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.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hachiro Kasuga -- Rosario no Shima (ロザリオの島)

A while back, I did an article on Yukio Hashi's "Muhyou"(霧氷) which was one of the earliest songs that I had ever heard in my lifetime. There was something about the haunting chorus that stuck with me all these years, but I needed a viewing of Hashi performing the song on NHK's "Kayo Concert" one night that finally provided me with the singer and the title.

I didn't need to be that lucky here. "Rosario no Shima" from 1964 is another song from way back in my toddler-hood for which I found the '45 in an old bag of records. I played it on the stereo for the first time in decades, and like "Muhyou", there was a memorable dramatic intro which consisted of a resonant humming and a rhythm that sounded like it got imported from a 40s MGM adventure movie in Africa or the Indian subcontinent. And it was only when I played it yesterday that I could finally read the title and the singer behind it.

I'm not sure whether "Rosario no Shima" means "Rosary Island" (with some sort of religious significance) or if it's actually referring to The Rosario Islands off the coast of Columbia. The lyrics by Yukio Tanaka(たなかゆきを) mention the title but doesn't hint at its geographic location; they describe the usual enka trope of a love that has gone far away to a distant land. The music by Isao Hayashi(林伊佐緒) has that just-as-haunting humming by singer Hachiro Kasuga(春日八郎) and the staccato horns that have also stayed deep in my long-term memory.

As for Kasuga, according to Wikipedia, he was called "The First Enka Singer". Born in 1924 in Fukushima Prefecture with the birth name Minoru Watabe(渡部実), he debuted with the 1952 record, "Akai Lamp no Shu Ressha"赤いランプの終列車...The Last Train with the Red Lamp) and had one of his biggest hits with "Otomi-san"(お富さん)in 1954 which sold half a million records in 6 months and eventually topped a million sales.

Kasuga passed away in 1991 at the age of 67. Some of you might wonder why I've enjoyed listening to some of these really old chestnuts when I can also listen to music from the more modern acts such as Anzen Chitai, Akina Nakamori or even a couple of tunes by AKB 48. Well, not to say that I get an onrush of postwar Japanese history whenever I listen to some of the oldies, but hearing some of the old arrangements and deliveries do make me think about what life in Japan may have been like back in my birth decade.

The above is a karaoke version but the singer here sounds quite a bit like the late Kasuga.

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