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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.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Hibari Misora -- Kurumaya-san (車屋さん)


Once again during my aimless wanderings online, I encountered a website called "Natsumelo"(懐メロ...Nostalgic Melodies)which also features songs from the Showa Era. It is there that I discovered another fascinating Hibari Misora(美空ひばり)tune called "Kurumaya-san" (Mr. Rickshaw Driver).

Written and composed by Masao Yoneyama (米山正夫...according to the official website for the legendary singer) in 1961 as a B-side to "Hibari no Dodonpa" (ひばりのドドンパ...Hibari's Dodonpa), this is a kayo kyoku which was custom-made for Misora. It's got that blend of sassy swinging jazz overlaying an enka melody line in parts, perhaps with even some dodonpa in there. All of that musical sangria made me wonder if it was meant to be categorized as a Mood Kayo. In the videos featuring Misora singing "Kurumaya-san", she may be dressed up as some sort of Edo Era noblewoman but the song definitely sounds like something to be played a few hundred years later in some Ginza nightclub in the mid-20th century with plenty of big band and cigarette smoke.


In the song, Misora daintily and off-handedly asks the titular rickshaw driver if he can send a secret message to someone...perhaps a tryst lover, although the lyrics make it fairly clear that she is far from begging in her request and her current beau is probably one in a series of disposable men. If any singer can do breezily haughty, it would be Misora. And despite the videos, I think the whole setting for the song could have applied as much to Tokyo of the 1950s/1960s as it could have to Edo of the 1750s/1760s. The message could have been given to a cab or a chauffeur driver.

I'm not sure how well "Kurumaya-san" did in her vast career but I'm happy to have come across it for that bit of jazziness in a classical Japanese setting. I wonder if this could have been one of Ringo Shiina's(椎名林檎)inspirations.


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