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.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Memories of My Standout Singers: Sounds of Japan 1982/1983

Part II of my "Memories of My Standout Singers" series has me thinking about all of the Japanese singers that I first discovered via episodes of the radio program "Sounds of Japan" that aired on Toronto's CHIN-FM during the 1970s and 1980s. I recollect that my parents had it on when I was still not too keyed into kayo kyoku as an elementary school student but once I finally caught the kayo bug after the trip to Japan in 1981, I was far more focused on the program to the extent that I started taping episodes on cheap Canadian Tire Mastercraft audio tapes, as you can see above.

A couple of observations that I have about this list of singers: 1) Unlike my list from Part 1, the singers I fell for on "Sounds of Japan" were obviously not seen but simply heard. There were no sights of young kids prancing about in frilly dresses or striped shirts & blue jeans and I would have no idea about how any of these singing ladies and gentlemen looked like for several years. For example, I wouldn't know the appearance of Kazumasa Oda(小田和正)from Off Course until I saw him on TV while I was in Japan on the JET Programme in 1989! It was the pure music I fell in love with.

2) Thanks to "Sounds of Japan", I could encounter a musical world in Japan that didn't necessarily include aidoru or enka singers. Wonderful pop that didn't sound like anything from either of those genres and yet didn't sound like anything I knew in the West entered and enchanted my ears. Plenty of audio gold was to be mined over the years.

My list is a bit longer than the one for 1981. Initially, I had intended to just keep to the six entries but, heck, I just couldn't help myself.

1. Mariya Takeuchi (竹内まりや)

Couldn't tell whether this was Mariya or Mario singing "September". I just couldn't tell because of that lower register. Still, this was the song that hooked me into Ms. Takeuchi's brand of non-aidoru but peppy pop. It had that bit of disco but I don't think I had ever heard of anything like this in the West.

2. Iruka(イルカ)

The warm and crumply voice of Iruka singing "Ame no Monogatari"(雨の物語)was the one that convinced me that there was a world beyond the usual guests on "The Top 10" or "The Best 10". The electric guitar, the shimmering strings and of course that voice of hers did the trick for me.

3. Junko Yagami(八神純子)

Iruka's voice was warmly crumply but Junko Yagami's(八神純子)was a sonic boom. Her huge hit "Mizuiro no Ame"(みずいろの雨)followed immediately after "Ame no Monogatari" and added to my impression that there was some fine pop music to be had in Japan. I would later learn that she was one of my guides into New Music and City Pop.

4. Off Course (オフコース)

Unfortunately, the above video isn't of the original version of "Aki no Kehai"(秋の気配)but it was that original version (actually, it is now) that first attracted me to the charms of this folk-turned-pop band. As I said at the top, I didn't see what these guys actually looked like until many years later and by then, Off Course had already broken up with the leader well on his way to carve a very successful solo career.

5. Higurashi(日暮し)

(cover version by YO-EN)

This group may not have hit the huge heights of Anzen Chitai(安全地帯)or Off Course but their "Aki no Tobira"(秋の扉)still remains the reason why I became a devoted follower of "Sounds of Japan". I was always looking forward to hear that next wonderful uptempo song or ballad in any new episode since this song hit my ears...and it literally took me decades to finally track down the title and name of the band.

6. Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実)

Yep, it was the radio program that first introduced me to Yumi Matsutoya via "Dandelion". I wasn't instantly hooked although "Dandelion" was a pretty enough ballad but her songs were regular entries on the show, so it wasn't too long before I became a fan and then started purchasing her many CDs.

7. Mariko Takahashi (高橋真梨子)

Actually, "for you..." wasn't the first song by chanteuse Mariko Takahashi(高橋真梨子) that I had heard on "Sounds of Japan". It was actually the second one but regrettably the first one has yet to grace a YouTube video. In either case, her vocals and the arrangement of her songs simply struck me as being incredible.

8. Mieko Nishijima(西島三重子)

Nishijima was also another one of those underrated singers that seemed to have a regular home on the radio show thanks to the hosts which meant that I could hear a fair number of her songs. I still have a soft spot for "Hoshi Meguri"(星めぐり)which is half-summer ballad and half-lullaby. The audio on the tape was extremely scratchy for this particular episode but I still loved listening to this song.

I recalled from my tribute to the works of Rokusuke Ei(永六輔)the other day about how much he had loved radio to the very end of his life...probably both as a listener as well as a broadcaster. Up to this point, I have only had the one role but even as a listener, but I still cherish those Saturday nights taping and hearing all that great music on "Sounds of Japan".

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