These are the 3 up-and-coming Japanese artistes you need to know: Rina Sawayama, Chai and Elle Teresa

These are the 3 up-and-coming Japanese artistes you need to know: Rina Sawayama, Chai and Elle Teresa

Jap invasion

Text: Aravin Sandran

Rina Sawayama

Background: The Japanese-born, London-based singer-songwriter first jumped onto the scene back in 2013 with a black-and-white moody MV for "Sleeping for Waking". Since then, she's gone from strength to strength, releasing pop-inflected single ("Tunnel Vision" in 2015) after single ("Where U Are" in 2016) and collecting shimmering reviews along the way. She dropped her debut album Rina independently as an unsigned artist in 2017. Today, she's managed and signed to a number of artiste agencies including modelling agency Elite Model Management and London-based music management consultancy House of Us. Besides her flair for aesthetically exciting MVs, she has collaborated with super stylist Nicola Formichetti and starred in a Versus campaign.

Latest single: Sawayama's music might seem all style and no substance, but with "Cherry", she turns a little more confessional and comes out as pansexual. The track and accompanying MV was a win all-around for representation with queer all-male dancers, feathery headgear and the throbbing nostalgia and vulnerability of underage sexuality.

Hottest lyrics: "Down the subway, you looked my way/ With your girl gaze, with your girl gaze/ That was the day everything changed/Couldn't stay the same"

What the Internet is saying: "My wig is on milk cartons at this point."


Background: Self-described as "neo-kawaii", the adorable quartet Chai is looking to liberate the standards of female beauty in Japan through their noisy, punkish ways. Meet Mana, Kana, Yuki and Yuna, who met during their high school's music program and at college in Nagoya. Since convening as a band in 2016 and moving to Tokyo, the girls have rocked out at SXSW in Texas and went on a mini tour around several major American states including New York City and Los Angeles. If their music seems a little hard on the ears, their kitschy and self-choreographed routines are definitely worth the watch. Brace yourself for a cotton candy millennial-pink filtered girly universe.

Latest single: "Great Job" is all about dismantling the patriarchy and the old-dated notion of a woman's domesticity. Announcing "Get Power, Feeling Fresh" in English, the MV casts the band as overall-wearing workers on a psychedelic trip complete with tacky hip thrusts and accompanying Marie Kondo-wannabe dancers.

What the Internet is saying: "An anthem for self-love because people who can love themselves can love others."

Elle Teresa

Background: Elle Teresa is gangsta with a capital 'G'. The 22-year-old rapper, who hails from the Shizuoka Prefecture, got her start in the game when she was enlisted as a dancer on local rapper Yuskey Carter's MV. She was spotted spitting beats on set, and after some encouragement from Carter, she began writing her own lyrics and releasing her very own tracks. Teresa's debut album KAWAII BUBBLY LOVELY dropped in 2018.

Latest single: "Kira Kira" is an after-dark technicolour romp through Tokyo that sizzles with more style than your average stateside rapper. While it's all aesthetically popping, Teresa's lyrically fierce AF.

Hottest lyrics: "More money, more boys, more ice/I'm a sassy bitch, yea you're jealous"

What the Internet is saying: "I don't even understand Japanese but I fw this song."