[Review] JAPAN NIGHT 2014 @ Music Matters – Showcasing the diversity of Japanese music scene!

Music Matters 2014 may just be over but I’m already looking forward for the next one!

The annual music festival is one of the biggest and most influential music industry event which features international acts from various genres. This year, over 60 bands from 18 countries participated in the 4-nights event.

Following the successful debut of showcasing Japanese acts via J-Rock Matter at Music Matters 2013, “JAPAN NIGHT 2014 in Music Matters” returns and this year, 3 top acts – CREAM, THE ORAL CIGARETTES and Naoto Inti Raymi – from wide genres of rock, pop and hip hop graced the event.

Japan Night 2014 in Music Matters took place last Thursday (May 23) at the Fountain Stage @ Clarke Quay and it was another night of discovery for the audience on the diversity of Japanese music scene. The outdoor showcase gathered a considerable amount of crowd, reaffirming the popularity and interest of Japanese music in Singapore.

The crowd roared enthusiastically when the screen showed the “C” logo for the opening act – CREAM and it amplified when the talented, rising duo came on stage. From that point on, it was non-stop jumping and fist air pumping as the crowd rocked along to the performance, just like what the duo hoped for. They sure did set the mood straight and the excitement was an upward trend with THE ORAL CIGARETTES and Naoto Inti Raymi rocking out the stage next.

Cream getting the crowd high at their performance.

The rising duo, CREAM opened the show with PARTY CHAKKA-MEN, a song from their recent album #nofilter. Widely known as the front-liners of “New Jpop”, they showed off their distinct musical style which is largely influenced by EDM (electronic dance music), R&B, hip-hop and pop. The crowd grooved, clapped and jumped in unison to the addictive beats in PARTY CHAKKA-MEN, Wonderland and No Filter. The duo’s name is a fusion of the words Creative and Team and they sure live up to the name. They successfully incorporated the use of EDM even in their pop songs such as Shooting Star and the cuter and more upbeat and livelier ones such as Nobody and No Filter. Staxx T’s charismatic and fluent rapping coupled with Minami’s strong and stable vocals made the live performance an enjoyable and most definitely, turned the crowd into fans almost immediately.

Staxx T from Cream

Minami from Cream

They complemented each other and their creativity shined through their songs. It was difficult to not be impressed as they showed the diversity of the team colours. Not only are they able to do hip-hop but also pop and cute songs. They are definitely an act to keep an eye out for in the future.

Up next was THE ORAL CIGARETTES – the only Japanese rock band in the line-up. It was a stark contrast to the 4 shy boys sitting on stage quietly during the press conference. The quartet rock band consist of lead vocalist Takuya Yamanaka, drummer Masaya Nakanishi, guitarist Shigenobu Suzuki and bassist Akira Akirakani. Unlike CREAM, none of them were fluent in English but that was definitely not an obstacle for them to deliver an A+ performance. Their highly energized and charismatic live performances immediately captured the crowd’s attention and the crowd were in for another round of jumping and fist air pumping as they performed hit tracks such as Mist, Mr. ファントム, N.I.R.A and 大魔王参上.

Oral Cigarettes rocking it out at JAPAN NIGHT

They delivered a passionate performance and conveyed the message of their songs through expressive body languages, headbanging and eye contact with the crowd. I love how their songs transits smoothly from fast to slow beats and I am amazed at how strong their stamina as a band is. The energetic live rock performance coupled with their finely tuned unique and creative musical arrangements as well as soulful and meaningful lyrics left the crowd in awe and endless applause as they exit the stage, making way for the last act of the day – Naoto Inti Raymi. It was interesting to see them luring the crowd into their music with their body language. Bassist Akira showed off his quirky and intense dance moves but yet, still able to not miss a beat in his playing. Drummer Masaya and guitarist Shigenobu displayed amazing skillful playing alongside the charismatic vocalist Takuya. They prove to be worthy winners of MASH A&R 2012 which landed them a contract deal with “A-SKETCH”, contributing to their rising popularity nationwide and I believe soon, worldwide.

The closing act of the showcase was by Naoto Inti Raymi, a singer/song-writer who made his major debut in 2010 after travelling around the world in 515 days and being influenced by various music and cultures worldwide. Before the stage, he expressed his hopes to be able to live up to his name (literally). “Inti Raymi” is the Incan (South American) word for “Festival of the Sun” and his performance definitely made the crowd even livelier and brighter through his upbeat and really, personally adorable performances of songs such as Yeah! and Carnival?.

Naoto delivering his performance to the crowd

Contrary to the humble soloist initial thoughts of him not having any fan in Singapore, his fans joined in the dance for Carnival? as they waved their handkerchiefs high up, following the choreography for the hit song. It was a really nice and touching sight and I believe, a memorable one for the man himself on his first performance here. Showcasing his wide vocal capabilities, he sang a ballad piece 今のキミを忘れない? (Won’t Forget You in this Moment) effortlessly. Naoto’s charismatic gaze and soothing voice drew the crowd in as they wave their hands up following the tune of the ballad.

Naoto during his performance

Known for his optimism and positive personality, he spread and shared positive vibes from the start till the end as he delivered a stunning performance and entertained the crowd with talks in English and a tinge of Singlish. He closed the curtains of the event with Japan’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Coca Cola World Cup anthem – The World is Ours and shared his dream to come back to Singapore for a solo concert. I believe in his dream and I shall wait for the star to be back again for a solo gig/concert in the near future.

Japan Night 2014 was definitely a night of discovery for majority and it showcased the diversity of Japanese music scene and how much it has to offer. Language difference is not an obstacle to appreciate and embrace the beauty of another country’s language. Music goes beyond words and is universal.

Thank you to BARKS for bringing an impressive line-up once again and I look forward to the next one in 2015!

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