While vocaloids like Hatsune Miku are still relatively unknown in the West, they have quite the following in Japan and can be found taking part in everything from live concerts to limited edition smartphones. Though some may worry that the digital singers mean the end of “human” music, so far that’s hardly been the case. In fact, it’s nothing strange to find regular bands performing cover songs of vocaloid originals!
One band has taken the concept a step further by introducing some unique, traditional elements and are garnering quite a bit of attention among Japanese Internet users. Meet the Wagakki Band with Yuko Suzuhana and get ready to rock!
The Wagakki Band, which consists of seven musicians and the singer Yuko Suzuhana, deftly fuses traditional Japanese instruments with contemporary rock. Though the stage may get a bit crowded with a drummer, a guitarist, a bassist, a tsugaru-jamisen (Japanese lute) player, a koto (Japanese harp) player, a shakuhachi (Japanese flute) player, a taiko drummer, and a fan-swinging singer, they manage to put on a surprisingly dynamic and cohesive performance.
But you don’t have to take our word for it. Today we have their three most popular songs, and the vocaloid tracks that inspired them. Give the music a listen and tell us which versions you like best!
The first video the group released was “Tsuki Kage Mai Ka” (“Moon Shadow Dance Flower”), a cover of the Hatsune Miku song featuring electronic dance music mixed with distorted guitars and traditional Japanese instruments. If you look closely, you can see “Wayou Secchuu,” meaning a blending of Japanese and Western styles, written in large, black kanji on the drummer’s back. You couldn’t ask for a more perfect description of their music.
If you’re a fan of electronica or vocaloid music, be sure to give the original song a listen, too!
Their second song, which appeared on Nico Nico Douga in April and has over 480,000 views, is a cover of “Rokuchonen to Ichiya Monogatari” (“The Tale of Six Trillion Years and One Night”), a track featuring IA -ARIA ON THE PLANETES-, a vocaloid based off the singer Lia. Eagle-eyed viewers will also notice a new shamisen player, who we’ll mention more about later. The drummer’s message in this video is: “Tomodachi boshuuchuu,” which means “now taking applications for friends.”
If you have trouble with the video player below, you can also view it on YouTube.
For comparison purposes, here’s the original vocaloid track, which itself has 2.7 million views, showing just how popular this “niche” music is.
The third video we have for you today is “Tengaku,” or “Music of Heavens,” which has gotten around 214,000 views on Nico Nico Douga since it was uploaded on October 12. A cover of the Kagamine Rin vocaloid song, the video is certainly the most ambitious yet, with a “manga” montage of sorts towards the end. For those who are looking closely, the phrase on the drummer’s back in this video is “shoudou,” meaning “impulse” or “urge.” Click here to watch it on YouTube.
And here’s the original “Tengaku” vocaloid video for comparison.
That’s all of the Wagakki Band songs today, but we’re not quite done yet! As promised, there’s a bit more to share about their tsugaru-jamisen player, Beni Ninagawa, who enjoys uploading tsugaru-jamisen versions of anime theme songs to Nico Nico Douga and YouTube.
Here’s her version of the theme song for Attack on Titan. And her pet bird.
Finally, one of the most famous songs in anime history, the theme song from Neon Genesis Evangelion, as performed on shamisen! With a bird.
We hope you enjoyed this musical odyssey as much as we did! If you’re interested in hearing and/or seeing more from the Wagakki Band with Yuko Suzuhana, be sure to check out their Facebook and YouTube pages.