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"Yaneka, The Roadhouse, London, 12 June 2006"

Imagine: you're former members of World Defense Lovers, an Osaka-based indie band that was so popular in your home city that fans were in tears at your farewell gig; you've created a new band and started making lush guitar music; you played a few gigs in London last winter and have just returned from Japan on a flying visit to perform in a couple of potentially key showcases.

But your first gig is on one of the hottest days of the year and the underground, window-free venue of Covent Garden's Roadhouse is not, it turns out, hosting a showcase in the traditional sense. Instead, it's open mike night, where wannabe Jack Johnsons and KT Tunstalls are playing just one or two of their own compositions. More alarmingly, about a dozen TV screens, including two the size of small houses, are showing the World Cup match between Italy and Ghana.

This isn't what Japanese brother-and-sister duo Yaneka expected at all.

Yui and Chiyako Maeda are, however, afforded an extra ten minutes on stage to compensate for the misunderstanding. Thankfully they don't appear distracted during their performance-not even when all the Italians in the bar cheer their country's second goal right in the middle of one of the band's songs.

The siblings have previous experience in different classical groups, Chiyako as a soprano singer and Yui having formed a string quartet. In addition, Chiyako trained in nagauta, a male-oriented musical style that's been used in traditional Japanese theatre and dancing for almost 300 years, and Yui studied rock music at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, which was co-founded by Paul McCartney in the old grammar school he and George Harrison went to in the 1950s. Going to LIPA was a great experience, he tells me."I learned that, with music, you shouldn't have to think; you just feel it. It didn't matter that I couldn't speak English if I had my guitar."

While the pair list Bjork, Massive Attack, Imogen Heap, DJ Krush and Debussy ~ yes, French composer Debussy among their influences, The Beatles were Yui's heroes as a youngster. "My father loved them so much," he says."I used to listen to their tunes in his car all the time." It's difficult to imagine my musical life without them."

Mesmerising folk

Yaneka's rock and classical leanings collide into a mesmerising and occasionally gothic folk sound, a little like shaggy-haired 80s band All About Eve collaborating with Siouxsie And The Banshees. 'Yaneka' one of Yui and Chiyako's ancestral family names couldn't be further from the bubblegum pop that springs to mind when you think of contemporary Japanese music.

"Most of the guys who work in the music scene in Japan don't care about music," says Yui."They care about business more than spiritual things. That's why music from Japan is not heard all over the world. But Japanese musicians are not like that. We have lots of Japanese identity. We respect European music and take inspiration from it, but we make our own sound. It goes through our blood."

And true enough, Yaneka don't really sound like many bands you'll have come across before. Chiyako's striking high-octave vocals blend perfectly with Yui's delicate guitar melodies. They are temporarily enhanced tonight with the electric guitar skills of friend Yoshiaki Kitamura from Japanese indie outfit Monocism, a band also worthy of some investigation. On stage, Yui proves you don?ft need a drummer to get a beat. He uses looping trickery for percussion, tapping out a bar on the frame of his guitar, which is recorded live and repeated throughout the song.

Asked what inspires Yaneka's songs, Chiyako states simply, "People needing other people's love." Considering English is not their first language, their lyrics are impressively clear and introspective. "I have no direction, west, east, south, north, all I see is sky on my head," Chiyako pines cryptically on That Day, before adding, "I believe there's a place that will fit over the mountain's edge." At times, she sounds like a tremoring Bic Runga. In her most passionate and intense moments, she's a match for Dolores O'Riordan.

Other songs are in their native tongue. Kesala begins with a ghostly hum and the sound of a needle scratching over a record. If you woke up to it in the middle of the night, you'd be terrified. Chiyako moans lowly over the intro, before the song launches into a mildly Eastern European, almost Indian, strain of melody and rhythm. It's their best song.

They close their 'showcase' with Asuka, on which Yui plucks raindrops from his guitar, while his sister warbles gracefully in Japanese. It ends with Chiyako murmuring one line over and over before letting out an incredible banshee-like wail over the light sound of knocking. It's a little mournful, but delightfully so.

Despite most of the audience's attention being on the dying minutes of Italy's victory, Yaneka are, deservedly, applauded off stage as they hand the floor over to a whiny-voiced girl who wouldn't get past the auditions round of Pop Idol.

It's not quite how the Maedas imagined the start of their promotional week in London. Yui says the various offstage distractions made this one of the band's worst ever gigs. He really shouldn't worry. If what he says is true, you'd be very fortunate indeed to catch them on what they'd consider a good day. 7/10 Rob Jones - opentomusic.co.uk

"Demo Review / Yaneka"

