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  • Shona McCarthy

Vogli Bonze 河井光輝 : Touring Australia Now

Updated: Apr 29, 2020


One afternoon, between classes, I was walking along Melbourne's Swanston Street, when I heard a distinctive sound not far from State Library. A kind of thumping, growling baritone voice, and a deep, rhythmic guitar. I followed the sound. And there stood a slight figure performing this almost surreal and supernatural music. He wore a yukata of white, purple and teal with black lines in an almost Mondrian arrangement. On his head was a basket shaped like a lantern. I was astonished. It seemed to me that a yokai had not only stepped into reality; he was busking in Melbourne's CBD! I needed to hurry to my next class, so I took some footage of his performance and then I left, determined that I would one day buy one of his CDs. The man I'd seen was Mitsuteru Kawai. Under his stage persona, Vogli Bonze he tours around New York, Sydney, Melbourne and now Adelaide busking and sometimes performing inside various establishments. He describes his own style as Monk Punk, or Buddhist Punk.


But to my dismay, when I looked online there was nowhere I could buy any of his music. He is an undiscovered and criminally underrated musician. So, you won't find him on Spotify, or Amazon, Youtube Music, or Google Music. He really deserves more attention than he gets.


I carefully watched his Facebook account, so that when he returned to Melbourne, I could track him down. The year passed fairly quickly, as I wandered around online looking for information about him.


I found that he had a Youtube channel. You can see it for yourself HERE. Oddly, however, I found that the best videos that can be seen of him can be found on other people's channels. Here is what I think is the best video of his work:

(Video taken by Sue Theron, 2017.) But his greatest power is in seeing his live performances. I can't understand the things he says, so I couldn't verify what is happening. But it seems as though he tells a story and announces what the is doing when he performs live. He sells CDs as he busks. He often collaborates with other performers.

His knowledge of early punk music is remarkable. He reveals it in an interview he did with Asian Pop Radio.

(Video taken by Asian Pop Radio, 2018.)

But for me, the most significant thing about his performances is his presence. When I say this, I mean that when I listen to most performers, I don't feel as though they are really paying attention to what they're doing. I feel as though they are performing something by rote. Or they are acting, but you can tell they're acting. But when Vogli Bonze aka Mitsuteru Kawai performs, I feel as though 100% of him is there. He doesn't want to be anywhere else. He doesn't want to be anyone else.


In his music, I hear a kind of strange, insane joy. I get the feeling that he loves what he does. People might expect punk music to be negative, even demonic. But when I listen to his music, I feel more motivated. His music is so alive with frenetic energy that one is likewise enlivened and energized as they listen to it. So, if you can track him down when he's in your city, or when you are in Japan, I recommend it. At least half the year, he does shows in Osaka, Kyoto and Nagoya. I've attempted to visit one of his performances before, an experience worth writing about unto itself. Multiple times, I've had the opportunity to meet him in person, and to hang out with he is a delight. Funny, friendly, and it's interesting to watch him talk to other Japanese people. In the little I do understand, it seems as though he has accrued a lot of interesting knowledge in his travels. He is very perceptive, and he gives a lot of thought to the experience of music. His English is limited, but he doesn't fear using contemporary technology to communicate. I now own all of his albums. Again, this is an experience I can recommend. I've ripped one of them so that I can listen to the mp3s in my phone. I listen to them whenever I want to feel more vital.


If you would like to keep track of Vogli Bonze's movements, he is very active on his social media accounts, which you can find through his website, voglibonze.com/.

Vogli Bonze often performs wearing yukata. I sell some from my online store:

If you do decide to go to Japan, or really anywhere, I recommend using Klook to find amazing local experiences. It really enhances my trip every time I go. If you book through the link below it'll help me out, too.


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