NeoBallad at HYPER JAPAN Christmas Market, London

live report - 06.01.2017 00:01

NeoBallad brings a traditional twist to the HYPER JAPAN stage.

NeoBallad's vocalist Sachi Wakasa and drummer and composer Wataru Kamiryo, both dressed in traditional Japanese clothing, started off the second session on Saturday with an interesting take on Japanese folk music whilst incorporating more modern pop elements into their music.

One of the first songs performed that was very lively was Tairyo utaikomi, and even included a shamisen (a traditional Japanese guitar-like instrument) breakdown on the backing track which was intriguing to hear in rhythm with Wataru’s live drum playing. Aizu bandai-san, based on a Fukushima folk song, had the shamisen and drums featuring predominantly throughout. NeoBallad mostly kept true to the traditional style of this track’s origin with Sachi's powerful vocals leading the way forward.

After this, the drummer Wataru went on to explain how he used to live in England as a child and that it made him happy to perform there that day and how he hoped for friendship between England and Japan to last forever. He emphasised that since it was a Christmas event, NeoBallad would play a carol, Hark! The herald angels sing. As a hymn the pace was of course a lot slower and the backing track a lot sparser, mostly just consisting of the shamisen, some sort of xylophone and very little drumming, until the song picked up some traction towards the end. But Sachi's singing very much filled the stage, creating an ethereal atmosphere as she sang and elegantly danced across the stage with her paper fan.

In contrast, their final song Akita daikoku mai, was very exciting and included a lot more crowd interaction on Sachi's part. At this point, the crowd was told by a translator about a folktale of a magic hammer, and that Sachi will shake this hammer in the next song so that she can wish for everybody’s happiness. Similar to Tairyo utaikomi, it is a lot more fast paced. This song, however, seemed to hold a lot more rock and even some J-pop influences. Sachi, thanking the crowd a final time after the performance, had the translator inform the crowd that they wanted to take a picture together.

Set list

01. Kokuu
02. Tsugaru jongara bushi (from Aomori)
03. Sooran bushi (from Hokkaido)
04. Tairyo utaikomi (from Miyagi)
05. Aizu bandai-san (from Fukushima)
06. Hark! The herald angels sing
07. Akita ondo (from Akita)
08. Akita daikoku mai (from Akita)
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