|I managed to see it on TV!!|
One such uber-polite channel was known for uploading performances by the tiny man with the huge voice, Kohei Fukuda (福田こうへい) and as I was sifting through its archive, I was intrigued by the video of a song called "Hokugen Kaikyo". For quite a while, my impression of Fukuda was that he was very stoic and still (just like the minyo star he's been associated with), so to see "Nori Nori Kohei-san" in the title was quite amusing - "Nori Nori" meaning "In high spirits", according to Jisho.org. So I went ahead in watching what looked to be an uncommon occurrance, and by golly, Kohei-san was sliding back and forth like the waves! I don't know why, but I just found that so fascinating. Oh, if only he could apply that to when he sings songs like "Hoshi no Flamenco" (星のフラメンコ) - yup, he sang that too, but was as stiff as a board...
(Unfortunately this Kohei-channel had been deleted... Oh, dear YouTube powers that be, why didn't you spare this channel? Well, thankfully, I found this same video on vimeo and you can check out this same clip in the link above).
Anyway, for "Hokugen Kaikyo" itself, which was originally by Ikuzo Yoshi (吉幾三), I fell in love with it immediately. It kicks off with a shamisen solo, but rather than the typical Jonkara-bushi-like solo that one can hear in lots of enka, this one was played to a rhythmic beat that I feel is reminiscent of hip-hop. Then the muscular electric guitar kicks in in the usual Yoshi fashion to make this an incredibly cool song - it's like he combined traditional enka with rock and hip-hop!
As for the lyrics, Yoshi featured the Shimokita Hanto/Shimokita peninsula, which is at the very tip of Honshu, and some of its attractions like Cape Shiriya and the Kandachime horses. From what I'd read on this area, it's a pretty harsh place, especially in winter. With that in mind, I very much prefer the original take of "Hokugen Kaikyo" with Yoshi's grittier, more emotional vocals as it melds with the song's subject perfectly. The added forceful grunts before "Shimokita Hanto" is sung are also a nice wild touch to make this a manly man kind of song. Fukuda's rendition is good too, but I find his voice a bit too polished and no gritty enough.
On an ending note, "Hokugen Kaikyo" was first released in 2002 by Yoshi, and 15 years later in late 2017, Fukuda's rendition came out in his recent cover album "Kodama" (谺).