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Wagakki Band – Japanese Traditional Music Meets Modern Rock

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/13 Entertainment , , , , ,

Japanese music is surely unique. As a non-Japanese, even though I can’t fully understand the lyrics of the song, the rhythm easily sticks in my head. That goes to every genre of Japanese music: be it traditional music, rock, or pop.

The Wagakki Band

Recently, I have stumbled upon Wagakki band (和楽器バンド). Wagakki (和楽器) literally means traditional Japanese musical instruments. If you think the band only plays only Japanese traditional music, then try to listen to one of their songs and it may leave you wanting for more. The band fuses Japanese traditional music with contemporary rock by using both traditional and modern instruments. The result of the fusion is awesome. It contains the energy of contemporary rock but still it has the feel of Japan. Listening to them makes you feel that you are in Japan where samurais and rockers live together.

wagakki band

The members of the Wagakki Band. (Photos by Kevin Tudeau on Flickr)

The Band Members

The band is composed of Yuko Suzuhana on vocals and the following musicians with their instruments: Kiyoshi Ibukuro – Koto, Daisuke Kaminaga – Shakuhachi, Beni Ninagawa – Tsugaru Jamisen, Kurona – Wadaiko, Machiya – Guitar, Asa – Bass, and Wasabi – Drums. Unfamiliar instruments? Below are their descriptions.

The Instruments

Koto – A 13-string instrument that are strung over 13 movable bridges along the width of the instrument. String pitches can be adjusted by moving the white bridges before playing, and use three finger picks (on thumb, index finger, and middle finger) to pluck the strings, otherwise known as plectra.


Koto. The white pieces are called bridges that are adjusted to create different sounds.(photo by Brendan Landis on Flickr)

Shakuhachi – A wind instrument which originated from China. It is traditionally made of bamboo. Unlike a recorder, where the player blows into a duct, the shakuhachi player blows as one would blow across the top of an empty bottle and therefore has substantial pitch control.


The Shakuhachi looks like a regular recorder but the way to play it is different. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Tsugaru-Jamisen/Tsugaru-Shamisen – A shamisen is a three-string instrument which is played using a plectrum (pick) called a bachi. The neck of the shamisen is fretless and slimmer than that of a guitar or banjo. The tsugaru shamisen, as the name suggests, developed in the Tsugaru district – the western half of Aomori Prefecture on the northern tip of Japan’s main island, Honshu.


The primary difference of the shamisen and a regular guitar can be seen through the body and the number of strings. (Photo by C.K. Tse on Flickr)

Wadaiko – Taiko or specifically the Wadaiko are Japanese drums. Taiko have a mythological origin in Japanese folklore and appears to be a drumming style of Japanese origin. Nowadays, you can see and play Taiko in Game Centers across Japan.


A Taiko ensemble is called a Kumi Daiko. (Photo by Rhona-Mae Arca on Flickr)

Taiko no Tatsujin

The Taiko no Tatsujin game. (Photo by Stéfan on Flickr)

Here is the first video that I have seen from them early this year. The song’s entitled Senbonzakura which literally means Thousand Cherry Blossoms. Enjoy!

To know more about the band, visit their official website. Be reminded though that except for the band’s profile page which has an English option, all other pages are written in Japanese.


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