UA (pronounced "ooh-ah", not "you-ay") was born Shima Kaori in Osaka, Japan in March 11, 1972. She is currently married to Fujiwara Hiroshi, who produced many of her albums. UA is well-known for her powerful, deep, sensual voice which is in stark contrast with J-pop favourites such as Hamasaki Ayumi. The name UA is allegedly a Swahili word which means both "flower" and "kill". She lists Derek Jerman, P.J. Harvey, Björk, Sinead O'Connor and Des'ree amongst her favourite artists, and her music lies between a soulful, jazzy style and R n' B.
In 1992, she decided to become a singer after being strongly influenced by the music of Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin while attending Saga Arts College in Kyoto. She was scouted while singing in Osaka, and she made her debut in 1995 with the single Horizon. In the same year followed it up with Petit, a short album featuring six songs. In 1996, she had a major hit with the song Jounetsu. After Petit came 11 (1996), Ametora (1998), Turbo (1999), the live album Fine Feathers Make Fine Birds (2000) and Dorobou (2002). In 2003, she released a compilation album called Illuminate, and another live album by the name of Sora no Koya, based on her cross-Japan tour by the same name. There is also a DVD based on the last performance of this tour available.
In 2000, she joined up with Blankey Jet City's Asai Kenichi to make AJICO, a rock band defined by its atmospheric music ranging from slow, moody songs to upbeat, powerful tracks. UA's voice is a defining element of AJICO's sound; she lends the music her unique voice as she sings, and creates much of the atmosphere with her vocalising when Asai Kenichi takes over vocals. Allegedly, the band was started when UA was recording her album Turbo with him, when one night he left a message saying "BANDやろうぜ！" ("let's work as a band!") on her answering machine. They made their first stage appearance at the Rising Sun Rock Festival in 2000. Sadly, AJICO were only together long enough to release two albums: Fukamidori and AJICO Show (a live album). Both are highly recommended. Aside from Asai Kenichi and UA, AJICO also featured the talents of Shiino Kyoichi on drums and TOKIE on bass.
Fans of Japanese music owe it to themselves to listen to UA at least once.
Listening to countless UA songs ;)
Quoth the Gritchka: "re UA: It also means 'courtyard' in Swahili, and does indeed mean both 'flower' and 'kill' as well. The words 'flower' and 'courtyard' belong to different classes, so take different agreement and plurals."
A neat aside for people into languages. :)
Thanks to Shro0m for clarifying the birthdate.