What to say about Yaneka? Well, strangely, I first had the pleasure of meeting the pair at an open mic night in Soho's Spice Of Life. I say strangely because you very rarely get to see acts of this quality at open mics. That may sound like a sweeping statement, and I guess it is, but there you have it.
Anyway, I digress. Live, this band are certainly very impressive. Apparently inspired by, particularly, Japanese folk music, and comprising of Yui (guitar) and Chiyako Maeda (vocals), the pair are a brother-and-sister duo (don't panic !they're actually very good) hailing from Osaka, which presumably means that as soon as they're famous they'll announce to an unsuspecting public that they were once married but have now divorced; or something similarly implausible and to the same effect. They're apparently formerly members of World Defense Lovers, which I have to concede means nothing to me, but were apparently quite popular in Japan. And if they sounded anything like this pair it's easy to see why.
Live, Yui opts for the increasingly popular trick of playing a number of guitar parts and looping them over the top of each other (a la KT Tunstall ?but, again, don't panic, they don't sound like KT Tunstall) but with considerably more eLlan and subtlety than you would usually expect. This, in it's turn, is more than admirably supported by the beautiful voice of Chiyako. It's a very simple trick in its way, but no less effective for that: I was fortunate enough to see them in that delightful West London toilet (for once not quite metaphorical) Gingliks a couple of months back, and that they had the audience eating out of the palms of their hands. It may help that they have a charmingly basic grasp of the English at the moment, leading to some amusing asides between songs, but that was by no means the main reason.
Anyway, I really should get onto the CD, shouldn't I? Ah, how annoying is that! Sorry, I'm listening to the CD as I type, and the track listing is on the CD so I've got to take it out to see what I'm writing about. Nevermind. But future submitters please note!
Okay, track one, Asuka, starts off nicely with a few simply harmonics, slowly building from their into a delicately texture soundscape, before Chiyako's intriguing voice is introduced. It continues in much this vain, progressively building and becoming more intense. This being in Japanese, this is about all I can offer to be honest, not having a clue what they're actually singing about. While being quite a beguiling sound, it's interesting that the pair are obviously highly conscience of melody: the song kind of ebbs and flows, but always manages to engage and maintain a focus.
Hmmn, not quite so keen on track two That Day, and I can't really put my finger on why. There's certainly nothing intrinsically wrong with it (its stylistically similar to Asuka), but for some reason I find it less engaging. That said, the vocals towards the end are quite spectacular. Interestingly too, this was one of the few, in fact the only, song they played live that didn't capture me live, so it's an intriguing choice for a three-track demo. A matter of opinion, perhaps.
Ah, and track three, Kesala. Man, oh, man, I love this song. The song opens with some kind of ghostly interference, followed by the beautiful opening lines (I hope they aren't singing about beans on toast or something) which I can only, and very inadequately, describe as a very unique style of singing (Chiyako is apparently classically trained so this may not be so unusual to a Japanese ear). The song then builds into a beguiling crescendo, and ultimately, sounds very unlike much else I've heard around at the moment.
This music is certainly very difficult to describe, as you'll have probably gathered from my above ramblings, but luckily for you, the final track Kesala will be included on the forthcoming Nabouchaka Sample CD. So, if you weren't going to get one (why not), here alone is another very good reason.
Yaneka can be contacted at HYPERLINK "mailto:yanekamusic@hotamil.com" yanekamusic@hotamil.com

by Phil Dodd - nabouchaka.com


Both are ex-members of the band 'World Defense Lovers' which reached number 2 in the Japanese indies charts with their independent debut album '7 musics 7 lyrics' in 2004.

Yaneka debut album 'Roots' due to be released independently March 2007.

Yaneka have their own weekly radio show 'Open Mic' on FM Cocolo~one of Osaka's biggest radio stations (www.netribe.net/thursday) where they play live and aim to promote unsigned bands and solo artists from around the World to Japanese listeners.
You can also listen to tracks at www.myspace.com/yaneka



Yaneka was formed in February 2005 and is Yuichiro and Chiyako Maeda, a brother and sister duo from Japan.

They are based in the UK and Japan and their songs are in English, Japanese and 'Yaneka language'.

Yaneka comes from the Japanese meaning 'Happy Home Roots'. They took this name as an ode to their grandfather's company. Yuichiro is the only male in his family to have not carried on the tradition of his family trade=building Buddhist temple and shrine roofs. A tradition which has been in the Maeda family for 17 generations.

Yuichiro :attended Paul McCartney's LIPA (Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts) to learn music at age 16.
He enjoys composing classical music and his strengths lie in his multi-talented abilities to play numerous instruments live, whilst simultaneously looping and sampling to build an ambient sound...he's a real one-man orchestra!

Chiyako: from a young age learned 'Naga-uta' a traditional form of Japanese singing that uses special vibrato and vocal gymnastics. Thus although small in stature, Chiyako has amazing power and control of her voice ;her vocal range is breathtaking and she enjoys using her voice to create interesting rhythms and sounds apart from just melody. Amongst many, she lists world music as her main influence, especially little known tribal and folk music.

Yaneka's dream is to break onto to the world music scene and perform at festivals all over the World. They want to promote Japanese music and culture to everyone. They also want to educate their own Japanese listeners through music, about countries outside Japan. Hence they have written a song entitled 'Somalia' (will be on thier debut album 'Roots')about the daily suffering endured by Somalians-unfortunately a fact little is known about in Japan.

Yaneka is foremost a live band and if only listened to online, their tracks do not do justice to their live performances which are a must to be seen... full of energy and passion!You cannot help but leave their gigs feeling moved and wanting more...