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It seems MIYAVI is constantly earning accolades, from UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador to anime voice actor. Now, he is the first rock musician to ever play at Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto.

On September 26, MIYAVI streamed his sixth virtual concert free of charge on YouTube to fans around the world, from the main stage of Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. Kiyomizu Temple, a UNESCO world heritage site, hosted traditional Japanese performances in the past, and even a handful of pop artists—but in its 1200-year history, MIYAVI is the first-ever rock musician.

I never thought the day would come that I would rock at Kiyomizu Temple.

Earlier that day, MIYAVI had his doubts the concert would occur. A passing typhoon interrupted their rehearsal, he stated in an emcee session. Luckily, the skies cleared up just in time for the livestream.

The concert began softly, remnants of the earlier typhoon dissolving from the sky. Cricket song was broken by the chanting of monks, quietly at first, then rising in volume. A gentle rapping kept the tempo as monks chanted the Heart Sutra, a prayer that is tattooed on MIYAVI’s back.

MIYAVI bares the Heart Sutra on his back, driving the clouds from Kiyomizu Temple.

The clouds parted, and a nearly full moon shone on the stage. MIYAVI took his place in the blue spotlight, wearing an all-white suit that matched his electric guitar. Soulfully, he strummed the opening chords to the titular track of his 2020 album, Holy Nights.

The monk’s voices switched to those of a female chorus, as backup singers Mizuki Kamata and Hanah Spring sang the opening lines of Holy Nights. Performing ensemble Kodo Taiko joined the stage, incorporating a range of traditional instruments from Japanese flute to taiko drums.

MIYAVI’s raw electric guitar was softened by the warm timbre of taiko drums. MIYAVI showcased his signature slap-playing, a guitar technique that uses no pick. Keyboardist Saku added a delicate piano element, while drummer Bobo joined in the rhythm. It blended traditional Japanese instruments with rock and roll, creating surprising synergy.

Kiyomizu Temple’s main stage is raised, standing almost four stories high over a central garden. As the music picked up viewers took in a sweeping view from above, with footage shot by drone.

Viewers catch a bird’s eye view of the stage, which is over 300 years old.

MIYAVI stated his motive for the concert in the following emcee session. He discussed striving for peace in a time of coronavirus, a theme that would be repeated throughout the show. He asked himself what he could do as a musician to help with global problems such as the coronavirus pandemic and racial discrimination. Adding to that, he explained the lyrics of the first song Holy Nights, and how it relates to our current world—waiting in silence while the world is on fire.

I think praying and singing are the same thing. It is my wish to the world.

By the fourth song “What’s My Name?, the stage became a spectacle of creativity and expression. Two live painters Korokke and Akari set their brushes to work, interpreting MIYAVI’s sound into bold, pitch-black strokes on golden screens. While Korokke painted the word MIYAVI, Akari painted a charged message in English—”Peace is not something we wait for”.

Two dancers joined MIYAVI for the song Tears on Fire. Known as Samurai Artists Kamui, this troupe performs in Japan as well as abroad, blending martial arts with theater. Kamui’s founder, Tetsuro Shimaguchi, is known for choreographing the sword fighting scenes in the Quentin Tarantino film KILL BILL: Vol. 1.

Shimaguchi was one of the samurai performers on stage. As they charged at each other in vermillion samurai armor, they drew their swords, revealing they were actually cherry blossom branches in full bloom. In this subtle but moving imagery, MIYAVI’s message of peace continued.

You can’t save just by praying.

Dancers from Samurai Artists Kamui face-off with cherry blossom branches.

In the following songs, the stage became a playground for traditional Japanese art forms. One highlight of the night was a “Guitar Battle”, in which MIYAVI dueled his close friend, a skilled traditional shamisen player, Hiromitsu Agatsuma. It was an all-out battle of strings, electric guitar pitched against shamisen. Throughout the battle, MIYAVI smiled at Agatsuma as if egging him on.

Agatsuma was also co-director of the livestream from Kiyomizu Temple.

Agatsuma (left) and MIYAVI (right) face off in a battle of guitars.

Kabuki actor Ukon Onoe also supported MIYAVI in the performance. He performed a dramatic, heart-tugging voice-over during Long Nights, then returned to the stage for MIYAVI’s cover of Over the Rainbow. In full kabuki garb, Ukon descended on the stage dressed as a female figure in a black kimono. Suddenly, at the climax of the song, his outer black robe was ripped away, revealing a dazzling white kimono with ribbon motifs depicting the colors of the rainbow.

The concert concluded with MIYAVI’s anthemic song, The Others.

From a taiko troupe to samurai, fire, and light dancers, this live concert was a rare delight. All artists performed exceptionally, with deep respect for Kiyomizu Temple. MIYAVI embraced the opportunity to perform at the temple and used it to transmit Japanese traditional culture to the world.

MIYAVI tied it all together with a tear-jerking message, which was echoed later on the artist’s Twitter.

“I didn’t want to say I couldn’t do it because of the coronavirus”, MIYAVI said, “Today, with Hirotsuma and other like-minded artists, who are fighting in this world at the same time, I was able to convey to the world what I can do only in Japan”.


MIYAVI Virtual Live 6.0 “MIYAVI in KIYOMIZU”

Setlist

  1. Holy Nights Intro
  2. Holy Nights feat. Kodo Taiko
  3. Universe feat. Kodo Taiko
  4. What’s my name? feat. Kodo Taiko
  5. Need for Speed
  6. Tears on Fire
  7. Long Nights feat. Hiromitsu Agatsuma (shamisen) & Ukon Onoe (Kabuki actor)
  8. Tsukikage feat. Hiromitsu Agatsuma
  9. Ganryu feat. Hiromitsu Agatsuma
  10. Strong feat. Hiromitsu Agatsuma
  11. Firebird
  12. New Gravity
  13. Bang
  14. Day 1 Reborn feat. Kodo Taiko
  15. Under the Same Sky
  16. Over the rainbow
  17. The Others
CD
  1. New Gravity
  2. Imaginary (feat. Kimbra)
  3. Warrior
  4. Smells Like Teen Spirit
  5. Living In Fire
  6. Hush Hush (feat. Kang Daniel)
  7. Youth Of the Nation (feat. Troi Irons)
  8. I Swear
  9. Are You With Me?
  10. Dance With Me
  11. Super Hero
CD
  1. New Gravity
  2. Imaginary (feat. Kimbra)
  3. Warrior
  4. Smells Like Teen Spirit
  5. Living In Fire
  6. Hush Hush (feat. Kang Daniel)
  7. Youth Of the Nation (feat. Troi Irons)
  8. I Swear
  9. Are You With Me?
  10. Dance With Me
  11. Super Hero
DVD
MIYAVI VIRTUAL 2020 vol.1
  1. Intro : The era of "Holy Nights"
  2. From Home to World
  3. The View of Drones
CD
  1. New Gravity
  2. Imaginary (feat. Kimbra)
  3. Warrior
  4. Smells Like Teen Spirit
  5. Living In Fire
  6. Hush Hush (feat. Kang Daniel)
  7. Youth Of the Nation (feat. Troi Irons)
  8. I Swear
  9. Are You With Me?
  10. Dance With Me
  11. Super Hero
DVD
MIYAVI VIRTUAL 2020 vol.2
  1. MIYAVI in VR World
  2. MXRossing Over to 2021
  3. MImaginary Begins
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