GAKUNOWA (楽ノ輪) is a London-based music community which aims to expand and develop the Japanese music social network by linking musicians and holding gigs. Last night I went along to their End of the Year Party at the Old Queen’s Head in Islington and, although I didn’t stay for the whole night, I had a great time!
The line up for the evening was:
Unisun: Unisun is the name of a musical group based in London. They perform eclectic and creative variations of fantastic music to hail from a variety of sources (primarily Japanese) as well as original material. The Unisun collective comprises several talented musicians who together provide fantastic musical variety and create truly unique fusions. (Facebook)
Kajon: Kajon was born in Hiroshima and began performing as a singer/songwriter upon moving to Tokyo. Eventually making her way to the UK in Spring 2012, her debut album “Hallucination~～全てのひとびとが笑いあって嘘や偏見のない世界を信じていた女の子のおはなし～” is on sale now. (Website, MySpace)
Tito: Spontaneously gathered pop creatures will ease your mind with catchy and melodious tunes. Pronounced “tea toe”.
Flaviyake: Flaviyake is a combination of the singer’s Italian name Flaviya and a Japanese ending, created after visiting an exhibition of Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake. She writes lyrics and melodies, whilst her brother RK produces backing tracks and their ideas mysteriously come together. (YouTube)
Akari Mochizuki and Hibiki Ichikawa featuring Chapa: Akari Mochizuki, formerly known as Alika Mochida, is without a doubt the most active female Japanese enka singer in the UK. She seems to crop up at pretty much every Japanese event, often with the ‘shamazing’ Hibiki Ichikawa, and never fails to entertain. (YouTube) Hibiki Ichikawa is the only professional player of tsugaru shamisen in UK. Since his arrival in UK, Hibiki has performed on many occasions, including the Japanese Emperor’s birthday event at the Japanese Embassy, the Japan Matsuri and HYPER JAPAN. (Website, MySpace) Chapa Ou plays didgeridoo, the oldest wood wind instrument from the aborigines in Australia. He has traveled the world to develop his own unique style of music and performed on the streets as he went. His music combines dub step, drum ‘n’ bass and trance music with ethnic musical instruments. (Carnival Life video)
The Common Sense: The Common Sense are an original indie rock band. Made of singer song writer Tsutomu Sudo, lead guitarist Takashi Shimabukuro, bass guitarist Atsushi Takahashi, and drummer Yuma Imaoka. They play original songs in English. They are currently looking for a new bass player and drummer. (Facebook, YouTube)
Colours: Colours formed in 2010 as an ’80s J-Rock Band in London. Expressing “Colours” in their sound, NOT staying in One Colour! (Facebook)
(Band information taken from the GAKUNOWA website.)
I missed the last three acts but hope to catch them again somewhere soon. The bands I did see were really great, and the highlight for me was definitely the set by Akari Mochizuki, Hibiki Ichikawa and Chapa. Never before have I seen enka, shamisen and didgeridoo all at the same time – unbelievable! It’s a combination which I’m sure shouldn’t work, but absolutely did. Unfortunately I was a bit stuck at the back and couldn’t record anything or get brilliant photos, but just take my word for it – it rocked!
I was impressed with all the bands, although Chapa stood out for me as something new and exciting which I was pleased to discover. I also really enjoyed Tito’s set, and found the singer’s energy and cuteness really appealing, while the guitarist was great. Tito are a collective made up of, I think, members of other bands, so they don’t have a website. Their music was simple rock/pop, and very enjoyable.
Kajon also deserves a mention for her incredible voice. I’d like to see her play again as simply watching her sing was interesting. She really seemed to feel the music in her face as she sung each note.
If you’re in the UK and have the chance to check out any of these bands I’d highly recommend it. For more information about upcoming gigs, keep an eye on the GAKUNOWA website.