Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Favorite Japanese Music-- Hikawa Kiyoshi Brings ENKA to a New Generation

I never cared much for so-called Enka music favored by older Japanese (it's mainly extremely sentimental ballads that musically resemble traditional Japanese music) for the first several years after coming to Japan.

Until I heard boyishly handsome (and very *young*) Kiyoshi sing what is now considered his signature piece "Kiyoshi no Zundoko Bushi", a sort of samba-fied enka piece with a fun beat but which still shows off his very strong voice.

Every time I go to my in-laws, my mother-in-law and I always run to the tv and shush everybody when he's on:-))  My husband just sits there rolling his eyes at us ("what has he got dat I ain't got?!")--but one of these days she and I are totally getting tickets and going to a concert together...

If you've never heard any regular Enka before, here he is singing a typical piece called "Banda no Chuutarou" and wearing traditional men's kimono.  Note that it's sung in a pentatonic-type scale (the "Yonanuki Tan-Onkai", or Minor Scale without Four and Seven) and uses a *lot* of melisma called "kobushi" where a single syllable is sung moving between several different notes in succession in a sort of controlled uncontrol not unlike some blues and modern rap artists (Boyz to Men did it really well).

 Here he is singing the "Zundoko Bushi" that first caught my ear (with a collage of photos--check his style;-))

Kinda catchy, isn't it?  Here's a live version of Zundoko Bushi where he's wearing an absolutely hilarious outfit (OMG--I want those pants!)

And here he is singing the traditional Soran Bushi song in a not-so-traditional suit:

So--are you hooked, or have you had enough?;-))  Let me know in the comments!

Mata asobou, ne!


  1. i'll check this out on my laptop this evening

  2. Hmmm. Not sure. Being a blues-musician (of sorts) my eyes opened at 'pentatonic' and 'minor' in close proximity, but it's a tad show-bizzy for my taste. Sinatra as opposed to Leadbelly, if you see what I mean? Any recommendations for a less orchestrated, more trad, approach? I've a feeling I might find bits I like in a more rootsy version.

  3. oh good song!

    p.s Are you all right? It is said that there has occurred tsunami in Japam.....and Tokyo is flooded...I am a bit worried...hope you are really fine

  4. vvv-- thank you so much for thinking of me. I am fine because I happen to be in San Diego. But my family is still in Yokohama--I think they are ok because they are quite far south, but I can't get through because I think there are a lot of power outages. I don't know whether I can get home tomorrow or not.

  5. My mother and I are HUGE Hikawa Kiyoshi fans here in the USA. We have traveled to Japan at least three times to see him live in concert. Subarashikatta!!!! Experiencing it live is absolutely worth it. I envy people in Japan who can go see him anytime, and really think it's too bad the younger Japanese generation do not appreciate enka. There's way more to HK than flashy costumes. Listen to the lyrics of the real enka songs he sings. It's all about integrity, perseverance, character. Good values.

    1. Thanks for that comment, Anonymous. I'd missed Amy O's piece about him until you wrote. Great stuff - I particularly like his 一剣 song, although figuring out the meaning of the lyric taxes my brain.

      Where has Amy O gone? No news for ages.

  6. Kiyoshi Hikawa is great! He sings and performs most of the enka songs according to each theme (from traditional clothes to scenarios). "Kiyoshi no Zundoko Bushi" is more than his signature song, his trade mark and one of the favorites (as well as "Hakone Hachiri no Hanjirō", etc.). Also, I love four more songs: "Tokimeki no Run'ba" (The Heart-throbbing Rumba), "Nijiiro no Bayon" (The Rainbow-coloured Bayon), "Manten no Hoshi" (The Heavenly Star) and "Ohtone Nagare Tsuki" (The Flowing Moon Over Ohtone). I LOVE him and his music so much! Whatever wearing either traditional or non-traditional Eastern clothes, whatever singing enka or non-enka songs, Kiyoshi Hikawa is such a Prince of Enka, very popular in Japan. The BEST! Arigatō gozaimashita!
    P.S.: Kiyoshi-san, aishite'ru yo! Greetings from Brazil!