Harmonizing Traditions and Trends: WagakkiBand Reflects on 8 Years and Vocalo-Zanmai 2

wagakkiband vocaloid zanmai 2
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It is with a great pleasure that SUCO once again brings an interview with another of the most interesting groups from our dearest Japan: WagakkiBand. Giving a little background to those who have never heard their sound, the band mixes Japanese classical instruments and Shigin, a singing technique used with traditional Japanese poetry.

The group debuted in April of 2014 with their first album, called Vocalo-Zanmai, and then Yasou Emaki, which got the first place at the Oricon’s weekly parade, their first classification. 

The band made several live concerts inside and outside of Japan, such as their tour in North America. One of their greatest achievements took place in 2019, with their performance at the Saitama Super Arena, signing with Universal Music Records right after that.  

An iconic and special moment occurred in February of 2020, at the concert Premium Symphonic Night Vol.2, held at Osaka-Jo Hall. The show was performed with the orchestra and featured the participation of Amy Lee, vocalist of EVANESCENCE.     

After 8 years on the road and in order to celebrate the band anniversary, WaggakiBand decided to release a new album called Vocalo-Zanmai 2, which includes some of the greatest successes from Vocaloid. We had the pleasure of having a chat with each of the members about the group’s history and their new album, released in August 15th. Ready?

Congratulations on your 8th anniversary! Looking back, how do you think Wagakkiband has evolved in these 8 years?

Machiya: I think the biggest thing is that we have become a band. Since we were formed so quickly after we first met and debuted, we had a very limited understanding of each other, from the personal aspects of each member’s character, relationship values, and ensemble to the musical aspects of the band. However, after eight years of recording, releasing, touring, and promoting our music together, I feel that we have finally come together as a band.

What milestones would you like to reach in the future?

Beni Ninagawa: I feel that if we can properly finish the tour of this album, we can all become one bigger person.

Kiyoshi Ibukuro: I feel that by finishing the tour of this work, we will finally be able to make many new choices.I feel that a high degree of freedom of movement awaits us after this work.

What can we expect from this new release?

Wasabi: The songs were selected as if they were the best of the vocaloid songs, and since they are all powerful songs to begin with, and we were able to arrange and perform them with our strong personalities, I think they are extremely satisfying to listen to. I also think that as a listener, I will not get bored until the end, and you will want to listen to it over and over again, so I think, « Deliver to the world! ». I think it’s a work that you can listen to and repeat over and over again.

What made you go back to vocaloid tracks after so long?

Kiyoshi Ibukuro: Talking in the dressing room, we were saying that “Vocalo-Zanmai 2” will be released sometime in the future.

Daisuke Kaminaga: We always talked about the possibility of releasing another album at some point, but we hadn’t decided on when that would be. But with the eight-member band celebrating its 8th anniversary, and with Vocaloid music gaining momentum over the past two or three years, we decided that it would be a good time to do another Vocaloid project.

Kiyoshi Ibukuro: We were thinking of having an in-person event with listeners, but the path suddenly changed in the middle of the meeting due to COVID-19, and we switched to “Vocalo-Zanmai 2,” so it was like we made this album in a couple of months.

Please describe Wakkagiband in (2-3) words for people that has never listened to your music before.

Wasabi: A blend of Japanese and Western.

Kurona: Unprecedented band.

Asa: Japanese folk metal.

How is the reception of the public with traditional instruments? Are younger Japanese as receptive to shamisen as they are to the electric guitar?

Yuko Suzuhana: What do you think? I don’t think I am doing anything special, so I kind of feel that times have changed. However, I have never looked at it from the perspective of what young people are like or what Japanese instruments are like. However, unlike when we started this band, I think many people know that there is a band called WagakkiBand now, so it may be more commonplace than in the past to think that there is room for a Japanese instrumentalist in a band. However, if they really want to do it, it would cost a lot of money, it would be very difficult, and even if they wanted to do it, they would often think that it would be difficult. I think we have to make the assumption that the music industry is a dream, but the more band members there are, the more difficult it is, and the more realistic the cost is, so I think it is very difficult.

How was the process of playing with Amy Lee from Evanescence? How did this meeting come about?

