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 2, 2020

Akemi Misawa & Hiroshi Wada and Mahina Stars -- Shima no Blues(島のブルース)

When I first got started on my hobby of enjoying kayo kyoku decades ago, there were a number of audiotapes belonging to my parents. One was a compilation of hits (which I actually bought for them as a souvenir during the 1981 trip to Japan) that helped me discover some singers such as Mizue Takada(高田みづえ)and Yujiro Ishihara(石原裕次郎), another was a Hiroshi Itsuki(五木ひろし)BEST tape, and there was another one that I hadn't bought but somehow came into their possession (maybe my brother got it when he went over to Japan the following year).

That mystery tape was for an enka singer named Akemi Misawa(三沢あけみ). I never played it and had no idea who she was. Moreover, I certainly haven't seen her appear on shows such as "Uta Kon"(うたコン)during my time back in Toronto, so I finally decided to do some digging. Born in Nagano Prefecture as Toshiko Miyashita(宮下登志子)in 1945, she became one of the fresh-faced newcomers as an actress in 1960 via the Toei New Face audition process, sponsored by the Toei (Movie) Company.

In 1963, Misawa debuted as a singer with "Furare Jouzu ni Hore Jouzu"(ふられ上手にほれ上手...Good at Rejection and Good at Falling in Love)but certain powers-that-be decided that she was simply too sexy for the small screen and didn't allow her to appear on TV for that particular song...not a great way to sell a record. However, karma paid her back most kindly with her 2nd single later that year, "Shima no Blues" (Island Blues) which she recorded as a duet with Mood Kayo group Hiroshi Wada and Mahina Stars(和田弘とマヒナスターズ).

A huge hit for both Mahina Stars and Misawa, "Shima no Blues" is a go-touchi(ご当地ソング)song or an enka/Mood kayo number about a certain city or region. In this case, "Shima no Blues" was referring to Amami Oshima(奄美大島), a large island belonging to Kagoshima Prefecture. It's become known as the home of many rare and endangered species of fauna.

Getting back to the song itself, it's quite the majestic enka number with lyrics by Shizuo Yoshikawa(吉川静夫), and it contains some whistling that I had first thought was someone in the audience providing his/her approval. However, the composer for "Shima no Blues", Masanobu Tokuchi(渡久地政信), actually whistled this during recording (according to J-Wiki), but I don't know what the significance of this is. Is it some sort of Amami Oshima tradition?

Although the original recording of "Shima no Blues" is that duet between Misawa and Mahina Stars, so far I could only find the one video of them singing it together in the video near the top (the one so nice apparently that the uploader recorded it twice). The other videos on YouTube have Misawa singing the song as a solo, including the one performance by her on the 1963 Kohaku Utagassen. She also earned a Best New Artist prize at the Japan Record Awards that year. Her history on the Kohaku has totaled 5 appearances with the 1968 Kohaku being the last one to date.

Being a song in tribute to Amami Oshima, minyo artists associated with the island have covered "Shima no Blues" over the years. As for Misawa, she has recorded 30 singles and several albums up to 2011, but ironically her list of acting performances is actually fairly short according to J-Wiki. She has also been currently hosting a kayo program on satellite TV.

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