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 5, 2012

Jitterin' Jinn/Whiteberry -- Natsu Matsuri (夏祭り)

One of the signs that Japanese music was going through a major sea change was this band. Jitterin' Jinn is a group that originated in Nara in 1986 and had a brief 1-week tenure as a champion on the famed music audition program "Miyake Junji no Ikasu Band Tengoku"(三宅裕司のいかすバンド天国....Junji Miyake's Cool Band Paradise). Like Dreams Come True, Jitterin' Jinn just had this unique, very non-kayo kyoku (very much in the "Plus"part of my blog) and yet somewhat retro sound. Plus the overall look of the band just gave that Indies vibe about them. Finally, the lead singer Reiko Harukawa(春川玲子)seemed to strike me as a mix between an anime character and Audrey Hepburn in terms of looks and fashion.

"Natsu Matsuri"(Summer Festival) was their 4th single released in August 1990. It knocked me out with its staccato percussion and guitar, and the mood it evoked fit perfectly with the raucous atmosphere of a Japanese summer festival: goldfish scooping, young folk walking along in yukata, dancing and mikoshi battles. And it didn't sound anything like an enka song. In fact, it didn't sound anything like any sort of Japanese song that had come before. The song peaked at No. 3 on the Oricon weeklies and finished the year as the 80th-ranked tune. It was also a track on their 3rd album, "Punchout" released a few weeks after the single had come out.

A decade later, the Hokkaido teen rock group Whiteberry did a growlier version of "Natsu Matsuri" with guitars a-blazing and a more frenetic drum solo. Their version was the biggest hit for the group which lasted from 1994-2004, though their major debut hadn't happened until 1999. As with Jitterin' Jinn, the song peaked at No. 3 but it ended the year at a much higher position at No. 34. The band also made it onto the 2000 Kohaku Utagassen.

Whiteberry's video for the song was not only a more joyful celebration of summer in Japan with all of the customary fireworks, but reflecting the members' ages I guess, it also showed a lot of the countryside where the kids probably enjoyed running and chasing butterflies. The only thing that was missing was chirping cicadas.

Actually a Fall Festival in Shinjuku
but hey it's still festive.

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