Female Voices of Japan: Exploring Japan’s All-Female Bands and Ensembles
5 Groups To Kickstart Your Exploration
From jazz improv to rock riffs, classical compositions to pop hits, here are five groups to kickstart your exploration of Japan’s all-female bands and ensembles.
Japan has a treasure trove of musical talent, with numerous all-female and female-led bands spanning diverse genres. While it’s impossible to compile an exhaustive list, we invite readers to begin exploring. From jazz improv to rock riffs, classical compositions to pop hits, there’s plenty to discover.
1. The Jazz Avengers
With heroic solos, funky rhythms and chic feminine attire, The Jazz Avengers harness the language of jazz and womanly power. This up-and-coming all-female Japanese ensemble, led by award-winning drummer Senri Kawaguchi, features a quartet of highly skilled saxophonists: Miku Yonezawa, Miho Terachi, WaKaNa and Ami Nakazon. Joining forces with Chizuru Segawa on guitar, Marie Takeda on keyboard and Juna Serita on bass, the group creates upbeat compositions that blend jazz fusion with pop sensibilities, opening up the world of jazz to a broader audience. As The Jazz Avengers take on their first album release tour, new listeners can grab tickets to an upcoming show or get acquainted with their self-titled debut album, The Jazz Avengers.
At times meditative, other times wonderfully chaotic, OOIOO is an all-female Japanese rock band that invites you into a world of sonic experimentation. The group is led by multifaceted musician and composer YoshimiO, also known as Yoshimi P-We from Boredoms—an infamous Japanese rock group that collaborated with some of America’s big hit-making rock groups such as Nirvana and The Flaming Lips. OOIOO’s avant-garde approach to music has been a source of fascination since their inception in 1995. They ventured into uncharted territories, combining elements of psychedelia, tribal rhythms and noise into their sound, often experimenting with their recording and performance style. The current lineup includes YoshimiO on vocals and guitar, AYA on bass, Mishina on drums, and kAyAn on guitar, vocals and keyboard. Their upcoming concert at Asagiri Jam ’23 promises to be an exhilarating performance, where they’ll share songs from their latest album, nijimusi, against the scenic backdrop of Mount Fuji.
3. 12 Violinists
Jump roping, riding a unicycle and playing kendama (a Japanese skill toy)—while playing the violin? 12 Violinists, an all-female Japanese ensemble, has made it their mission to challenge the conventional perception of highbrow classical violin performances. Founded by the talented Chisako Takashima, a distinguished musician from Yale University’s Department of Music and former member of the New World Symphony orchestra in Miami, this twelve-piece ensemble merges virtuosity with light-hearted entertainment. The group’s dedication to making classical music more accessible and enjoyable is evident in their televised performances on Nippon TV, Fuji TV, TV Asahi and many others, breaking formalities while maintaining masterful technique. Their 2023 to 2024 concert tour across Japan promises to entertain and share the joy of playing violin to a growing audience.
With vibrant colors, futuristic fashion and an elegant aesthetic, it’s no wonder why the Japanese girl group Perfume has been dazzling audiences with their music videos and live performances. The voices of Ayaka “A-chan” Nishiwaki, Ayano “Nocchi” Omoto and Yuka “Kashiyuka” Kashinois make up this sweet-scented trio. Perfume is known for infusing J-pop with electronic and techno elements, at times bursting with high energy, and other times embracing a more nostalgic and mellow sound; they know how to keep their audience engaged and eager for what’s next. With the release of their new music video for “Moon” in September 2023, Perfume continues to capture hearts with their simple yet celestial air.
It’s not every day that you hear traditional Japanese instruments like the koto, shamisen, biwa and shakuhachi in contemporary music. Rin’ has set out to change that. Comprising talented female alumni from the Tokyo University of the Arts, Rin’ seamlessly blends traditional Japanese music with modern influences such as pop and rock. The ensemble consists of three vocalists, Yoshinaga Mana, Arai Chie and Nagasu Tomoka, who interchangeably play the koto, sangen, jushichigen, biwa, shamisen and shakuhachi. After a 10-year hiatus, the trio reunited with a renewed energy and creative vision, collaborating with dancers, digital artists and kimono designers. Moreover, they traveled to historic locations, including Nakagusuku Castle and Tsuruga Castle ruins, where they performed and recorded stunning music videos that showcased the cultural heritage and beauty of Japanese landscapes. Their latest album 虚空 (kokuu; “void”) released in June 2023 portrays their commitment to preserving tradition while looking out into the future.
These five groups are just a small glimpse into the expansive world of female bands and ensembles in Japan. Whether you’re drawn to jazz, rock, classical, pop, traditional Japanese music or, of course, the catchy tunes of anime, Japan’s all-female musical ensembles have a lot to offer. Their diverse musical styles, blending the old with the new and pushing musical limits in their own unique ways, inspire us to explore further.
Know more all-female bands or ensembles from Japan? Let us know your favorite in a comment down below!