S.Her father was a longtime music journalist and her mother a musician, so it was only natural that her 10-year-old daughter would fall in love with music. But I never thought that the music that she would like would be enka.
Enka is often considered “traditional” Japanese music. Its early roots lie in his 19th century, with most enka singers wearing traditional kimonos. But modern enka actually emerged in the late 1940s, when Japan was learning Western music from colonized US troops after the war. This so-called ‘traditional’ Japanese genre is heavily influenced by jazz, blues, country and even rock, with intricate guitar his lines fused with string instruments shamisen and koto.
On this bed of incredibly diverse influences, performers sing deeply emotional lyrics based on themes of loss, loneliness, despair, heartbreak, and often celebration and joy. It’s a hodgepodge of music of sorts, too dramatic to be called easy listening. Enka is enka. For Western readers, the most obvious example would be Meiko Kaji. His song The Flower of Carnage dramatically soundtracks the decapitation of his Lucy Liu character O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill Vol 1.
My daughter listens to Enka every day. She’s had a crush on music, from Western artists like Selena Gomez and Abba to the outrageous J-pop virtual boyband Strawberry Prince. Their love has lasted for over a year and has no end in sight. Her favorite singer is Fuyumi Sakamoto. Sakamoto, now in her mid-50s, has been singing for 35 years and she has honed her voice to an incredible sensibility. Fuyumi-chan, as her daughters affectionately call her, can break through her depths of despair or elevate her euphoria, and she always touches the hearts of listeners. Needless to say, her target is not children, but adults who have faced and survived the hardships of her life.
My daughter sings Sakamoto’s songs at karaoke, practices her quirks, and learns facts about her life. , my daughter wrote a gushing letter to give to her idol and received a signed CD in return. Her bedroom walls are covered with enka star posters and magazine clippings. She wants to be an enka singer when she grows up.
How did my daughter get hooked on the style of music that is generally made for older people by older people? We live in Tokyo and my daughter is Japanese. It’s a half. Enka is always mixed in her home stereo, but so are rock, punk, pop and dance. Then, why did enka stick? “I like the lyrics of enka and the way the performers sing,” explains her daughter. She says her enka themes tend to be quite mature, but she can relate to them.
Interestingly, enka seeks ways to connect with younger audiences. Every year on New Year’s Eve in Japan, national broadcaster NHK produces his five-hour live music program on the countdown to midnight called Kouhaku Uta Gassen. The 2022 version was viewed by approximately 20 million households nationwide. The line-up consists primarily of the hits of the year, but is always sprinkled with enka, thus exposing the younger generation to enka whether they like it or not.
And during the pandemic, some enka stars have gone online to reach audiences, as they were suddenly unable to perform in front of large groups. Among them, megastar Sachiko Kobayashi is known for her larger-than-life performances and the extremely eccentric costumes she faces in many of her games. ” and started a new career as a YouTuber. She creates meme-filled videos that she designed to appeal to younger audiences. And it worked, and this high-class star visited McDonald’s, worked part-time at a bakery, and challenged her Mentos cola challenge in a video that exploded with results. Kobayashi’s channel has earned her 165,000 subscribers. .
A few weeks ago, I took my wife and daughter to see top enka singer Sayuri Ishikawa’s 50th anniversary concert. Among the many seniors, the only child is a daughter. But halfway through the concert, Ishikawa surprised us by inviting 46-year-old Japanese rapper Kreva onto the stage to play a few songs with him. Ishikawa, who has previously worked with Kreva alongside tattooed rocker Miyavi, alternative pop icon Ringo Shiina, and former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman, has been skeptical about how enka has adapted to more contemporary forms of music. It was cool to see with my own eyes how it was embraced and adapted to contemporary music. times.
My daughter is starting to influence her classmates to listen to enka, so check out The Guardian readers for Fuyumi Sakamoto, Sayuri Ishikawa, and the undisputed queen of enka, the late Hibari Misora, to discover this most unique Japanese song. “I will listen to enka all my life,” she says, and I believe her.