He Said She Said -The A to Z of Japanese Music ~ A ! ! !

letter a cover

A Is for . . . . Lots of Good Music ! ! !

faye valWelcome our new project ! ! !  We have been thinking about how we can give our Spiller friends a  taste of the variety of music that there is in Japan and we thought about this idea.   Each week we will use a different letter and include bands, tracks or genres that start with that letter.  That way we hope to share with you a wide variety of pop, rock, punk, indie, alternative and anything else we can think about ! ! !  Maybe you will not like all the tracks, but we  hope you enjoy most and that you enjoy our new series ! ! !

2024611-spike_spiegel_by_desertora001Welcome to “Project A-Z” in which Sakura and I hope to  explore the dark nooks and crannies of Japanese music and, with luck, provide some interesting and entertaining tit-bits of information. I shall be focusing on “Word of the week”, being keen on education and stuff, and will be teaching a Japanese word with each post. We hope you enjoy the ride. Fasten your seat belts please….

Faye 5She Says : A is for  – Angura-kei

Angura-kei is a genre of music and fashion in Japan.  It is derived from the English word Underground and Kei means style, so Angura-kei would be underground style in English.  It is actually one of the oldest and longest lived genres in Japanese modern music.

Angura-Kei Started in the 1970 decade and early artists in the genre include Jun Togawa and the Yapoos who included significant aspects of

angura-kei fashion

Angura-kei fashion

performance art in their performances.  Angura-Kei was the foundation of Visual Kei which we will talk about another week.  Musically Visual Kei is more rock and dramatic fashions and cross dressing, perhaps more like western glam rock.  However both Visual Kei and Angura-Kei are closely associated with fashion and so some bands who use the Angura-Kei fashions of traditional kimonos and somber dress like to use Angura-Kei to describe themselves.

Musically the genre is electronic and sometimes experimental.  The band Katra Turana for example is very influenced by Bulgarian folk music and other bands like Geinou Yamashirogumi ( 芸能山城組 ) use traditional instruments and drums in addition to electronic music.

The track I have chosen is Umami by Mindsoup.  Mindsoup are an electronica and live improvisation group that has a really nice chill out vibe.  Maybe they are more mainstream than some of the other bands.

So kick back and chill out to the sound of the Tokyo Underground ! ! !

Mindsoup – Umami

spike 3He says:  

A new “genre” on me ! I suppose you have to chill out sometimes even in Tokyo ! The track has a nice , relaxed vibe and I can imagine it being played in a club in an attempt to calm down the over excited revelers ( kids today !) .

spike 2He says:  A is for Ai Otsuka


Ai Otsuka

Ai Otsuka – I have chosen this track for two reasons, firstly because I like it a lot, it’s rather silly and fun, but also because it introduces our first “Word of the Week” which is “Ai”.

Ai Otsuka has been around for ages, having begun playing piano at 4. Until recently all of her albums were called “Love” something ( Love Cook, Love Jam etc), a play on her name, I assume.
Her more recent work with a band, Rabbit, is more “rock” orientated than her older stuff. This track is from Love Cook , rather appropriately, and features cameos from many Japanese foodstuffs.

P  Sensei’s Word Of The Week – Ai   –  愛 

Ai, in Japanese, means “Love” ! What a great word to start with, Love. Everyone love’s love, don’t they ?  So remember “Ai” means love and that’s what makes the world go round.

Ai Otsuka –  Ramen 3 Pun Kukkingu ( Ramen 3 Minutes Cooking )

Faye 5She says:

Ai Otsuka is from Osaka which is like Liverpool in the UK in many ways. It is a port city and quite poor in some parts, but it is famous for producing entertainers and the people are famous for their sense of humor.  Ai Otsuka qualified as a nursery teacher and worked in a nursery until she debuted in the music industry in 2003.  In 2010 she left the music industry temporarily when she became pregnant so she could spend time with her newborn baby and husband.

Last year she returned to the music industry both as a solo artist and as the vocalist in a side project band called Rabbit and has been very busy ! ! !  She toured both as a soloist and with Rabbit and released records both with Rabbit and as a soloist

I love this track and it is typical of her more upbeat and eccentric pop style tracks.

faye - 2She Says: A is for Amuro Namie 

Amuro Namie is one of the most popular singers in Japan.  She has had a career that has lasted more than 20 years and sold more than 30 million albums.

