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.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Ryoko Moriyama/Naomi Chiaki/Tsutomu Aragaki -- Satokibi Batake(さとうきび畑)

Still can't listen to this song without lumping up in the throat often. "Satokibi Batake" (Sugar Cane Field) has been a classic folk song paying tribute to all those who perished in the Battle of Okinawa at the end of World War II and are now buried under the titular fields. It has been covered many times by a variety of singers, but the one person that I've associated "Satokibi Batake" the most is folk singer Ryoko Moriyama(森山良子). Any time that she has appeared on a TV show to perform this, I think the studio audience became even more quieter than usual.

Years ago, I bought Volume 4 of the "Good Times Diva" series and decided to play it on my Sony Discman when I went to bed. "Satokibi Batake" was the final track on the CD and saw that it was the one by Moriyama, and so I thought it would be the ideal way to finish up the night before going to sleep since the lyrics and melody by Naohiko Terashima(寺島尚彦)were very soothing like a lullaby.

So when "Satokibi Batake" finally came on, my head was on the pillow and I settled in for Moriyama's lovely voice with the Kleenex at the ready to dab at any tears. Well, as the song progressed, I started noticing as I was getting rather sleepy that the ballad was really going on for a longer time than I had expected. At first, I assumed that it was a figment of my imagination and then I thought that something went wrong on the Discman. Finally when it ended, I turned on the lights and discovered that the song was 9 minutes and 44 seconds!

The crazy thing was that Moriyama's take was still an abbreviated version. The original cut of "Satokibi Batake" actually lasted 11 minutes with each verse taking about a minute long. The original performance of Terashima's creation was done back in 1967 by singer Miyoko Tashiro(田代美代子)at the Niihama Civic Community Hall but it was Moriyama's cover which was the first version recorded via her 6th album "Moriyama Ryoko Garage Folk Album No. 2"(森山良子カレッジ・フォーク・アルバムNo.2)in September 1969.

Smoky-voiced singer Naomi Chiaki(ちあきなおみ)covered it as well in 1975 as it became one of the many songs on NHK's "Minna no Uta"(みんなのうた). Her version is considerably shorter at 2:15 since she only sings three of the original eleven verses.

As I've said, a lot of singers have covered "Satokibi Batake" ranging from Kazufumi Miyazawa(宮沢和史)of THE BOOM to aidoru Aya Matsuura(松浦亜弥). However, a few years ago, I saw this one man from Okinawa, tenor Tsutomu Aragaki(新垣勉), perform the song on a TV show and most likely had the audience clearing out their tear ducts en masse. Aragaki is not only a singer but also a Baptist minister, and his rendition of the song when it was released in 2001 on his first album and then as a single in 2002 brought huge acclaim as it got into the Top 3 of classical CD sales in Japan for that latter year.

In 2012, a memorial to the song was erected at one corner of a sugar cane field in the city of Yomitan in Okinawa.

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