Beats From The East

-Uma Madhu, III Year B.A. English
-Anna Christy, III Year B.A. English
Image Source: Google

Geishas, Sumo, Sushi, Murakami, Anime – we are all acquainted with at least a tiny bit of Japan. The unique aesthetics and distinct culture make this small island country on the far east of the globe a dream destination for enthusiasts of movies, music, literature, food,  art, fashion and just about anything else you could find.

Now, aside from the awfully lit anime theme music, like the Naruto openings or the Tokyo Ghoul soundtrack, you might be missing out on some of Japan’s finest contemporary music and bands. Modern Japanese music spans across a multitude of genres from the catchy glibness of J-pop, to the intensity of J-rock and the calm serenity of Japanese indie and jazz. Here we have a list of five of our favorite Japanese artists who we think would make some great additions to your playlist!

 

  1. One OK Rock

Now, you may have already heard of One OK Rock.  And just as well, for we cannot speak of modern Japanese music without mentioning this band. With Taka’s vocals, Toru’s lead, Ryota’s bass and Tomoya’s drums, the Tokyo-based band which started in 2005 has already made a mark in the global music scene, and for good reason. One OK Rock experiments with different kinds of rock music – their songs are known for their intensity and their powerful lyrics.

Our personal favorite of the band is the 18 Fes version of ‘We Are’. Even after the countless replays, the song and the performance still manage to move us with how it speaks to the youth and the underdogs and the timeless promise of passion, friendship and solidarity. Some of our other favorites include ‘Wherever You Are’, ‘Light’, ‘Clock Strikes’ and ‘Listen’, their collaboration with Avril Lavigne.

 

  1. RADWIMPS

If you’ve ever watched “Kimi No Na Wa” and wondered who was behind that ethereally beautiful soundtrack, the answer is RADWIMPS – an indie rock band who proclaim to be “an excellent weakling” or a “superlative coward.” The current members of the band that debuted in 2003 are Yojiro Noda, Akira Kuwahara, Yusuke Takeda and Satoshi Yamaguchi.

Our favorite songs definitely include those from the “Kimi No Na Wa” soundtrack including the beautiful ‘Nandemonaiya’ and ‘Zen Zen Zense’. Our other favorites include the cheerful, sweet ‘Iindesuka’ and their latest numbers, including ‘Shape of Miracles’ and ‘Mountaintop’. Their unique sounds, poetic lyrics and aesthetic music videos make them incredibly appealing in every mood.

By the way, be sure to check out Yojiro Noda’s solo project named ‘Illion’ – his magical voice weaves in and out of truly stunning songs like ‘Banka’, ‘Waterlily’, and ‘Miracle’.

 

  1. Aimer

If your heart lies in softer music, Aimer’s versatility and gentle voice would be to your liking. Adding to the rich beauty and melancholy of her songs are the heartbreaking story arcs of her animated music videos. Aimer’s music pulses with emotion and could make you cry on lonely nights.

Our favorites include the delicately hopeful ‘Everlasting Snow’, the gorgeously intense ‘Kimiwo Matsu’, the melancholic ‘Kyoukara Omoide’ and the sweet romance of ‘Kataomoi’. Also, watch out for her collaborations with artists like Yojiro Noda from RADWIMPS and Taka from One OK Rock.

 

  1. Utada Hikaru

Utada Hikaru was considered the most influential Japanese artist of the decade in 2009.  You might have already come across her work in the title songs for ‘Kingdom Hearts’ or the soundtrack to Rush Hour 2. In 1998, she released an English album called ‘Precious’ under the name of Cubic U. Her distinctly rich voice and her beautiful vocal range make for great listening, whether you’re in a crowded train or speeding down a lonely road.

Our favorites include ‘Anata’, an incredibly catchy, upbeat number; the deep, husky ‘Forevermore’ and the tenderness of ‘First Love’. Her voice can take you away if you let her, to places where dreams play hide and seek behind tender shadows and love is more than a pretty word.

 

  1. Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra

This band, known fondly as Skapara or TSPO, is for those of eclectic tastes, if you crave more than a hint of uniqueness and originality and aren’t afraid to experiment with your music. It was formed officially in 1988 by percussionist Asa-Chang, and initially composed of ten veterans of Tokyo’s underground scene. The band combines rock, electronica, traditional Ska music, and jazz. And somehow, it works so beautifully that you’d think these forms were always meant to be together.

Their music is mostly purely instrumental, so if you’re a fan of instrumental inspiration, we’d highly recommend you to listen to our favorites, ‘The Last’, and ‘Pride of Lions’ and ‘Freak it’, their charged, deliriously fascinating collaboration with Man With A Mission. Seriously, give them a try. We promise you’d love them way more than you expected to.

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