Under the persona of Miyavi, Takamasa Ishihara just wants to make music, writes Nur Aqidah Azizi
AT the young age of 17, Osaka-born guitarist Takamasa Ishihara, better known as Miyavi, moved to Tokyo with only just a guitar in hand.
His interest in music, which he developed while he was recovering from a football injury, proved fruitful and put his name on the world’s music map.
“I was into sports, especially football, before I tried my hands at music. I injured myself in one of the matches and I spent a lot of time at home to recover. It was then I developed my skill in playing the guitar,” says Miyavi during his visit here recently. “It was the turning point in my life. I have never looked back since,” he said.
Hailed as Guitar Samurai among fans, Miyavi found success as a guitarist with independent rock band Due Le Quarts before pursuing a solo career. Along the way, he joined S.K.I.N, a music group project formed in 2007 by Japanese rock visual kei musicians (visual kei refers to a movement among Japanese musicians, that is characterised by the use of make-up, elaborate hairstyles and flamboyant costumes).
“Those who are familiar with my style know how I present myself on stage. Normally, I wear a lot of make-up, with stylish hairdo and most times, I love to wear a kimono. I love combining traditional and modern Japanese styles when I perform,” said the guitarist, who wears many caps — singer, songwriter, arranger, producer, actor and dancer.
“Miyavi is like a character that blends well with my music. It’s hard to explain my music in words, so when fans see how I present myself, I hope they will get an idea,” he said.
These days, Miyavi prefers to concentrate on his music.
“Previously, I had to make time for my creative team to work on my style. Now, I appear on stage with just a guitar,” he says.
The multi-talented musician has released seven albums so far. The latest, What’s My Name, was released in 2010.
“I like to play all music genres. I don’t set a limit for myself. So in my albums, you will hear all kinds of music — from rock to hip hop and pop to punk. I also love to collaborate with other musicians and singers. It lends diversity to my music and it pumps up my adrenalin,” he said with a smile.
Among his notable collaborations are with Tomoyasu Hotei, Maki Nomiya, Studio Apartment, Yoko Kanno, Anna Tsuchiya and Good Charlotte.
Knowing that his music can entertain and, perhaps, send positive messages to his fans, is another plus for this musician, who is a father to two children.
“During the tsunami tragedy that hit my country, I released a song, Day 1. It’s a story of hope and how I picture my people coming together again. I even performed in Europe to to tell the audience there that my people were doing fine. I wanted to show that we could overcome tough times.”
There is a saying, he said, that encapsulates hope. “If you don’t have the break of day in the morning, how can you enjoy the night? It’s really important to know that there’s hope,” said Miyavi who speaks fluent English with thick American accent, despite having learnt the language only five years ago.
“I knew that if I wanted to promote my music outside Japan. I’ve got to embrace the (English) language. I had to make the effort to learn,” he said, adding that he stayed in Los Angeles for three months to learn English with the help of a friend.
“It was tough. I had to focus on language instead of making music. But it paid off. My English isn’t perfect yet. I’m still learning,” said Miyavi who was amazed to learn that a lot of Malaysians are bilingual.
“I was surprised to listen to a child speaking in English to his parents. And I learnt that a lot of people here speak other languages too.”
Miyavi, who is half Korean on his father’s side, says he has a Korean name, Lee.
On how he stays connected with his fans from all over the world, he said technology helps.
“I’m an avid user of Twitter and Facebook — that’s how I keep my fans updated on my latest development. However, technology too has its downside — the value of music goes down because people can easily download songs from the Internet,” he said. “But, whether you hate it or love it, you have to go with the flow and make the best out of it.”
Miyavi feels he still has a long way to go.
“I don’t think I’m successful enough. To tell you the truth, I don’t know how to define success. I make music for satisfaction. I don’t aim for fame. I just want to make music.”