‘Samurai Guitarist’ Makes His Indonesian Debut | The Jakarta Globe.
One man and his guitar: Sometimes, that’s all it takes to turn a crowd of concertgoers from enthusiastic observers into ecstatic participants.
This was the case on Wednesday night when Japanese guitarist Miyavi performed at the Hard Rock Cafe in Jakarta as part of its 20th anniversary, delivering his biggest hits like “What’s My Name?” and “Are You Ready to Rock?”
Miyavi, who began his music career as a visual kei artist at the age of 17 when he joined the band Due le Quartz as a guitarist, has undergone a remarkable transformation and has become a successful solo artist. Gone are the days of his androgynous appearance: nowadays, Miyavi has toned down his makeup and shrill fashion style. The visual kei artist has morphed into a samurai guitarist. The 31-year-old looks like your typical rock star, while at the same time exuding a special charm. Wearing leather pants and a white tank top that revealed enough skin to show off his many tattoos, Miyavi displayed a mastery of different facial expressions, ranging from provocative, challenging and arrogant to charmed, liberated and deeply touched.
One mustn’t be fooled by his slender stature: when Miyavi starts to sing, he can sound as powerful as any rock crooner and own the stage with his dynamism.
Paired with exceptional skills on the guitar and accompanied only by a drummer on stage, this would probably be enough for an energetic, exuberant show.
But Miyavi did more than just deliver an inspired performance: he connected with the crowd on an emotional level, making him more approachable than many artists, who tend to stay aloof during their shows. He recorded a video of his fans on his phone, opened up presents that had been thrown onto the stage and got intimate with crowd members by clasping their hands.
And while it is common among musicians to utter a couple of words in Indonesian, Miyavi surprised everyone when he expressed in Indonesian slang how happy he was to be here. His every move was accompanied by applause and screams, and at times, he had to command silence from his fans when he wanted to say something. Miyavi’s main message is one of peace, love and mutual respect.
“It doesn’t matter where we come from, what race or religion we [are],” he said before performing the last song of the show. “We are all together here tonight, we can be one — through music.”
Prior to the concert, Miyavi sat down with the Jakarta Globe for a short interview, revealing a more vulnerable side that isn’t apparent when he is standing on stage.
This is the first time you have come to Indonesia. What took you so long?
I always wanted to come here because I knew that many fans were waiting for me. Every time I announced new dates for my world tour, people from Indonesia were saying, ‘why don’t you come over to our country?’ But we can’t do this without the support from promoters and venues. So I’m really happy that I could make it happen this time. And I was really impressed when I saw my fans waiting for me at the airport and the hotel.
Throughout your career, you have transformed from a visual kei artist into a rock star. What does visual kei mean to you at this stage of your career?
Actually, my attitude towards creation has not changed at all. I like entertaining on stage, putting makeup on and also doing some modeling for photo shoots. But [the] category ‘visual kei’ doesn’t mean anything to me, it is just a term for a small music scene in Japan. It was kind of tough to be stuck with the same image because my inspiration and my creativity was more than just that category. I don’t criticize visual kei as a [scene] — I have been part of it myself — but I want to look beyond genres and styles.
You have been a member of the bands Due le Quartz and, later on, SKIN. Do you ever miss being part of a group?
I was influenced by SKIN a lot and I still respect [the other members Yoshiki, Gackt and Sugizo] as artists. But in a band there needs to be chemistry, and sometimes, things happen beyond your expectations. Sometimes things go a way you don’t want them to. As a solo artist, you have more responsibility. Everything you do reflects toward yourself. But at the same time, you have more freedom.
But speaking as a guitarist, just playing the guitar and having a great vocalist can be very comfortable. So if there is a good singer, I would love to collaborate. Of course, I am still open to that possibility.
You are often referred to as the ‘samurai guitarist.’ Where did this moniker come from?
While I was on tour some of my fans started to call me that. And after a while, I was beginning to like it, because ‘samurai’ is such a symbolic word. Samurai means being straightforward, passionate and strong. And I thought that my image as Miyavi shows a similarity to that. Only instead of a sword, I have my guitar.
How old were you when you got your first tattoo?
I was 19. It was when I was in my first band and I wanted to die. I was thinking about committing suicide. When you have to do something which is so completely different from what you actually want to do, that’s torture. To make your dreams come true, people have to get over the hard times. But once you can’t see the light toward the future anymore you start to loose motivation and vitality. I was like that, doing what I didn’t want to do. I wasn’t confident, I wasn’t satisfied. I felt like everything was a waste of time. I couldn’t make music anymore, I couldn’t even talk to people — during an interview like this, nothing came up, no words. I thought that if I said something, it would be a lie. [But I recovered] and that’s when I was first inked on my right arm. It’s the word for chakra,’ from [Buddhist ideology]. My definition of that term is that I have to be myself, to keep my passion towards life. You have to love and respect yourself before you can do anything else.
You are the father of two daughters. How did that change you as a person and as a musician?
It changed me a lot. You start to think more about the future. Your children are not you — they have their own personalities, dreams and motivations. But it feels like your life gets extended. And of course I want to make the world a better place for my children with my music. So, [having children] was a very huge and important experience for me, even as an artist, because it means even more responsibility.
What is your take on K-pop?
I am half Korean myself. I even have my Korean name tattooed on my back. I think it’s cool. I’m happy to hear, as an Asian, that we are being recognized for our creativity in the music industry. [The K-pop artists] create some good tracks, and the people seem to like it. I have a lot of respect for the K-pop musicians and all their efforts.
What is next for Miyavi?
My new album, ‘Samurai Sessions Vol. 1,’ for which I have collaborated with a bunch of very talented artists, will come out on Nov. 13. I already started working on tracks for a new album which will probably be released next year.