by Juliana Baron, Vocal Blog Asia, September 2015
Every moment is just so special – Juliana’s first-hand impressions of the Vocal Asia Festival 2015
Sad, but true – the last day of Vocal Asia Festival (VAF) 2015 in Shanghai has come:
Day 5: Caught in the moment
Sun (Aug 9), the last day of the Vocal Asia Festival, started with one of my favorite workshop topics: „Imprecision in an Age of Musical Perfection“.
DeltaCappella inspired and motivated people in their workshop to try out new ways of learning and arranging a song without strictly sticking to the notation. Unfortunately, we found no time during the festival to have an interview. I hope, I will get the chance some day soon, to have a deeper discussion with DeltaCappella on this interesting approach.
In the afternoon, I attended the Jazz vocal percussion class of Kaichiro Kitamura, an amazing Jazz vocal percussionist and founder of the Japan A Cappella Society.
After his workshop, I got a chance to talk to Kai about the status and development of A Cappella in Japan.
|Interview with Kaichiro Kitamura from Japan
Juliana: Kaichiro-san, you are such an international person, fluent in English, Chinese, Korean – and of course Japanese. Is it ok, to call you Kai?
Kai: Yes, well, you are half Korean, you can also call me Kai Obba (elder brother).
Juliana: (laugh) This year, Vocal Asia in Japan was kicked off. How would you describe the status of A Cappella in Japan?
Kai: Actually, we are deeply impressed by Take 6, Singers unlimited, Doo-wap and so on. Those, who listen to their music, they form up their college a cappella groups. The first a cappella club was established in Waseda University in Tokyo, which I graduated from, and that was more than 30 years ago. This was the first college a cappella club in Japan. Then, 10 years later, new a cappella clubs occurred in many colleges and many places and not only the students’ associations, but also the vocal festival associations for the public. So now, spreading out nationwide from Hokkaido to Kyushu area. There are pretty many a cappella festivals right now in Japan.
Juliana: How come that there are not so many Japanese a cappella groups going outside of Japan?
Kai: Well, one of the reasons is, they don’t know about the international festivals abroad, actually. And the second reason is, they are interested to join in international festivals, but it is tough for them to speak English. They need to understand everything in English, need to express themselves, need to understand the classes, the instructors – that’s tough for them. There is a language barrier.
Juliana: Are there any professional groups in Japan who can make their living from a cappella?
Kai: Yes, more than 10 professional groups are in Japan. Most of the teams are living in Osaka or Kobe area and about 3-5 groups are now active in Tokyo.
Juliana: What was your highlights and lowlights throughout your musical journey with vocal percussion and a cappella?
Kai: It is hard to tell, because I experienced so many highlights. One of the big highlights is the Vocal Asia Festival. Every year I was invited as an instructor. And every year coincidently, I was invited as a guest performer at the gala concert to accompany the master group of the festival. For example with The Real Group in 2011, in 2012 with Slixs, then Rajaton, The Idea of North. That gave me the big chance to perform in the world. And this year, tonight, I will also join Naturally 7 on stage. We just finished the rehearsal, it was OK (laugh). Oh, and with The Real Group, when they came to Tokyo, I just hopped into their show and the whole performance was recorded. The CD is now on sale, the title is “Live in Japan – The Real Group”.
Juliana: Any lowlights?
Kai: Actually, I’ve never experienced bad things. Always the music cheers me up and people motivated me. So, every time I feel happy.
Juliana: What is your wish for Asia’s A Cappella future?
Kai: Especially for our country, we have lot’s of difficulties to host an international festival. But I want to make a change. If we promote a cappella festivals like those from Vocal Asia to Japanese concerts, to the Japanese people, Japanese singers – maybe that attracts them, I believe they will participate. All I can do is being an ambassador, tell people what is good, what is happening in other Asian countries. I will be in charge of promoting. I’ll do my best.
Juliana: Thank you so much, Kai Obba! I wish you all the best for your a cappella promotion!
The final highlight of the 2015 Vocal Asia Festival was the gala concert. Asia Cup winners „The Wanted“ opened the show. Although just coming out of High School, they were absolutely stunning and almost professional.
Special guest DeltaCappella brought a different sound experience and a diverse program of jazz, swing, rock and pop songs – the audience loved it. The workshop participants of the morning session were invited to sing along the chorus of Good Livin’: „We’re gonna harmonize and we’re gonna shout…“
Mindblowing the show of the VAF’s master group Naturally 7. Next to me, there was a Chinese lady almost going nuts, almost jumping out of her seat. It seemed to be her first time in an a cappella concert and she couldn’t stop saying how good they are.
But my favorite of this evening was the encore song „Caught in the moment“. Somehow like a motto which accompanied me throughout the whole festival. Each and every moment was just so special.
Naturally 7: „Caught in the moment“ (which is much more intimate and touching listening to it live)
Although this was a lot to read and thanks for your interest – there was much more happening throughout the VAF 2015. Sorry that I couldn’t join and share impressions of several other interesting workshops by Ray Chu, Christine Liu, Kwok-Tung Fung, Leo Tsai and Kaichiro Kitamura. If you joined any of their workshops or want to share some of your experiences, please feel free to comment and share.
Hope to see you at the next festival whenever, wherever on this earth! Cheers!