I have never heard of the Wagakki Band (和楽器バンド) before I received a press release about an upcoming appearance or two across the pond here in North America.
After a listen to a video, I came away impressed by the Tokyo band and their musical stylings… which can only be described as old school (real, old school traditional Japanese instruments) and mix it with a bit of modern music.
It's acoustic, powerful, and what the heck, makes traditional Japanese music relevant to these ears more accustomed to Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and even Marillion.
Now… Wagakki Band is more than a mix, it is a plethora of musical stylings… it's tough to pigeonhole them. Hell... when that dude starts playing the flute they sound like Jethro Tull!
They do Noh performance—which, while I am sure can be entertaining, makes me cringe… perhaps if I knew what was going on? They also do vocaloid. real rock, pop, and new age… and they do it well, sometimes wearing traditional Japanese clothing or sometimes looking like they are a bare-chested member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (I'm unsure if they, like Iggy Pop nee Stooge have ever worn a shirt on stage).
Now… just because I don't know anything about Wagakki Band, doesn't mean the rest of the world doesn't. After releasing their Tengaku (天樂) music video, they had 200,000+ views in a four day period. For their Senbonzakura (千本桜, 1,000 Cherry Trees), it's had over 30-million views on YouTube.
Wagakki Band's performers are young (20s, I assume) and good-looking, are good musicians, and have an 'original' niche that seems to have captured the imagination of a global market, that has some 60-million plus YouTube video views for the eight-piece band's music and their spreading of Japanese culture.
Yes… there's more culture here than in my tiny cup of yogurt. Wagakki Band IS cool Japan.
See below to hear and be impressed (I mean it) YouTube video Senbonzakura:
Just in case it disappears: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_xTet06SUo
The band members are:
- Kurona (黒流) plays the Wadaiko (huge taiko drum);
- Drums - we have the hot and spicy Wasabi (山葵), who has, for you women who care about such things, killer effing abs. He also has a different message in kanji written on his bare back for every performance.;
- on Tsugaru Shamanisan (three stringed plucked guitar-like instrument), there's Ninagawa Beni (蜷川べに) who makes me wish I was 25 years younger and still living in Japan;
- Asa (亜沙) plays bass… and I admit I am unsure if Asa is male or female;
- Kaminaga Daisuke (神永大輔) plays the Shakuhachi (wood straight flute) and plays it very well!;
- Ibukuro Kiyoshi (male) (いぶくろ聖志) plays the Koto harp;
- Machiya (dude) (町屋) is on guitar and back-up vocals, and makes the big decision on the music;
- Suzuhana Yuko (鈴華ゆう子) is the hot (I just burned myself) lead singer. When I scream, I can sound exactly like a real good rock and roll singer.
|Left to Right: Ibukuro, Wasabi, Machiya, Kaminaga, Suzuhana, Asa, Ninagawa, and Kurona.|
The band has played in France, Taipei, and on July 4, 2015 , headlined a sold-out concert at Club Nokia in Los Angeles, U.S.—on American Independence day, no less.
Wagakki Band will be playing (again) at some point at the SXWX (South by Southwest) festival in Austin, Texas held March 11-20, 2016 (think AFTER March 14), and with a definite date across the country in New York City to play March 14, 2016 at Irving Plaza, tickets are available at Ticketmaster starting January 29, 2016.
What else is there?
Okay, lead singer Suzuhana won a nationwide shigin (詩吟) contest.
Shigan is a performance of reciting a Japanese poem or a Chinese poem read in Japanese. Each poem (詩, shi) is usually chanted (吟, gin) by an individual or in a group.
Wagakki Bando has released two albums:
- Vocalo Zanmai (ボカロ三昧) (2014);
- Yasou Emaki (八奏絵巻) (2015),
and two singles: Hanabi (華火) in 2014, and 戦-ikusa-/なでしこ桜 in 2015.
Ticket prices for Irving Plaza will range from $35 (advance)/$40 (door) to $75 (VIP) via Ticketmaster. http://www.ticketmaster.com. Doors opens at 7pm and Show starts at 8pm.
If you can attend, let me know how the show was!