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, June 21, 2014

Ichiro Toba -- Kyodai Bune (兄弟船)

As I may have mentioned before, I've seen enka cover a number of themes: lost love, gainful drinking and manly men gutting through adversity, and perhaps some of those songs have covered all three at the same time.

Ichiro Toba's(鳥羽一郎)"Kyodai Bune" (Ship of Brothers) is definitely an enka song for that final category. It's about as shibui as one can get in the genre...two fishing brothers arm-in-arm battling towering waves and relentless sea spray to make that grand catch for the family, especially dear ol' Dad. The music of Toru Funamura(船村徹)with that heroic fanfare to signal the sea to make way for a vessel on the hunt has that samurai warrior feeling to it, and the lyrics by Tetsuro Hoshino(星野哲郎)would probably get a couple of drunken siblings to wail the song away at a karaoke box or nomiya. I've seen Toba perform the song a ton of times on various shows, and it has never failed to put a bit more steel in my spine and sit more erect in the armchair. It has not actually kicked me to call my own brother for a drink, however.

"Kyodai Bune" was Toba's debut in August 1982. The song probably has special meaning for the enka singer since he was born in a fishing family in Toba City, Mie Prefecture in 1952 under his birth name of Yoshihira Kimura(木村 嘉平). For about 5 years, the young man toiled in the Indian Ocean and around Panama as part of a fishing crew going for tuna and bonito, so he actually lived the lyrics although I'm not sure if his own brother had been with him. However, that brother, who would himself become enka singer Yutaka Yamakawa(山川豊), had already started his own career in music up in Tokyo (he debuted in 1981). Toba, who had entertained his own desires to become a singer, then decided to head up to the big city at the age of 27 in 1979. For 3 years, he did a different type of toiling under the tutelage of composer Funamura until coming out with "Kyodai Bune".

Toba's debut eventually did fairly well in the rankings, reaching No. 66 on the year-end charts in 1983. But the song became one of his most well-regarded over the decades with Toba getting his first invitation to the Kohaku Utagassen in 1985 to sing "Kyodai Bune". He would make a total of 20 appearances on the NHK special of which 7 were to sing his debut.

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