Kansai Music Conference to bring new sounds to Osaka

by Vivian Morelli

Special To The Japan Times

Music fans in Osaka can catch a variety of overseas acts this weekend at the Kansai Music Conference (KMC).

More than 60 artists from countries including Singapore, Serbia and the Philippines — as well as some from Japan — will perform at venues across the city.

The event aims to open doors through concerts, workshops and seminars for independent artists trying to get their sounds heard. While KMC may echo some of the goals of the influential South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, its chair and founder Duane Levi points out some key differences.

“KMC is free, and is created in a music scene where musicians have never heard of a music conference,” Levi says. “Therefore, KMC has had to create more of an open festival and conference where the general public can come and learn about music from other countries and meet people from (around the world).”

While KMC may not be as large as SXSW, cost may be a deciding factor for musicians that take part. There is no charge to attend the conference (many shows are also free for patrons) and the organization “stands firmly against ‘pay-to-play’ style events.” The noruma (pay-to-play) system in place at venues across the country can sometimes hinder new bands trying to gain experience and get heard.

However, with a rise in popularity of music websites such as SoundCloud and Bandcamp, some artists are opting to try to connect with fans and industry-related people directly. Levi points out, though, that networking in person is still a much better way to climb a ladder to success.

“(At KMC) musicians also have a chance to make connections with musicians from other countries for possible tours,” he says. “There have been many examples of KMC artists linking up to do tours together.”

Levi cites Japanese group Riot Dance Party, who toured in Australia, as one of those successes. While it may have been a small tour, every bit of exposure helps when it comes to getting a new band noticed.

Noteworthy acts at this year’s KMC include shamisen master Hidesetsuhiro Fujimoto, emotional Osaka rocker Swallow, and Singaporean posthardcore band Caracal.

Kansai Music Conference takes place Sep 15-17 at various venues across Osaka. Concert times and admission prices vary. For more information, visit www.kansaimusicconference.com .