Saturday, June 5, 2010

It's pretty wa-tastic. (「和」の感じするぜ。)

Well, here we are again; whenever faced with a creativity drought, fall back onto the old standby of pushing my musical tastes onto the world at large.

As they say, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

... why is it that so many of our famed English sayings, witticisms and bon mots are agrammatical? Is it because many of them in fact stemmed from a time so far in the past that they were, in fact, grammatical in their contemporary version of the language... or are we simply perpetuating idiocy and incorrect speech patterns?

... but I digress.

Today, as some of you may have guessed by my (admittedly rather cryptic) title, we will be discussing the musical stylings of Kagrra, 和 (wa; "Japanese") J-rock band extraordinaire.

And, as you can see from my choice of photographs, I was merely being bilingually redundant with my choice of descriptors.

(Admittedly, the image is fairly dated, but I feel that it really drives my point home.)

According to that endless source of knowledge, the amazing Wikipedia:

Kagrra, (神樂, Kagura?, Kagrra, on album art and promotional material) is a rock band from Japan. They were originally signed to the now defunct Key Party Records under the name "CROW". The group changed its name when it signed to PS Company.[1] The band's major debut was in 2004 with the single "Urei".[2][3] Kagrra's concept is "Neo Japanesque." Their lyrics are in the style of Heian era poetry, their costumes frequently incorporate traditional Japanese clothing styles, and traditional Japanese instruments and drum rhythms are used in some of their songs.

Anyway, when I say 和 (using the kanji-cum-adjective that Melon and I use on a regular basis to describe everything from clothing to food to music), I do indeed mean to imply that Kagrra, maintains some very traditional Japanese musical styles in their music. (I didn't even know that Heian-bit, but I should have guessed.)

For example, in うたかた (utakata, foam; ephemeral), one of the guitarists (真, Shin, and yes they all go by one name) uses a 琴 (koto, you'll see) to play the main refrain:

Personally, I find a man playing the koto to be immensely attractive.

(Even though it is traditionally a feminine instrument...Hm.)

Don't think that they stop there, though; ぱらいぞ (Paraizo) uses both koto and 尺八 (shakuhachi, traditional bamboo flute... which apparently colloquially is used to refer to oral sex. I did not know that), and possibly even a little bit of 琵琶 (biwa):

And then 皐月 (satsuki, fifth month of the lunar calendar OR a type of flower), at least to my untrained ear, seems to be using a 三味線 (shamisen):

You'll have to ask Melon for verification on that one though.

However, my favorite of their repertoire (戯曲 かごめ謡, Gikyoku, Kagome Utai, The Play of the Kagome Recitation) employs not necessarily traditional Japanese music, but instead semi-traditional Japanese folklore, if you will:

As I have not translated it yet, I'm not sure how much of the lyrics are actually based upon it, but throughout the song, strains of a somewhat haunting children's song are used:


Which (roughly) translates to (yes, MY translation):

Kagome, Kagome
The bird inside the cage
When will it come out?
In the evening of the dawn
The crane and the turtle slipped away
Who is that behind me?

It may seem a bit nonsensical, but it's used to play a game where a group of children circle around a sitting child who is covering her eyes. The outside group sings the song, and when they finish, the child inside the circle is supposed to guess who is standing behind her.

But of course, there have been a number of interpretations and "urban legends" about this song... many of which can be found here if you're the Japanese-reading sort. I think it's quite a spiffy bit of hokum myself, and really like that they used it in a song so appropriately (and by that I mean slightly creepily.)

... and of course I've gone and wandered off topic again.

Regardless, I would definitely recommend Kagrra, especially if you're a traditional Japanese music enthusiast. Otherwise, they're still a pretty good band, though don't go in expecting anything hard-core; the vocalist has been referred to on many an occasion as a "pretty pretty princess," and for good reason. Expect a lot of hand waving and meaningful swaying from these guys.

This is Edo, signing off with that chant stuck in her head yet again...

EDIT- Well, folks, I've discovered belatedly that I made a bumbling error with my fancy-schmancy music players. Now, they actually play the songs I say they play. I apologize for the confusion.

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