For most of last week, I had been away on a study trip to China to have a look into their fish farming processes (it's related to what I'm currently doing). Overall, it was an interesting experience, to say the least - got to see things learnt in the classroom in application, see and hear of classmates doing the craziest things, and got to live a few enka songs. For example, sitting on a stool that broke under me (my classmates will never let me live it down) in a boat and feeling the salty wind and water on my skin while out at sea checking out farmed abalones on one of the days reminded me of a couple of Saburo Kitajima's (北島三郎) songs, "Tairyo Bune" and "Kita no Ryoba" (北の漁場).
"Tairyo Bune" first came to my mind as we skimmed along the surface of the sea as Sabu-Chan's recent single was more lighthearted, which fit the mood better at the time. It's music, composed by the singer himself, is pretty manly and grand with the thumping of the drums and the wailing electric guitar, and yet it has got a softer edge with the strings and the shakuhachi. The constant "YOISHO!" in the background just gets you all pumped up and raring to go too - makes for a pretty good tune to listen to in morning while groggy. It gives me the image of the fisherman out at sea on a clear day with the sun shining up above and when the waves are more forgiving. However, the boat I was on was more of a little dinghy that allowed no more than fifteen people on board and not so much of a fishing trawler, so there's some irony in me thinking of a song that literally means "Big fishing boat". That was when Grandpa enka's earlier single popped into my head. While still fun to think of and a little more fitting in terms of the size of our mode of transport around the sea-based farm, it's grittier and darker than "Tairyo Bune" in terms of both music and meaning, not as fitting to the exhilaration and slight fear I was feeling, and neither was the area I was in anywhere up north.
"Tairyo Bune" was released earlier this year on 16th February 2015. It did well on the Oricon charts, peaking at 23rd place, and I remembered seeing it within the Top 20 on the enka-yo charts for quite a while too. 大屋詩起 (I am not sure how you pronounce his name) had written the lyrics.
Another enka song I lived during this trip was Takashi Hosokawa's (細川たかし) jaunty "Oenka, Ikimasu" (応援歌、いきます)... ... Why? Well, I'll just leave that one up to your imagination.