The Okinawan wonder woman graduated from the Okinawa Actors school at 14 years old and joined the idol band Super Monkeys.  She began a solo career three years later.  She had good success as a solo artist but retired when she married and had her child.an

Unfortunately a tragedy happened, her mother was murdered in a brutal attack on both her and her step father by a step uncle, and although her step father survived, he committed suicide soon after.  She also divorced from her husband at this time and so found herself, alone with a baby and no family to support her.   Dispute these terrible events,  with typical determination  she overcame the personal tragedy, and prejudice against single mothers,  and the music industry fear of any scandal, to built a wonderful career second time around and I actually prefer her RnB tracks of the second phase in her career  to the typical pop songs she did before.

Amuro Namie is a true fashion icon in Japan and girls everywhere copy her style and she has several promotion deals with fashion labels and cosmetics companies.

She is a true role model for girls and one of my personal heroes. She is hardworking as a career woman, strong and independent,  but also feminine and sexy, and a dedicated mother and a generous donor to many different charitable organizations.

After 22 years in the music business she is as active as always and shows no sign of slowing down or loosing popularity.  She is an incredibly charismatic live performer and her concerts are simply electric ! ! !  She really is a star ! ! !  Musically she is firmly in the commercial RnB and Hip Hop zone and if you like that style I am sure you will love Amuro Namie ! ! !

Amuro Namie – Want Me Waant Me

spike 3He says:

This is where Sakura’s local knowledge comes into play. I knew Amuro Namie, of course, she’s a big star in Japan and Asia, but didn’t know the tragic history. There are a lot of Japanese ladies making great music and, I think, it’s a tough business but Ms Namie is, surely, the Queen of the crop. Not, you might think, my usual kind of music but I can’t help but admire and like her stuff. A consummate professional !

spike 5He Says: A is for Aunt Sally

Phew From Aunt Sally

Phew From Aunt Sally

It’s the late 70s and Japanese artists have taken to “punk” and it’s allied sounds like ducks to water. Thus an explosion of punk and post punk bands, often, as in the rest of the world, of brief life span, broke out all over the country.
Aunt Sally made just one LP ( released in 1979) though “Phew” went on to work with some “famous” European bands ( DAF, Einstürzende Neubauten), This is a great gibbering punk number, typical of it’s time, perhaps.

Aunt Sally – Subete Urimono

faye-5She Says:

I do not know so much about the band Aunt Sally as they only made one record, but it was a great record ! ! !  It was an exciting time in the Japanese music scene and there was a lot of experimentation and energy.  In some ways Phew became a role model for many of the female lead rock bands that have followed.  She has been rather quite lately but in 2010 she released a truly wonderful album called Five Finger Discount which was actually classified as one of the top 50 albums of the year in 2010 by British magazine The Wire, so it must have had a UK release also.  Maybe you can check it out ? ? ?

~ ♥  ~ ♪ ~  ♫ ~  ♪ ~  ♥ ~

Cowboy-Bebop-cowboy-bebop-532536_300_431He  Says:

So there is our first effort ! We hope you enjoyed it and found something interesting to listen to. Next we will be looking at the letter “B” and all that kind of thing.

She Says:

We hope you have enjoyed the first episode of our new project ! ! !  It was fun making it and we hope you have found it interesting and that you liked some of the tracks.  Next week . . . The letter B ! ! !

19 thoughts on “He Said She Said -The A to Z of Japanese Music ~ A ! ! !

  1. Still no comments for Sakura !
    We can’t have that.
    Good work, Sakura ( and friend), another informative and interesting post with great music.

  2. Ai Ai what have we got here? The debut of another wonderful series no less. I love the imagination behind it, the background info on the artists you’ve chosen to highlight, and the word selection. Ai is a generous beginning.
    I enjoyed the variation of genres and vocals. From the photo included, Angura Kei fashion appears to be delicate, fresh, and with hints of underlying drama. It’s nicely matched by Mindsoup’s Umami, which evokes a rich, chilled, consommé.
    The quirkiness of Ai Otsuka appeals and although Amuro Namie’s song doesn’t play to my natural tastes she delivers it with a stylish moody maturity. I’ve tried and tried with Punk but I just can’t make it work for me. Hearing it in Japanese is an improvement , but sadly not enough of one to spark enthusiasm. Aunt Sally (great name! beautiful face!) will have to remain a puzzling relative with a lovely yen for fabulous berets. She wears it well. Many thanks to both of you ! lr*
    *PS. Pairubu, you seem to be un homme de goût and I believe a Punk enthusiast. What is it about Punk music that gets your juices flowing?

