In 1982, Italian musician Anfrando Maiola (b. 1954 in Parma, Italy) teamed up with Stefano Cundari and Alessandro Zanni and released their first single “Chinese Revenge”, on the Cellophane Record (Studio Veronica’s label). The following year, Cundari and Zanni formed “Memory Records” and re-released “Chinese Revenge”. The single proved to be very popular in Italy, selling over 10,000 copies. It also proved to be a minor hit in Germany and the Netherlands.
After the success of “Chinese Revenge”, they began writing songs for other bands, including Baby’s Gang (Happy Song, Challenger), and helped fellow Italian band “Hipnosis” cover Vangelis’ song “Pulstar”. It was released in 1983, going Top 10 in Germany and Top 20 in Switzerland. The same year, Maiola and Cundari released another single “Japanese War Game”, under the Koto name, which became another hit.
In 1985, Koto released “Visitors”, and today is considered one of the best Italo-disco songs. In an interview with Maiola, he confirmed it was his favourite Koto song. The track contains a sample from Michael Jackson’s 1984 hit “Thriller”. The following year, he released another single “Jabdah”. Fuelled by a music video, the song became a big hit, charting in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Around this time, critics coined the term “spacesynth”, which combines elements of italo-disco and space disco. “Visitors” and “Jabdah” are considered part of the genre. In 1987, a megamix was released, combining elements of their previous four singles.
By now, house and techno music was becoming popular, and italo-disco begun to decline in popularity. Nevertheless, Koto released another single, “Dragon’s Legend”. Containing samples from the video game “Dragon’s Lair”, the song proved a minor hit in the Netherlands, peaking at No. 28. By now, “Memory Records” began running into financial problems. In 1989, they remixed their debut single, “Chinese Revenge”, for a more dance flavour and Maiola composed his next single under the Koto name, the house flavoured, “Champion’s Cue”. The song was not as popular as their previous singles, as “Memory Records” began releasing New Beat and House records. This did not prove a success, and “Memory Records” went broke.
The rights to “Memory Records”, were snapped up by “ZYX Records”. They asked Dutch-composer Michiel van der Kuy (of the band Laserdance, best known for their 1986 hit single “Humanoid Invasion”) to follow the steps of Maiola and Cundari. In 1989 van der Kuy presented the first full-length Koto album “Masterpieces”, containing remakes of previous Koto songs, and his own compositions, including “Time”, “Minoan War” and “Plain”. In the following years, he released more singles, including “Acknowledge” (1990), “Mechanic Sense” (1992) and “Mind Machine” (1992). The main melody of “Mind Machine” was clearly inspired by the song “Disco Maniac” by “Denise & Baby’s Gang”.
In 1992 Michiel van der Kuy published Koto album “From The Dawn Of Time”, composed entirely by himself. He also made two cover albums in 1990 and 1993. After this, Koto fell silent. During this period, it has been revealed that Stefano Cundari died.
In 2001, Maiola bought back the rights to the Koto name, and has released three more singles under that alias. He is now working with Roberto Bisca and Alex Cundari to compose new songs. Their first five singles are included on many italo-disco and 80′s compilations and retrospectives.
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Koto – Masterpieces (1989)
1. Visitors (The Alien Mix) 6:09
2. Time 6:26
3. Dragon’s Legend (Siegfried’s Mix) 6:21
4. Minoan War 5:52
5. Jabdah (Chinese Mix) 7:14
6. Plain 5:41
7. Chinese Revenge (’89 Mix) 5:50
8. Japanese Wargame (Master Mix) 6:21