PopFolk: Wagakki Bando 和楽器バンド (Japan) + 5 VIBESM contest

in #popfolk7 months ago (edited)

Earworm of the month for me is Wagakki Band 和楽器バンド from Japan who combine traditional Japanese instruments, western rock and vocaloid songs. Yep, they have a flute player in a rock band!

The first track Homura 焔 is a gentle introduction to the band; we start with a powerful stadium guitar-led piece before bassist Asa (male) gifts us a solo. Then things get super spicy when Beni starts strumming her shamisen. Homura barely finishes as Wagakki dives headlong into Akatsuki no Ito 暁ノ糸 with the flute, strings, and taiko drums leading into Yuko Suzuhana's traditionally shaped vocals for a short rest. Pause, breath, slow down, boom! Then the whole band erupts. Hair standing on end stuff! Akatsuki is worth several listens to untangle what the different maestro musicians are doing.

Senbonzakura 千本桜 A thousand cherry blossoms covers a popular song originally written for the vocaloid Hatsume Miko. The polish in the performances shows that every band member is a true master of their instruments. I also want to take a moment to praise the sound mixing because an ensemble of many instruments can sound muddy, yet the mix is as clear as a mountain spring. Other worthy vocaloid covers are Tengakku 天樂 Heavenly Music and Roku chonen to ichiya monogatari 六兆年と一夜物語 A tale of six trillion years and a night.

Things slow down a little for the song Queen of the Night. Fun fact: Yuko's floaty-nasal singing style was traditionally employed to link the woodwind and stringed instruments that might otherwise sound like opposing combatants.

Also sizzling from their latest album, Sun Wheel moves so masterfully quickly you barely have time to process it. Beni stuns on the shamisen with some beautiful highlights from Kiyoshi's koto, and heck, did I mention how metal is that flutist! The composition uses some crazy technique to allow space for all the instruments to be heard while never having them quiet. The night-time bamboo garden video is an apt contrast because such places are mean to be tranquil!

For the last track, I have chosen a concert performance of Kishikaisei 起死回生 Arise from the dead. Don't get me wrong, the music video is also wondrous, but I love the live energy. Watch the flutist skip around the stage like an aerobics instructor, and he never misses a note. Metal!

Wagakki Bando is an excellent example of popfolk - the merger of the traditional and pop in ways that appeal to a popular aesthetic and don't sound overly academic, forced - or to use the contemporary vernacular - cringe. I'm hoping they have a long career because they keep on getting better and better.


I like to do giveaways for engaged readers. The prize will be three staked VIBESM to the user who first links me to the best Wagakki Bando song that I have not yet heard. And two runner-up prizes of 1 staked VIBESM. Three attempts allowed per user. The contest closes at post payout.


Great interesting sound!!! Thanks for sharing, i love japanese music :) and i didn´t knew this band, i´ll keep listening more of it from now on!

Lets see if I'm lucky

Even though i don't understand what they say.. The band sound amazing

Thanks for your entry. I have heard all these particular songs and performances, but it was great to be reminded of them. Apologies for the delay - my computer died early last week and it's taken some time to get setup again.
Prize: 2 staked VIBESM.

Just throwing some guesses based on their song list and my limited understanding of the language after watching anime for so many years.

Kagerou: I choose this because I like the word kage which usually means shadow. It could be a different word but that's what stands out to me and it sounds like something I would hear in a anime.

Shiromadara : I chose this one because it had shiro which usually means white to me in most animes I watched.

Ikusa: For some reason this reminded me of Shin Megami Tensei as there was a demon with it as part of their name so I choose this one.

Thanks for your entry: it got first place because I had not heard these specific performances before and 2 out of 3 songs were completely new to me. Apologies for the delay in awarding prizes - my computer died early last week and it's taken some time to get a new one setup.
Prize: 4 staked VIBESM.

Thank you and don't worry about the delay for prizes.

I am glad you found some new songs you haven't heard of. I basically pulled up the list of songs and picked three names that stood out to me.

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Whoa, first time hearing of this band. The guitarist sounds very Iron Maiden influenced, and that's a good thing. Always love a good shamisen after following the Yoshida Brothers in the early 2000's & their collaboration with Monkey Majik. I saw them live once too, amazing. Then the vocalist, hot damn! I'm gonna ask my wife to sing one of their tunes next time we go out to karaoke lol!

Seriously, thank you for posting this. I'm blown away. I haven't heard anyone incorporate traditional Japanese instruments with modern instruments this well. Really looking forward to exploring their catalog. 🍻

I'm glad you liked the music. I'm a big fan of popfolk and hope to write a few more articles in the coming weeks. How did your wife do at karaoke? I think Yuko Suzuhana's vocal style is deceptively difficult so good on your wife for trying!

I'm not back in Tokyo yet so no karaoke. My wife took vocal lessons when she was younger, even so I'm not quite sure she can do some of that traditional nasal singing. I told her if they are playing anywhere when I get back I am going to drag her to the concert too. I'll wear my cowboy hat and rock out with the glow sticks too embarrass her.

Are you familiar with the Yoshida Brothers and their collaborations? Wicked shamisen players.