Credits

I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mizue Takada/Orquesta De La Luz -- Watashi wa Piano (私はピアノ)




I used to listen to an old audio tape that I'd brought back from Japan during my high school years. It had a mix of enka and mood kayo. But there was one song which stood out for its salsa rhythm. Kayo kyoku often included pop songs that embraced bossa nova, but here was one song which went for the more frenetic salsa. "Watashi wa Piano"(I am a Piano) was sung by Mizue Takada(高田みづえ), who had a relatively brief career of 8 years (1977-1985) until she married a sumo wrestler, the former Wakashimazu(若嶋津), and retired to become a stablemaster's wife at the Matsugane Stable in Funabashi City, Chiba Prefecture (only 10 minutes away from my old apartment by train).

"Watashi wa Piano"was originally written and composed by the leader of the Southern All Stars, Keisuke Kuwata(桑田佳祐), for the band's 3rd album, "Tiny Bubbles"(notable for the cover picture of the cute Chaplinesque cat), which had been released in March 1980. It was keyboardist (and future Mrs. Kuwata) Yuko Hara's(原由子)first song as the lead singer. The song had also been set to be sung by another singer, but parties representing Takada related that she REALLY wanted to sing "Watashi wa Piano", which gives a respectful shout out to Larry Carlton and Billy Joel in the lyrics. Blessing was given for Takada to take it instead, and her insistence paid off since the song became the biggest hit of her career, peaking at No. 5 on the Oricon weeklies and becoming the 33rd-ranking song of the year after it had been released in July 1980. Takada's version as well as the original rendition by Hara has that salsa infusion but it is still very much a kayo kyoku song.



About a year before Takada resigned from show business, the very first Japanese band dedicated to salsa was formed called Orquesta De La Luz (Orchestra of Light) with the vivacious NORA as the lead vocal. In the summer of 1989, the band participated in a salsa festival in New York City where they basically stunned and delighted the crowds there with their mastery of the music and vocals. Their very first album, "De La Luz" in 1990 was at the top of the Billboard Latin charts for 11 straight weeks! If I can give any example of what a person can achieve that noone else had ever done, Orquesta De La Luz would be that example.

Their next album, "Salsa No Tiene Frontera"(There Are No Borders in Salsa) in 1991, included their version of the Kuwata-penned song as "I am a Piano". It's a wonderfully arranged salsa cover and NORA sings both Japanese and Spanish verses. I've provided the concert version here but there is also the studio-recorded one on YouTube.


2 comments:

  1. Orquesta de la Luz was a truly exceptional Salsa band. The lead singer, Nora, was not only a fine singer and dancer, she was also the consummate entertainer because she is always smiling and looking as if she is as happy as a lark in each and every one of the numerous Orquesta de la Luz videos on Youtube. It is impossible to sit still when you hear this band playing. Incredible. I doubt that there will ever be another international band from Asia that will match what Orquesta de la luz gave the world. Luckily they did leave us with a good amount of recorded material with which those of us who really appreciate the band can use to take us back to the band at it's highest level of achievement. Gracias La Orquesta de la Luz... Muchas Gracias!

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  2. Hi duncan, and thanks very much for your comments on Orquesta de la Luz. You've got my agreement on the band.

    If there have been any caricatures done of Nora, I think a good 80% of her face would've been drawn as one huge smile. As I've mentioned, what they were able to accomplish 20 years ago is still truly amazing!

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