jazz Fest (UK), Vossa Jazz (N), JAKJazz ( RI), Penang Island Jazz Festival (MY) , Festival FFM Sines (Portugal), Holland Festival 2017, Jarasum Intern. Jazz Festival 2017 , Korean Music Festival of Bukchon, Jeonju Intern. SORI Festivan 2020 (South-Korea), LIFE Salihara Jakarta 2019 (RI) and worked together with Bobby McFerrin & Philip Glass.
BOI AKIH has also appeared on diverse radio and TV programs such as NTR Podium Witteman , VPRO – Reiziger in Muziek, Vrije Geluiden, France2 – Des mots de minuit, Radio France- Equinox, BBC – Charlie Gillet Show.