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.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Kiyoshi Hikawa -- Kiyoshi no Zundoko Bushi (きよしのズンドコ節)

It seems as if the Zundoko Bushi is the kayo kyoku form that keeps on giving throughout the generations of Japanese singers. I've given a bit of the history of this song in the article titled "Dorifu no Zundoko Bushi", so you can check it out there. However, it seems that the old-fashioned tune received a new incarnation in the 21st century via someone by the title of The Prince of Enka.

Kiyoshi Hikawa (氷川きよし...who was born Kiyoshi Yamada in Fukuoka Prefecture in 1977) is one of those currently rare entertainers in Japan: a man who entered the enka-singing profession in his 20s. Enka hasn't exactly been swamping the Oricon charts over the past several years, and truth be told, it's seen as old fogey music nowadays. However, Hikawa has been seen as the Luke Skywalker of the genre since his debut in 2000....a new hope with chappatsu hair and a stud in his ear. But I think despite the slightly punkish appearance, he has struck me as being as wholesome as apple pie (I don't read the Japanese gossip rags, so I'm not 100% sure on my claim). And he has been a regular figure on my TV since he often appears on enka-based programs such as NHK's "Kayo Concert" through which he has garnered a fan following amongst the young and the old. He's got the chops and the looks, although he's no longer quite that young at 36 years of age; but then again, in the enka genre nowadays, he may still be considered quite the babyface.

"Kiyoshi no Zundoko Bushi" (Kiyoshi's Zundoko Tune) is Hikawa's cover of the song that has been passed on from World War II soldiers to celebs like The Drifters and Akira Kobayashi. Hikawa's version was written by Yurio Matsui(松井由利夫)and composed by Hideo Mizumori(水森英夫) for release as his 4th single in February 2002. As with the past versions of the song, there is that familiar melodic swing and the repeated "zundoko". It became a huge hit, peaking at No. 5 on Oricon and got the singer an invitation to that year's Kohaku Utagassen. And it has been used at a lot of the Bon dances at the annual summer festivals throughout the country. It was also my introduction to the Prince of Enka.

I don't expect enka to have anything near what it had in influence on the Oricon charts in past decades; I think the genre will probably occupy the niche that jazz has now in Japan and the rest of the world. However, I also think that with Hikawa's success, I've noticed that in the last decade there have been a few more young and unlined folk starting to pop up on the NHK stage at least to sing that traditional style of music. That new hope may be helping to sprout a new generation of enka Jedi.

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