© KUNI-KEN. All rights reserved.


Originating from Yokkaichi, of which they have become sightseeing ambassaodors for, KUNI-KEN is a project by two brothers Kuniaki and Kenji. Starting in 2002, the brothers have brought their blend of shamisen and rock around the world for the last 15 years! Releasing their music via their own independent label, MK Strings, they have released 3 albums and 5 mini-albums at the time of writing. What is even more impressive is a few of their songs have been used in commercials! As already mentioned, they have toured the world with their music, and you can catch them this summer at Hyper Japan – Summer 2019, where they will be doing meet and greets after their sets! They are also doing a charity show in Guildford on the 13 July with some other artists [Click here for details].


Very much like the previously featured ROA, KUNI-KEN blend together shamisen and rock music for their sound. The main difference between the two is that KUNI-KEN place a lot more emphasis on the shamisen, making that the centre of the track. Indeed, there will be backing instruments like drums, bass and guitars but they aren’t very prominent, acting on a purely rhythm basis. Even when a synth is brought in, it’s only to build on the rhythm to make it stronger and increase the intensity of the track. In a similar vein, vocals are sporadically used, but even then it still doesn’t feel like the focus. For me, the fact KUNI-KEN spotlight the shamisen is what makes them truly special.

Both brothers are truly talented shamisen players, drawing on classical enka styles and bringing them to a more rock sound. Where songs vary from slow and emotional, to fast and intense, for me they truly shine in the latter. Of course my personal taste falls more in this setting, but with the rock backing, it works a lot more. Having the fast shamisen melodies with a background rock sound just has an incredible vibe to it, and is something I really want to experience live. I say this, but when you want to listen to some more calm music, the emotive slower pieces do have a calming effect. Although, this range does showcase their talents, and it is no wonder they have been going strong for all these years!

My Top 5 Hits



  1. Zero To One
  2. All Out

  4. Miyabism
  5. カミガカリ


Their latest album Fifteen is available digitally in the UK, hopefully with physical copies available at Hyper Japan.

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