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.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Yoshio Tabata -- Genkai Blues (玄海ブルース)

Ah, I'm back in my comfort zone. Ain't nothing like Yoshio Tabata's (田端義夫) plucking away at the electric guitar strapped to his chest.

For the last half of January and the first half of February it has been quite blustery and wet and overcast here in Singapore (was only the first of the 3 today). Not that I'm complaining though as I enjoy these short periods of time where I'm able to walk to school from the train station without breaking a sweat at the cost of getting rained on, but hey, I'd rather that. So I tried to think of a tune that revolves around windy and rainy weather... The only thing that came to mind was this sentence "Arashi fuki maku Genkai koe te". Initially I thought that would be perfect as "Arashi" means storm, until I played out the rest of song in my head did I realise it came from none other than Batayan's "Genkai Blues" which doesn't have much to do with rain or wind besides this one line in its last stanza. Ah, well.

"Genkai Blues" is one jaunty tune in both its original and modern takes on it with the horns blaring away and the low notes of the electric guitar providing a base, but the scratchy original from 1949 is slower in pace. Listening to it brings the image of Batayan in a sailor's hat as he sits by the water at the docks singing "Genkai Blues" with his trusty black and brown guitar while watching the boats/ships come and go. Yoshiji Nagatsu (長津義司) was the one behind the music - he had worked with Tabata on quite a few of his singles, including "Otone Tsukiyo" (大利根月夜).

I have heard the term "Genkainada" (玄界灘) often in enka, which refers to the Genkai Sea - southwestern tip of the Sea of Japan and borders the northern coasts of Fukuoka and Saga (courtesy of Wikipedia) - so I have an inkling that "Genkai Blues" was about the aforementioned sea. A little more in depth research made me doubt that as searching for "Genkai" came out with other results besides the body of water, including a town of the same name in Saga (and Fukuoka)... which faces the Genkai Sea. Reading Hisao Otaka's (大高ひさを) lyrics, I do believe that the focus of "Genkai Blues" is Genkai town since the sea is only mentioned and the second stanza describes a town scene - bronze lamps, cabaret bars.

Close to what I envisioned, just that I
imagined him in white instead of red.

Dang it, this is going to get stuck in my head for a while again.


  1. Hello, Noelle.

    Yes, for a blues song, it is a rather happy-go-lucky tune. He also had that very distinctive way of holding the guitar, perhaps influenced by that trachoma he had suffered as a child that you mentioned. In a way, his story reminds me of the jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. He had been seriously injured in a fire which permanently damaged one of his hands but gave his guitar-playing style an interesting kick.

    I also found out that Tabata had once won close to $300,000 US in Las Vegas when he was playing the slots, but most of that was taken away in taxes.

    1. Hmm, I never thought his trachoma would make him hold his guitar in that manner, but now that you mention it... This Django Reinhardt does hold his guitar in an odd manner too, but it's impressive that he managed to make waves in the jazz world despite his disability.

      Oh wow, $300 000 is a mighty respectable sum to have been won. Tabata was one lucky fellow. Too bad about the taxes.


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