Yuko Suzuhana: I basically lack self-confidence. I may look confident to those around me, but I have lived in a world where I was constantly told “You’re not good enough” since I was a child, and I have always had a sense that I cannot give myself credit. When I stand side by side with people from other countries, I feel as if I would lose to them in terms of the volume of my voice and the way I sing. I am smaller than Amy, so I am not as big as an instrument, and I have a different throat. However, through experience and conversation, I was able to face Amy as a woman, and I was able to enjoy singing. I think this experience helped to dispel the lack of confidence that I had assumed in myself. So, the next time I am asked to sing again, I will be able to say, « I’m so happy! ». I am sure I will be able to go for it with a feeling of « I’m glad! ».

Thank you for your time, please send a message to our readers in Brazil and worldwide!

Yuko Suzuhana: There are differences in the situation and response to COVID-19 in different countries, and Japan is still in a difficult situation. The reality is that even if we wanted to go to a concert abroad, I would not be able to, but the stimulation I receive from the people of that country when we go there is so great that we would like to go back for sure. Nowadays, we have to convey our music through the Internet, but since we live in an age when the Internet makes many things more accessible, we would like to deliver our music as it is to everyone, with as little distance between us as possible. When the situation in Japan improves, we definitely want to visit various countries, so for now, please watch how we live through the Internet.

Machiya: We are often perceived as a band from a new culture in Japan due to the fact that we play Japanese instruments. However, I don’t have such an awareness. I don’t know if it is coincidence or inevitability, but here we are, eight of us, each playing a different instrument. I am working on the issue of how to create a high quality ensemble with these members, and I don’t like to be favored just because we play a Japanese instrument. So, I would like the audience to listen to the music purely on the basis of whether or not it is comfortable as music, without considering whether or not it is Japanese instruments or guitars, because we are building an ensemble by facing each song with various considerations as one band.

Beni Ninagawa: I have been saying this for a long time, but Vocaloid is a part of Japanese culture for us, and I think the fusion of Vocaloid and Japanese instruments is enjoyed by people overseas as “this is Japanese culture”. I hope that more people can learn about it through videos and music. I really want people to come to see our live performances, but for now, I would like people to enjoy the videos.

Daisuke Kaminaga: I want to know your reactions! I often watch the reaction videos because they are very fresh, and I’m interested in what people overseas think when they hear our performances and arrangements of the songs in “Vocaloid Zanmai 2”. Vocaloid songs are based on a certain Japanese J-Pop style of music creation, with an A-melody, B-melody, and chorus, but there are many elements involved, and I wonder what people from different countries and regions will think when they listen to them. I am also curious to know what they think about the inclusion of Japanese instruments in the music, so I would love to hear your reactions to the music, and I hope we can have a lot of fun together at a live concert sometime in the future.

Kiyoshi Ibukuro: The koto is an instrument whose shape has remained almost unchanged since about 1,300 years ago. By combining the koto, an ancient instrument, with digital music nurtured in the current era, I believe we were able to create music that could only be realized after 1,300 years of history. I think ” Vocaloid Zanmai 2″ was created because the world has become so close through the Internet, and music from many different countries can be easily heard, and cultures can be exchanged. Therefore, I would be happy if everyone around the world, not just those in Japan, could enjoy the fusion of the modern and the ancient that took place in Japan.

Kurona: This album is a collection of Japanese Vocaloid hit songs. I believe that by listening to this album, you will be able to get an idea of the songs that are popular in Japan today. The songs are performed live by WagakkiBand that plays both Japanese and Western instruments, and they respect the original songs. I hope that people from all over the world will listen to the songs to learn more about Japanese instruments, bands, and hit songs.

Wasabi: The songs on this album are played everywhere you go in Japan. If you do not know this, you are a fake Japan expert. So, when you come to Japan, be sure to listen to this album before coming to visit us.We are Japan!

Kurona: What’s that (laughs)?

Asa: Now is a really good time, and with Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube, it has become easier to access a variety of music. However, I believe that it is even more enjoyable if you know the backbone of the music, so I would like you to learn more about Japan through the WagakkiBand. Japan is a country with beautiful nature and delicious food. …… Come to Japan! I’m like a tourism ambassador (laughs).







Article and interview produced by: BELLAN, Mirta, Malu, Eriki.

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