A Cappella in the Land of the Rising Sun

We’ve always been talking about the likes of Rajaton, The Real Group, Pentatonix (and we’ll hear screams), not forgetting the rare-heard of Musae, Postyr and other longstanding groups like The Housejacks and Rockapella that when Japan is mentioned, some people’s mind comes to a void.

Let us demystify the fog and share some Japanese groups today. With me, besides the team is also Derrick Kam, leader of Acappuccino to share his little $0.02 on the groups the team came up with.

Everybody who has done A Cappella proper knows Try-Tone – an all time favourite for feel-good A Cappella that is bright and cheerful, especially for me.

Try-Tone has inspired many people, and their originals, as well as arrangements, are considered standards by local groups wanting to venture into the pop-jazz, as well as Asian genre.

Other popular household names in the Japanese industry that started out as an A Cappella group includes RAG-FAIR and Gospellers.

But beyond Try-Tone, who are the Japanese stars (rising or current) of A cappella? TVB searches out and we list 5 Japanese groups on YouTube that has hit us as a must-listen for the occasional Japanese vocal treat.

Just a few years back, Pylon‘s cover of Takuda Lullaby was featured as the only contribution from a Japanese group on the Vocal Asia collective VOICES OF ASIA. Since 1999, Pylon’s core stands as two members and they often perform with two others

What I love about Pylon:

Derek: The arrangement is very full, despite even only having four members – showcasing an effectiveness and strong performanceship by each vocalist to give to the performance. Refreshing always to hear such chemistry and it certainly helps that in the other performance (Take A Chance), they were well co-ordinated.

Derrick: Full indeed, I love how it is skillfully arranged and executed. You know I’m a sucker for such groups who make things work out in their own way. In particular, I love how the percussion was done tastefully in Takuda Lullaby – which was my first hearing for Pylon.

During the research process for this article, the team and I chanced upon a few Japanese groups that really sets itself apart – firstly they’re all-female groups. Secondly , they are very different in nature.

Hailing from Kobe (Japan), the first group is Takarabune, named after the prized treasure ship that sails into Japan for the New Year, are regulars (like most professional A Cappella groups in Japan) at CASHBOX. They’re also the Jazz category winners at the 2009 Vokal.Total competition

What I love about Takarabune:

Derek: Love the sound, but I’m not used to an all-female jazz group. Also, is Spain even a jazz piece? I’m so sorry for my ignorance, but I’m sure digging the female vocal bass and the percussions groove. How did they do it in gowns and possibly heels?! Solo is a rocker as well!

Derrick: *growls* BAAAASSSSS. In those shimmery dresses, I’m stunned by how classy it looks and sound. Mean solo, but maybe I prefer their arrangement of Cole Porter’s Night and Day (also on YouTube) where the group looked more comfortable.

Next group we’re featuring is another versatile all-female group, Queen’s Tears Honey! The group is still highly active, being featured at the upcoming Abeno Tennoji A Cappella Festival in Kobe, Japan this October 3-4!

What I love about Queen’s Tears Honey:

Derek: (Wasn’t available by publishing time for his input)

Derrick: I’ve heard of Queen’s Tears Honey – unique name, and they’re very fired up onstage. They’re capable of showcasing their sassiness without overwhelming the song. The video definitely didn’t do them justice, and I’m very sure these girls are the badasses of the all-female A Cappella community compared to Takarabune.

After two very unique all-female teams, we present Be In Voices, last seen by us at the Gala Concert for the 2014 Vocal Asia Festival in Gwangju. Occasionally performing as a jazz vocal quartet with instruments, the group has certainly the chops to be compared to The New York Voices, or Manhattan Transfer in Japan.

What I love about Be in Voices:

Derek: Contemporary, Jazz – I don’t know how else but to say that Moon River is always a standard and that the group has taken effort to present their best side with this arrangement.

Derrick: Love the layering effects in the arrangement – I though they’re pretty suave, old school with that modern take with the vocal percussions really grooving while the other parts sits together on top. Wished I could have watched them live.

For our last group, let’s head into the funk genre with this cover of a funk medley by INSPi and Japanese beatboxer Daichi.

What I love about INSPi:

Derek: (Wasn’t available by publishing time for his input)

Derrick: WOW. No Japanese group can surprise me, not that they can’t, but this collaboration is wicked. Also they sound great live, check out their cover of Casablanca Dundee (the one at the radio station).

To also note, Singapore has hosted Permanent Fish, a very sauve all-men’s group who were aunty killers at their concert. The video is a very recent video of them live – and sounding great.

What we hope to see soon, besides through us, is for the local community to expand out of just the usual TRY-TONE, Gospeller or Rag Fair material and also take a leaf from some of these groups to build upon their own exposure.

To send you off, this is a classic Chinese song covered by Takarabune at the 2008 Taiwan Contemporary A Cappella Festival – a true testament that music isn’t bound by language, and the voice is even more boundless. Do tell us if you have other Japanese groups you want us to feature in TVB!


TRY-TONE (a quartet now), INSPi, Be in Voices, Queen’s Tears Honey and Permanent Fish will be performing as part of the Abeno Tennoji A Cappella Festival. More information and alongside line up with other Japanese teams are available at http://www.fantasia-kobe.jp/af2015p/.


DCDerek CHOW hopes to delve into the A Cappella and unravel more than just the singing, but the personalities. The Communications major is the current Chief Editor and hopes to bring light into the Singapore A Cappella community for the public.

Derrick Kam

Derrick KAM is the leader of Acappuccino, a pop-jazz team formed together with a group of friends. By day a Choir instructor and by night an avid A Cappella enthusiast, Derrick hopes to spread Singing into the masses with his work.

TVB encourages the contributions of ad hoc writers who objectively can present themselves with the goal of promoting the Singapore and/or international A Cappella community at large. Do contact us at voicebox.sg@gmail.com to let your voice be heard!

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