Before watching this week's installment of "Kayo Concert", I was feeling a mix of excitement, anticipation, and dread. Last night's episode featured one of the most prominent figures in enka, Masao Koga (古賀政男). Just like Toru Funamura (船村徹), the legendary guitarist had composed a great many enka or more specifically ryukoka hits in his lifetime, so I was hyped to see him being featured again. However, I knew that Koga had the tendency to create dreary and severe-sounding melodies, and after sitting through 43 minutes of that last year and being bored out of my wits, I was quite worried about how I might take it this time round, even with more melancholic enka experience. The lineup of songs did not make it seem anymore promising as I only knew one well: "Jinsei Gekijo" (already profiled). Despite that, I kept an open mind about it.
Thankfully, I managed to pull through the entire show without zoning out, and it helped that the guests all had to chops to pull off these ancient ryukoka. None of the songs sung were released after 1960, and the oldest one of all was "Kage wo Shitai te" (影を慕いて) that was originally by Ichiro Fujiyama (藤山一郎), which was released in 1932! But I may save that for another day. Instead, I'll be talking about another tune from Fujiyama's repertoire - the popular singer collaborated with Koga on a number of occasions - "Otoko no Junjo", which came out during a more reasonable 1936.
Anyway, unlike "Kage wo Shitai te" which was probably the hardest for me to listen to as it was really slow and wistful, "Otoko no Junjo" was a lot easier on the ears. It was only a little faster than the former, but its music sounded more joyful and had a hint of folk in it and unlike what I expected to hear from Koga - it had some elegant strings to a waltzing pace rather than the typical, haunting "Koga sound" made by the acoustic guitar. Writing the lyrics to "Otoko no Junjo" was Sonosuke Sato (佐藤惣之助), who had also worked with Koga many times - a good two-thirds of Sato's notable works (including the aforementioned "Jinsei Gekijo") were collaborations with this composer. I'm not entirely clear as to what Sato's lyrics are about, but I have an inkling that it may be one of those bokyo songs where our main man here is looking forward to (doesn't really seem like pining as of yet) returning to his hometown after working in the city for a while.
There isn't much information regarding "Otoko no Junjo", but from what I've been seeing on YouTube and the J-Wiki, I'm assuming that it wasn't one of Fujiyama's most recognizable hits as it was never sung during any of his 12 appearances on the Kohaku, but known well enough for a number of other enka singers to cover it, like another showa era oldie, Yoshio Tabata (田端義夫). Batayan's cover was released in the album "Koga Melody wo Utau Otoko no Junjo" (古賀メロディーを唄う～男の純情) from 1999.
|Koga and Fujiyama. Koga|
doesn't look as regal without his
Y'know, I clearly remember reassuring Mom (who was perturbed by me listening to stuff from the 50's) some time ago that I would stop at songs that are from after the 1940's, and yet here I am enjoying and doing a write-up on a song from the mid 1930's. Well, but that was said before I bothered to even look at these ryukoka stars.