Japanese pop cellist and chanteuse Kanon Wakeshima's instore appearance at Amoeba San Francisco was anything but typical. Performing a short set that included a few moments in which she explained her interests in preciously accented English and a dance prelude where she impersonated a mechanical doll come to life, Wakeshima graced the stage, flanked by a enraptured frenzy of devoted admirers, clad in an ensemble that suggested, or rather enhanced, the overall vibe of her music: a black kimono with puffed sleeves (the likes of which Anne "of Green Gables" Shirley would have frothed jealously over) topped with a raised, Elizabethan-esque ruffled collar, detailed at the hem with a volcanic red pattern-play à la Nipponisme. From beneath this romantic, east-meets-west hybrid of a cloak spilled a crimson confection of a cinched waist giving way to flowing skirts trimmed in endless ruffles and princess frills. One could see among the many avid onlooker's faces varied swooning expressions of delight, esteem and joy for miss Wakeshima as she danced, coaxed song after song from her cello-friend and sang enthusiastically from her frame of burnt caramel-colored ringlet curls. It was, in a word, very Disney in feeling, albeit Disney after dark.
Judging by the inspired fashion choices showcased by many of her fans at her instore show, Wakeshima, and her maker --- mysterious and reclusive musician/producer/fashion-designer/rockstar Mana, are lending a rather substantial hand in popularizing the Gothic Lolita fashion movement, a phenomenon that is said to have been started by Mana here in the states. (In fact, last week one of Japan's most famous houses of GothLoli fashions, "Baby, the Stars Shine Bright," opened a flagship store here in San Francisco's Japantown ~sugoi!) Add to that the current trend of Vampire-centric fantasy fictions and the long-standing popularity of anime, in this case a very popular with the ladies anime series entitled Vampire Knight, which features Wakeshima's single "Still Doll" as the closing theme, and voila! You've got yourself a pop culture force to be reckoned with.
But the fascination is more than just skin deep. I spoke with many of her fans before the show, you know, to see what all the fuss was about, and I was amazed to find so many avid young cellists in attendance. Of course, there were more than enough anime fans, otaku types and what-not, but classically trained musicians? Fabulous! Another girl in particular struck a chord with me because she was quietly drawing in her sketchbook while waiting for the show to begin. When I asked her what she likes about Kanon Wakeshima she explained that she loved
and that she felt perfectly content when drawing while listening to her music even though the beauty of it sometimes brings her to tears. She shared with me a peek at some of her drawings and, later on after the show, I spied the same girl shyly presenting one of her special drawings to miss Wakeshima herself: happiness!
I stole a few moments to chat with Miss Wakeshima after her performance and meet-n-greet style signing with her fans. She had changed from her full skirted shiseido-red gown into an adorable jelly bean-print summer dress, looking every bit the lovely young lady she is (I must commend her for her patience and grace for allowing me to put my Japanese communication skills to the test). The following interview was conducted and translated by yours truly:
First of all, your overall appearance is fabulous! Do you design your own clothes?
All of the clothing you see me wearing in my videos and for my live shows are designed by my producer Mana.
Some of your fans wanted to know if there are any stores in which they may buy a dress like yours?
My outfits are all custom made to order and not available for purchase.
You seem to favor wearing red or white clothing for your performances and in your videos, is there a particular meaning to these color choices?
My favorite colors are red, white, gold and silver; therefore, Mana designed specific outfits for me that reflect my color preferences.
If you had to choose between red wine or white wine which would you say is your favorite?
I prefer white wine to red wine, but rosé is my favorite.
Many of your songs incorporate French words into the lyrics, do you speak French?
I always do my best to memorize things to say for the emcee portions of my live show and I remember the French I spoke during the two times I performed in Paris. I pushed myself to learn as much French as possible for the purpose of communicating and being friendly with the local folks and I still remember some of the French I learned from the pocket guide book I brought with me to France.
Do you have a favorite French word?
Hmm...gosh, I guess it would one of the phrases I used a lot while visiting France like il fait froid or il fait chaud. ("It is cold" or "It is hot.")
Why do you use French words in your songs?
From the very first time I heard the songs I got a feeling that France, an image of France, was affixed to the sound. The more I listened to the songs I saw a story inside my head of a girl in love and the lyrics (to "L'espoir") just flowed out of that image and, because the stage my story was set in France, I decided to insert French lyrics.
Some of your songs remind me of fairy tales, which I love, would you count fairy tales a source of inspiration for your creative work?
Oh yes. Since I was a little I loved very much reading Alice in Wonderland, Grimm's and Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tales. I remember thinking, "oh how precious and cute and fancy" they were. I became excessively diverted by the many sides to every story: the twinkling side, the scary side, the preciousness, the little mysteries, the anxiety...I still read them, the fairy stories I've loved since my childhood.
Why the cello?
My parents started me on the cello when I was three --- they made up their minds before I was born that I would be a cellist.
What was the first record you bought with your own money?
Oh, my...what was it? It was surely something classical, something from when I was little. At that time, before I could read music, I used to listen to cello recordings on tape and CD and memorize the sound and play by ear.
What have you been listening to lately?
Lately it's been jazz, jazz piano.
Some of your fans that I spoke with today wanted me to ask you: do you watch Vampire Knight and, if so, who your favorite character?
Yes, I do watch the show and I like Yuki-chan the best!
One last question: In your own words what kind of person would you say Mana is?
I think he is very serious about music and an earnest, industrious musician with very gentlemanly posture who posesses a great deal of musical knowledge. He is a great instructor and I am always learning from him.
missed it? fear not! check out her instore performance below!
and Check out more pics from the instore here!