Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Japanese Artists: Miyavi

Now that I've finished my series on Japanese Theater (at least for the time being), I'd like to start doing some posts on other aspects of Japanese art that I love. This will be everything from my favorite Japanese painters to great movies to writers and musicians. To kick that off, I bring you my very favorite Japanese musician: Miyavi!

Miyavi is part of a uniquely Asian/Japanese genre called "Visual Kei". Kei in Japanese just means style, and that suffix is used in many situations to refer to a particular style of thing. In this case, it refers to bands who place a lot of emphasis on the visual element of performance in addition to their music. These bands are seen as "alternative", encompassing music genres like rock, punk, alternative pop, etc. The vast majority tend to have a gothic image, but even those that aren't goth usually still sport the crazy costumes, make-up and glam hair that Visual Kei bands are famous for.

Malice Mizer, a good example of old-school traditional Visual Kei. Just think Gothic Ziggy Stardust and you've got it.
Another common element of the genre is a theme of anti-mainstream, subversive subject matter. Rebellion from the standard conventions of modern Japanese culture is perhaps the most important element of the Visual Kei genre. While the fashion and "visual" image varies from band to band, the lyrics and alternative nature of the scene remains universal.

Miyavi started out as a guitarist for a pretty standard gothic style Visual Kei band called "DuĂ© le Quartz". After the band broke up in 2002, he went solo and has produced 7 full albums since then. Miyavi also abandoned the goth image for a much more unique version of Visual Kei. His style is an interesting combination of retro and punk clothing, involving lots of bright colors and sometimes traditional Asian influences. 

What really makes Miyavi stand out to me is his diversity as a musician. He is always experimenting with and changing the style of his music. He doesn't confine himself to only one style, which has led him to produce songs from a wide variety of genres, including: rock, pop, hip hop and blues. Despite the fluidity, his music always remains recognizable and true to his own unique style. He's also very talented as an acoustic guitarist. He has collaborated with other rock/Visual Kei artists, including forming a temporary group with Gackt, Sugizo and Yoshiki (of X Japan) called S.K.I.N. 

Miyavi with fellow S.K.I.N. members.
Miyavi is still pretty underground in Japan, but he's been very successful within the Visual Kei/Rock scene. He's also gathered a large fan-following abroad, probably due to Miyavi's love of English and foreign countries. He tours overseas frequently, often in the U.S. and Europe. 

For those who are new to Miyavi, I recommend getting a copy of the Fan's Best compilation album, it has all the fan-selected most popular songs. I was really happy with the selection, I think it includes a lot of his best stuff. My favorite full album is Miyaviuta -Dokusou-, because it features a lot of his best acoustic stuff and a heavy blues influence. If you like rock, go for the earlier albums Gagaku and Galyuu. For hip hop, try This Iz the Japanese Kabuki Rock

Did I mention Miyavi's also extremely pretty? Cause he is.


  1. Miyavi for the win! Who will you do next?

  2. Still thinking about that... I've been on a Western music kick lately, so I'm behind on Asian music right now. Possibly Asian Kung Fu Generation, since they're good but still a little underground.