Mana and the Rise of Visual Kei

The style of visual kei remains unknown to many western audiences, whose concept of ‘weird’ may not be enough to fully grasp the movement’s appeal. Artistic in nature, its participators are marked by elaborate costumes and make-up, often of an androgynous appearance. Some insist visual kei is strictly a fashion term, but those aware of Japan’s fledging rock scene recognize it as a legitimate sub-genre marked by artists like X Japan, Glay, and Malice Mizer. The latter is arguably the most successful, and fronted by an artist that defines the movement in approach and ability. Malice Mizer’s frontman, Mana, is both a musician and fashion designer; these are two occupations that converge for his final musical product. Malice Mizer are one of few Japanese rock groups, especially of the visual kei niche, to attain a massive following on both sides of the world by infusing visual splendor with hard-rocking arena anthems.

Like many Japanese youths, Mana’s formative music experiences involved classical music. When his teenage rebel spirit kicked in, Mana became infatuated with ‘80s rock like Mötley Crüe, Iron Maiden, and Guns ‘N’ Roses. Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind was the first album Mana bought, and a Mötley Crüe covers band was his first musical project. Some early experience in punk groups helped Mana increase the tonal diversity of his guitar playing, adding more aggression to his already melodic blend of classical, metal, and rock playing. When he founded Mana in April 1992 with guitarist Közi, Mana took a unique approach to the role of frontman; not only was Mana the lead songwriter and guitarist, he was also the band’s choreographer and label founder. His label, Midi:Nette, would go on to serve as an outlet for Malice Mizer releases and other visual-kei groups like the disbanded Schwarz Stein. He also formed a clothing label, Moi-même-Moitié, which is typical of Japan’s absurdly awesome fashion scene. “Elegant Gothic Lolita” and “Elegant Gothic Aristocrat” are the label’s two styles, and both coincide well with what’s expected out of visual kei in a stylistic sense.

Mana writes and produces all his band’s music, and designs their own costumes for dizzying and colorful music videos and live performances. This DIY, independent methodology is another trait of visual kei, whose love for classic rock genres like glam and punk make quality garage and bedroom recordings entirely possible, and actually encouraged. Intricacy and polish are evident with some groups, but it’s not necessary. Style often plays a big role, and there are many high school groups emulating visual kei purely for its fashionable quirks. Still, the music is relevant to most, especially when Mana does his best to make it accessible to all. He is embracing of fans from other countries, opting for open communication rather than the isolationist mentality of many other artists. While many restrict their fan clubs to their country of origin, Mana is one of few artists who has opened it up to everyone. Despite a notorious reputation for shyness, Mana shows no reluctance to get his music and design talents out to the world.

Over time, many visual kei groups tend to separate from their fashionable idiosyncrasies, as many visual kei bands simply use the costumes as an initial method to gain steam. Mana is so important to the visual kei movement due to his commitment to the craft. Even as Malice Mizer departs from the radical colorings of early costumes, their fashionable tendencies remain just as strong as their musical repertoire, still steeped in aspects of glam, punk, and hard-rock that make it a hard-rocking jolt of fun. While western audiences are more receptive to boy bands and American Idol, fans of music willing to step outside their comfort zone should take a look at visual kei, and Mana specifically. He represents something truly unique out of Japan, a country noted for its innovation – and it certainly is stressed here.

Mana Heads Out on US Tour this Spring

Mexican rock band Mana will hit the road this spring for a U.S. leg of the highly popular Drama y Luz tour it began last year. The band will start out with four dates in four Texas cities, and then will hit various American cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver and Miami. The 17-date leg of the tour will begin in Hidalgo, Texas on April 3 and continue through May 11, when the group performs at the American Airlines Arena in Miami. The tour includes an April 10 gig at Madison Square Gardens in New York.

The Grammy winning band is supporting Drama y Luz, its eighth studio album with the tour that began in June of last year. The album was released in April of 2011 and hit number one on the charts in Spain and Mexico. In the U.S., the album debuted at number five on the Billboard 200 albums charts, and peaked at the number one spot on both the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart and the Billboard Latin Pop Albums chart. Drama y Luz has won two Latin Grammy awards already (Best Rock Album and Best Engineered Album), and is nominated for a 2012 Grammy award for Best Latin Pop, Rock or Urban Album.

The band formed in 1978 under the name Sombrero Verde, and released its first album under the name Mana in 1987. The U.S. leg of the Drama y Luz tour will be the sixth leg of the tour, and is the final announced leg to date, though the band is scheduled to play the Rock in Rio Madrid festival in June of this year. Before the U.S. leg gets underway, the band will play six dates in South America that span from late February to early March, before heading north to Texas.

Mana’s 2011 Summer Tour Dates Released

Mana, the popular Mexican Rock band, has released its reunion tour dates for 2011. Mana has not performed for many years but is going to hold concerts in several cities all over the United States. The first concert will be on June 16 in San Juan, Puerto Rico at Coliseo de Puerto Rico. Tickets will be available for this concert beginning on April 29.

The entire tour has not yet been verified; however, there are concerts scheduled for Texas, California and Florida.

Mana is extremely popular, which makes this tour one of the most exciting musical events in 2011. Mana is promoting its reunion album entitled “Drama Y Luz,” which has been a huge hit in both the United States and Latin America.

In addition to the concert in Puerto Rico, Mana will perform on June 23, 24, 25, and 26 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA; June 29 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX; June 30 at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, TX; July 2 at the Toyota Center in Houston, TX; July 7 at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, FL; July 9 at the Amway Arena in Orlando, FL; July 10 at the Gwinnett Arena in Atlanta, GA; July 14 at the Patriot Center in Washington, D.C. and July 16 at the Prudential Center in New York, NY.