A few years ago, Yuko Suzuhana, a beautiful and talented young graduate of Tokyo College of Music, trained in the classic art of Japanese poetry singing known as Shigin, shared her vision for starting a new kind of rock band with some of her friends.
Wagakki Band: (front l-r) Kiyoshi Ibukuro [koto], Yuko Suzuhana [vocals], Asa [bass]; (rear l-r) Wasabi [drums], Machiya [guitar], Daisuke Kaminaga [shakuhachi], Beni Ninagawa [tsugaru shamisen], Kurona [wadaiko]. Photo from wagakkiband.jp
Together, they formed Wagakki Band, a Japanese rock ensemble that is not quite like any group that I have ever seen or heard. As the name wagakki, a generic term for traditional Japanese musical instruments, suggests, the band incorporates a traditional musical style, specifically using the instruments Koto, Shakuhachi, Shamisen, and Wadaiko, along with electric guitar, bass, and drums into a sound highlighted by Yuko Suzuhana's beautiful vocals in the style of Shigin to forge a unique sound.
There are eight very talented artists in the band. As I noted above, Yuko Suzuhana is the vocalist. Daisuke Kaminaga plays the shakuhachi (bamboo flute). The percussion section of the band consists of two drummers, Kurona, who plays wadaiko (traditional Japanese drums), and Wasabi a percussionist who performs in a most unique style with a modern drum kit. Electric bassist Asa, and electric guitarist Machiya are the other musicians playing modern instruments. Kiyoshi Ibukuro plays the koto (a large harp like string instrument), and Beni Ninagawa plays shamisen in the style "tsugaru jamisen".
Each artist, in addition to being exquisitely talented musically, presents themselves in costumes that incorporate traditional style with modern. The vibe that they create is sublimely infectious, and their music and performances present a modern representation classical Japanese culture that is visually and audibly pleasing, representing their native culture in a most positive manner to the world.
When their first recording was uploaded onto YouTube, the band became an instant success, and after creating more music videos and live performances since 2014, their popularity has grown exponentially, not only at home, but all over the world.
A lot of their studio videos and live performances are on YouTube. I have embedded two in this article. The first is a live performance from 2017 of the band's iconic hit song "Senbonzakura" (1000 Cherry Trees), and the other is a video from a 2016 live performance in an outdoor venue in Nikko, Toshogu Shrine.
Wagakki Band Video - Senbonzakura (1000 Cherry Trees) - live 2017
The video below was filmed in June 2016, when the band performed at the 400th anniversary of Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, Japan. Toshogu is a Shinto Shrine of great historical importance. It was built to honor Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder and first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled a unified Japan from 1600 C.E. until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.
Live performance at Nikko Toshogu Shrine June 2016
Please look for more of their content on YouTube, and I hope that you enjoy the performances of Wagakki Band as much as I do.