Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Keiko Fuji -- Kasuba no Onna (カスバの女)
Even though enka is not my thing, since I listened to Sanae Jounouchi’s (城之内早苗) “Ajisaibashi”, but also began researching Oricon’s singles charts from the 80s, the genre became more tolerable to my ears. That’s probably why I ended listening to Keijo Fuji’s (藤圭子) debut album “Shinjuku no Onna / ‘Enka no Hoshi’ Fuji Keiko no Subete” (新宿の女/“演歌の星”藤圭子のすべて), originally released in March 1970.
At first, based on my limited knowledge, Keiko Fuji was solely the mother of famous J-Pop singer Hikaru Utada (宇多田ヒカル). However, I soon discovered she was a very famous enka singer in the 70s as well, so – as I’ve been a little bit more open to enka recently – I decided to check her debut album to see what it sounded like.
To my surprise, the majority of the songs are a little bit far from the enka I’m used to when watching NHK’s year-end extravaganza Kouhaku Uta Gassen (NHK紅白歌合戦). Keiko’s songs are more akin to Showa Era Kayo Kyoku – with all the influences ranging from Jazz, Blues and other Western genres – than to the epic and more Japanese-like enka songs.
One song from the album that quickly caught my attention was “Kasuba no Onna”, a cover of a song originally released in 1955 by Eto Kunieda (エト邦枝). What I liked the most in Keiko’s version was the Mood Kayo sound that made me travel in time to Japan’s post-war period. Something in the melancholic arrangement, coupled with Keiko’s draggy yet emotional performance, made me fall in love with this number.
In the end, even though it was not quite the enka album I was expecting, I liked its overall Showa Era sound a lot. Unfortunately, Keiko retired from the music scene after a decade of success in the industry. Recently, in 2013, she died after commiting suicide.
To finish, here’s Eto Kunieda – the original singer – performing “Kasuba no Onna” with all the elegance and class of a veteran in 1976, 21 years after her original recording.
Lyrics for “Kasuba no Onna” were written by Hisawo Ootaka (大高ひさを), while music was composed by Akira Kugayama (久我山明). Keiko’s “Shinjuku no Onna...” album reached #1 on the Oricon charts, staying in the top position for more than 20 weeks (21 or 22 weeks, depending on the source).