    • Well, mysterious stranger, I was attracted to punk in the 70s because it offered an alternative to the stodgy rock of the time which was dominated by complacent, wealthy and label friendly bands and individuals.
      Punk, in it’s pure form, was , literally, the sound of the unwashed suburban ( usually) kids fighting back, in the way teenagers are supposed to do, against the constraints of the growed-ups.
      Of course there was an element of phoniness about it all but, at the time, it was truly world changing. “We” faced hostility on the streets and in the papers and, like you, people didn’t understand the music. That’s because there was nothing to understand ( and not a lot of “music” either). It wasn’t about the sounds made, it was about the expression, just the fact that you ( or I) COULD do it. That the stage was our playground as much as it was Rod Stewart’s or the Rolling Stoneses.

      Hence I have a rather misty eared taste for people who are “doing by themselves” ( and, indeed, for themselves). I don’t go much for bog standard “ram-a-lama-dole queue” punk of the kind that became the “norm” ( which, in itself, goes against the whole ethos of the thing in the first place). I like to hear people who are trying ( even if they fail) to stretch themselves and put something of themselves into the song.
      Thus a band like Aunt Sally appeals, even though I can’t understand the lyrics, they were never going to be Top of the Pops or sell millions but that didn’t stop them trying.
      And that, I think, is the essence du punque.
      It’s easy, it’s cheap and anyone can do it.

      • Cheers Pairubu. You’ve hit on part of the problem I have with it : I find it somewhat fake, phoney posturing. I do concede that it’s advent heralded an independent approach vis a vis production and distribution, a desire to claim music, and I applaud that. Btw it’s lr.

    • HI LR ! ! !

      Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to read and comment ! ! ! I found your conversation with MrP about punk very interesting.

      We are planning on doing one a week form now to Z ! ! ! I hope you like the others also ! ! !

      Love Sakura x x x

  3. Mindsoup and Aunt Sally both new to me and I enjoyed them both immensely – especially the Aunt Sally.

    I’ll add,if I may, Akira Sakata from Japan’s extremely vibrant free jazz world. He plays with a lot of younger foreign musicians and here he is just last month, the little old geezer in the eye of a pretty ferocious storm!

    • I think the Aunt Sally album is a bit of a “lost classic”. I don’t think they made any more recordings.
      I think I’ll pass on the “free jazz”, though I appreciate the effort they put into it.

      • Why the scare quotes around free jazz? It’s a type of jazz like any other.

        Anyway, matter of taste of course but personally I prefer that Akira Sakata clip to pretty much everything else posted here. I saw him play with Peter Brötzmann in Austria a few years ago and he totally blew me away. It’s not really a question of “effort” (see, it’s catching) – free jazz is about improvised creativity, in and of the moment. An awful shame to pass on it…

    • Hi Panthersan ! ! !

      I really enjoyed the Akira Sakata track, but I wonder if I would listen to a complete album. The is a wide and varied Jazz scene and I will try and include some Jazz in the future ! ! !

      Thank you listening and commenting and I hope you like the next ones we write also ! ! !

      • Looking forward to it! and I hope you don’t mind if I add my own suggestions for my favourite artists of that letter from time to time!

  4. Yes Mindsoup is gorgeous. Dreamy voice and enough tweaks/breakdowns to keep it fresh throughout. Ai Otsuka is so damn cute! Love that boingy bass. Fun song. Amuro Namie is sexy hot in a dancehall stylee – I like this! Think my daughter will too. So good that she’s overcome such terrible events in her life. Aunt Sally is cool!

    Thanks Sakura and Pairubu for the music and such an interesting and informative post. Keep it up – I know it can be dis-heartening when you only get a few commenters, (and I know I haven’t been here before) but even if you turn one person on to your music, then that’s good. You’ve certainly made me smile and I’ll be popping in more. Ai love it! Thanks x

    • Thanks for the encouraging words wile ( if I may call you such).
      We plant to keep going, not least because these posts help Sakura practice her English, she writes very well , of course but likes to try out various “local” phrases ( “Walking the hedgehog” “Craunching the Marmoset”, that sort of thing.).

    • Hi WIlemena ! ! !

      I am really happy you found the post interesting and enjoyed the music. Thank you for stopping by and listening and taking the time to comment ! ! !

      I think Mindsoup are really good and I have a play list that I have made just to listen to on my balcony when watching the summer sun set in the evenings and this track is the first track ! ! !

    • HI Viennesewaltz ! ! !

      Thank you for reading the post and commenting. It is great that people are also making suggestions in the comments ! ! ! Thank you very much for that ! ! !

      We will post Bs today, I hope you can find time to read it and comment again ! ! !

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