Friday, September 4, 2009

the idea and sound of Enka

Tonite I had dinner with my 13 year old son and step daughter just back from 20 months teaching English in Japan. We talked about Japan. Liv told me about
Enka a particular genre of Japanese song and played me some of the Enka music she had gathered. Apparently Enka is enjoying a bit of revival amongst younger Japanese people. Really enjoyed some of the modern Enka music she played that was made by a black Japanese american singer Jero who became the first black enka singer with a debut single "UmiYuki" that debuted at #4, wearing hip hop street fashion.

Modern enka is a ballad popular music developed in the post war era. What I found intriguing was that the music called enka was originally speeches set to music which were sung and spread by political activists during the Meiji Period (1868–1912) as a means to avoid crackdowns by the government on speeches of political dissent.

It got me thinking about political speeches set to music here in Australia or the Western world. Interestingly I was only listening today to an inspiring political song made by American folk/country singer Patty Griffin Up to the Mountain a song inspired by words and phrases from the final speech made by Martin Luther King the day before he was assasinated. (the speech is known as the Up to the Mountain speech)

Here is an extract from a piece in Folk Music about the speech which inspired Patti Griffin's song:

The speech which inspired this tribute to peace and perserverence is a haunting one, not only because it was King's final speech, but also for the amount of dedication to the cause that it portrayed. He recognized that there was a possibility he would be assassinated, but kept to his main message: "The nation is sick, trouble is in the land, confusion all around. That's a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars." Later in the speech, he said "We are going on. We need all of you...either we go up together or we go down together." It is this statement from which Griffin pulled the inspiration for her pivotal lyrics:

Sometimes I feel I've never been nothing but tired
And I'll be walking until the day I expire
Sometimes I lay down, no more can I do
But then I go on again, because you asked me to.

Here's the fill lyrics from Patti Griffins song which is from her wondeful 2007 CD Children Running Through

Up to the Mountain (Patti Griffin)

I went up to the mountain
Because you asked me to
Up over the clouds
To where the sky was blue
I could see all around me
I could see all around me

Sometimes I feel like
I've never been nothing but tired
And I'll be walking
Till the day I expire
Sometimes I lay down
No more can I do
But then I go on again
Because you ask me to

Some days I look down
Afraid I will fall
And though the sun shines
I see nothing at all
Then I hear your sweet voice, oh
Oh, come and then go, come and then go
Telling me softly
You love me so

The peaceful valley
Just over the mountain
The peaceful valley
Few come to know
I may never get there
Ever in this lifetime
But sooner or later
It's there I will go
Sooner or later
It's there I will go

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