- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2001

About the same time the Spice Girls co-opted the phrase "girl power," the band Cibo Matto was showing what that motto really meant by creating its own hypermix of hip-hop and pop rock.

With a kind of intensity the Spice Girls could just dream about, the New York duo of keyboardist-producer Yuka Honda and vocalist Miho Hatori have built a steady fan following while trying to ditch the stereotype that they are just a cute Japanese girl group.

Their music is fun and sometimes moves in the cute direction, but the two young women tear down any criticisms of musical weakness in their live shows.

They are returning to the 9:30 Club this week as headliners after opening for Luscious Jackson there in 1999. Miss Hatori and Miss Honda will be joined by bassist Sean Lennon (yes, the late John Lennon's son) and drummer Timo Ellis, who also appeared on their second album, "Stereo Type A."

Loosely translated, Cibo Matto means "Food Madness" in Italian, and the women's first studio album, "Viva! La Woman" (1996) lives up to the band's name. "Viva" is chock-full of food references every song from "Apple" to "Artichoke" is named after, and features, food.

Irreverent lyrics, such as "My weight is 300 pounds/My favorite is beef jerky" on the song "Beef Jerky," marked the band as lightweight in the eyes of some music critics. The use of samples (musical snippets borrowed from other sources) drew sneers as well.

Despite this, Cibo Matto continues to draw fans. Its follow-up album, "Stereo Type A," released in June 1999, abandons the playful focus on food for a musical montage of sound.

With several guest artists, Cibo Matto flies from hip-hop to heavy metal to rhythm and blues, focusing primarily on Miss Hatori's vocal skills.

Miss Honda describes the album as "real music … something more people can enjoy."

Both women are from Japan. Miss Honda came to Manhattan in 1986; her band mate made the move in the early '90s. They first teamed up in a punk band called Laito Lychee shortly after Miss Hatori arrived in the United States.

They formed Cibo Matto in 1994. Though the women are proud of their heritage, both of them want people to see beyond their ethnicity.

Using a mix of musical genres is their way of combating people's first impressions of them.

"You can take a hard-core Indian phrase, set it to a hip-hop beat, have country guitar in the back, and make it work," Miss Honda wrote for Cibo Matto's official Web site, www.cibomatto.com.

"I really think that technology, if we think about it positively, can give us a brighter future. One where stereotypes will be obsolete."

WHAT: Cibo Matto

WHERE: 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW

WHEN: Friday


PHONE: 202/432-7328

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