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.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Begin -- Koishikute (恋しくて)

When I first heard this song being played on a commercial advertising the release of the first single by Okinawan band, Begin, in 1990, I was just struck by how lovingly old-school it sounded. I just remember seeing the vocalist in his beret singing this lush bluesy ballad that came across as if it got imported from a Patsy Cline tune. I soon picked up "Koishikute" (Missing You) and when I put it into my portable stereo, I got hit with this wave of beautiful strings tenderly starting the melody before the blues flowed in through the guitar. Whenever I picked up a song by someone that I hadn't known about, there is a bit of trepidation of course, but as soon as I heard those opening notes, I was sure I got the right song.

Begin began with Eisho Higa (比嘉栄昇) (vocal/guitar), Masaru Shimbukuro(島袋優) (guitar/chorus) and Hitoshi Uechi(上地等) (electric piano/chorus), all of them born in 1968, all of them from Ishigaki Island in Okinawa, and all of them friends from elementary school. However, the band formed in Tokyo itself after performing at a friend's wedding in 1988. At first, Begin tried their hand at hard rock, but after finding out that they weren't cut out for the genre, they veered into a more blues/Okinawan direction. In 1989, Begin appeared on the popular TBS program "Heisei Meibutsu TV Miyake Yuji no Ikasu Bando Tengoku"  (平成名物TV三宅祐司のいかすバンド天国...Heisei Specialty TV Yuji Miyake's Cool Band Heaven), kinda like an epic version of those high school "Battle of the Bands" of its day where budding bands of all stripes competed to become the grand champion. Higa and company got high praise from the judges assembled and would eventually become the 12th King of Ika-Ten following other bands like Flying Kids (3rd King) and Jitterin' Jinn (6th King). (both are represented in "Labels")

The above video was taken in March 2005 at Osaka Expo Park. A little more than half a year after getting their championship on Ika-Ten, "Koishikute" was released as the debut single in March 1990. It managed to reach No. 4 on Oricon and remains their most successful single. Begin was also responsible along with folk/pop legend Ryoko Moriyama(森山良子) in creating the very popular "Nada Soso" (涙そうそう) in 1998, although it wasn't until Rimi Natsukawa's(夏川りみ) 2001 cover of that song which launched it into the stratosphere. Still for me, "Koishikute" will always be the song for me when I'm asked about Begin. It's not my 18-ban song (see "Yukiguni" ) at karaoke, but whenever the group back in Japan had longer-than-usual sessions at the boxes of Shinjuku, and there was enough of a mixture of beer and Brown Cows in me, I sometimes went for Begin's trademark song. The kanji wasn't too difficult and the laidback tempo was perfect.

I actually had the opportunity to see Begin several years ago....not in a concert, but on the outdoor deck of the Tokyo Bay shopping mall named Decks. Unassuming and relaxed as the guys were, they had a small performance right then and there with a small appreciative crowd clapping away.

Begin -- Koishikute

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