Welcome 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 ! ! !
Welcome 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….
She 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
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
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 !) .
He says: A is for 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 )
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.
She 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.
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
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 !
He Says: A is for 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
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 ? ? ?
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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.
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 ! ! !