Traditional Japanese music is called wagaku; using the same Chinese characters, a new band calls itself the Waraku Ensemble, with the change in pronunciation signifying “ease” or “comfort.” Their first album, “Japanese Cafe Music,” released last month, features traditional instruments playing Japanese pop songs about springtime from the 1970s up to and including the past decade.
In commemoration of the album’s release, the quintet will perform live in Tokyo for one night only. Led by shamisen player Junnosuke Uehara, Waraku Ensemble features Mitsuru Sugiura on koto, Koushi Tsukuda on shakuhachi and fue (a kind of flute), Daisuke Kiba on kokyu (a three-stringed instrument played with a bow) and Shinichiro Nagata on Japanese percussion instruments, such as the taiko.
“We recorded this album to create a form of cafe music that would be pleasing to those who are not used to hearing traditional Japanese instruments,” says Uehara. “We thought of many kinds of music to use, but J-pop seemed to be the most accessible. But we were careful, for example, not to play the shamisen like a guitar you would hear in the original.” During their live set, expect to see these songs played by experienced musicians hoping to share their traditional art with a new audience, but don’t expect the austerity of a tea ceremony.
The Waraku Ensemble plays at Eats and Meets Cay in the basement of the Spiral Building in Omotesando on April 10 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are ¥3,000 in advance, ¥3,500 on the day of the performance. For reservations, call the restaurant at 03-3498-5790. For more information, visit www.respect-record.co.jp