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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

POST WORLD WAR II JAPANESE MUSIC IN HAWAII

I have rather eclectic music tastes, and the genres I most enjoy include:
  • Baroque (1600-1750)
  • Broadway shows
  • Popular music of the early '50's
  • Post World War II Japanese music with a Hawaii connection
You can't anymore listen to or watch post WWII Japanese music on radio or TV.  However, 15 Craigside is a special place, for we get the Royal Hawaiian Band and, yesterday, Blue Star.  You never heard of this group because it is an orchestra from Okinawa with an average age of 65, but only because the pianist and singer is much, much younger (that's her dancing below):


Most of the songs were Okinawan of this period.  However, the ones I remember  from  youth cover a wider range from the whole country, and two albums in particular are memorable:  Club Nissei (23 songs) and Hawaiian Nisei Songs (16 songs).

Here is a quote from Hana Hou, the magazine of Hawaiian Airlines, of George Tanabe:

There were a few recordings out there, locked up in the obsolete technology of 78 rpm records. “There were records in the basement of Uncle Harry’s house,” says Alan Yoshioka, co-owner of Harry’s Music, the legendary music store founded by his uncle, who was also a leader of the wildly popular Hawaii Shochiku Orchestra. The records eventually found their way to producer Michael Cord, who secured licensing rights to the Shochiku recordings as well as the records of Club Nisei, another popular group. Cord digitally remastered the recordings and, from 2000 to 2003, released four CDs under the Hana Ola label: Club NiseiClub Nisei Encore!Paradise Honolulu: Hawaii Shochiku Orchestra and Honor Bound: Hawaii Shochiku Orchestra.

Here are a few members of the Hawaii Shochiku Orchestra today:


The middle person in the front row with the hat is Chiyoko Ida Aoyagi, who is the the singer on the left in the Honor Bound album above, while Doris Taketa Kimura on the right next to the hat is the performer to the right when young.

Haven't gotten around to selecting my ten favorite songs of this period, but one certainly would be Kokoni Sachi Ari, or Here Is Happiness, for it was made popular in Hawaii by Teddy Chinen, one of my McKinley High School classmates, who became Teddy Tanaka.  Here are Akemi and Rene Paulo recently performing this song.  The original.

For now, though, my top three songs of this era:

#3  Ginza Kan Kan Musume was actually a 1949 film with Shizuko Kasagi and Hideko Takamine:


As no one reading this blog site has ever seen it, click on Ginza Kan Kan Musume to view this song from that movie.  This is total overkill, but CLICK HERE for a few more versions of the song.  I noted that the 78 rpm original version can be found on eBay for $30. Actually the Hawaii version by Jane Itai, found in Club Nisei, is the one I most remember.

Although the literal translation of Ginza Kan Kan Musume is shrouded in difficult times and such, basically, a Ginza Kan Kan Musume was, well, a prostitute on the Ginza streets.  It was thus with a bit of wariness that I always asked the Mamasan of my favorite Ginza bar to sing this song for me.

#2  Kawa No Nagare No You Ni was in 1997 voted in a national poll by NHK as the greatest Japanese song of all time.  This was Misora Hibari's swan song before she passed away in 1989 at the age of 52.  She was the most popular Japanese singer ever, and received a Medal of Honor for her contributions, helping raise the country out of the the devastation of World War II through her films and music when she was very young.  She recorded 1200 songs, sold 68 million records and acted in 160 movies.  She was born Kazue Kato to a fish monger family.  Here she is at the age of 12 singing Kappa Boogie-Woogie, another, and yet another.  To the left a movie poster in 1949.  Click on her singing Ringo Oiwake that year, then as a teenager.  Blue Star's female singer performed Shina No Yoru, and here is Hibari's rendition.

#1  Wakare No Isochidori is the only song of this genre that was first popular in Hawaii, then gained fame in Japan.  The singer here is Sparky Iwamoto, from Club Nisei.  The composer was Francis Zanami, and he either unfortunately died of a heart attack in 1949 at the age of 44, or at the age of 34 from kidney failure.  The latter seems more probable.  He was the leader of the Hawaii Shochiku Orchestra.  He is third from the right in the top row below, with then Doris Taketa to the extreme right:


Four years ago I reported on this song while I was traveling through Japan.  I noticed now that all the links of the song to You Tube have been deleted because of copyright infringements.  According to Rev. Hoshu Matsubayashi:

One of the eight kinds of suffering in Buddhist teaching is: "separation from a loved one." The sentiment of this suffering was expressed in a Japanese popular song, "Wakare no Isochidori (Departure of Beach Plovers)." The song is about separation from a loved one in Hawaii. A line from the song is "Although I know the meeting is the beginning of the separation, the memory remains cherished in my heart..."

I did not know the title had to do with beach plovers.  Anyway, if you did not earlier click to hear Wakare No Isochidori, you can do it now.  It is a sad song, evoking a long journey, homesickness and hope.  It still brings tears to my eyes, and I don't know why.

[For those interested in this genre, go to Amazon's Hawaii Nisei Songs.  Scrolling through the entire list, you'll find some gems you didn't know even existed.]

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In case you don't know, Teddy has just passed away.