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Emerging Artists Spotlight: Kishi Bashi

Welcome to Emerging Artists Spotlight, a new Billboard series where we highlight a musician who has recently made his or her debut on the Emerging Artists chart. Whether they are new to the industry, or have been around for a while but are just starting to have a chart impact, the intention is to showcase where they are here and now. This week’s pick is singer/multi-instrumentalist Kishi Bashi who, thanks to the strength of his fourth album Omoiyari, debuted at No. 14 the week of June 15.


While Kishi Bashi is just debuting on the Emerging Artists chart, he is no stranger to the biz. He’s been making music as a solo artist since 2011 as well as playing in other bands like Jupiter One and, for a period of time, of Montreal.

On Omoiyari, which also debuted at No. 39 on Top Album Sales, Kishi Bashi seeks to reckon with the reality that over 120,000 Japanese-Americans were forced from their homes and sent to a prison camp with no trial during World War II. Out of all his excellent releases — 151a (No. 6 on Heatseekers Albums on April 28, 2012), Lighght (No. 53 on Billboard 200 on May 31, 2014), and Sonderlust (No. 153 on Billboard 200 on Oct. 8, 2016) — this one might just be his most important body of work yet.

Earlier this week, he released his animated video for “Violin Tsunami,” a lush arrangement of strings with an equally stunning visual. There’s a heartbreaking undertone to it all, but it’s not angry — it’s lonely and mournful and spiritual, as the self-aware artist ruminates on heritage.

Learn more about Kishi Bashi below.

Age: 43, but you’re only as old as you feel, ya know?

Hometown: I grew up in Norfolk, VA. But I live in Athens, GA, the indie rock capital of the south. 

Recommended Kishi Bashi song: “Violin Tsunami” (below)

Passion outside of work: I’ve started getting into Philosophy. I’m trying to search for a school of thought that relates to this world view that I’ve found myself into lately. I’ve started to think these humanistic abilities to forgive and love and sacrifice could possibly be unique in this universe thus far, and that we should really cherish the ability to be compassionate or selfless. I think music and art are important, because they help us bring out these uniquely humanistic characteristics.

What’s next: My album is phase one of the documentary that I’m making. The film will be out next year, and will be a combination of music, philosophy, and WWII history. 

Past Emerging Artists Spotlights: Tank and the Bangas | Bear's Den | J.S. Ondara | Delain | Mabel | Kiana Lede | I Am They | Charly Bliss

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