Birth of kayou-kyoku and its variety
In Japan, radio broadcasting started in 1925 and electric recording was introduced for SP records in 1927, and the technical preconditions for the development of popular songs became ready. The radio station began using the word "kayou-kyoku" for the popular songs it broadcasted. These happened when the reign of Emperor Showa, i.e. Showa period (1926 - 1989), started.
The first hit songs in the Showa period were "new folksongs", which described provincial places on the newly introduced pentatonic minor scale. We still occasionally sing the popular songs from that time such as "Habu no minato
" (Harbour of Habu) which sold more than 100,000 discs in 1928.
I would like to introduce here also "Tokyo koushin-kyoku
" (Tokyo march) from 1929. With this video you can see also the cityscape of Tokyo in the 1920s, i.e. Tokyo at the time of first kayou-kyokus. A classical soprano singer Chiyoko Sato
(1897 - 1968) sang both songs and could be called as the first popsinger in Japan.
Modern and urban style
In those days American songs as well as numerous European songs became popular with Japanese texts, such as theme songs of German and French films, French chansons and tangos.
The modern American music, in particular fox trot, stimulated Japanese composers and for example "Kimi koishi
" (I love you) was made in 1929.
Kimi koishi was revived in 1961 by Frank Nagai. I put here Futamura's version, though Frank's version is much more sophisticated than the original song by Teiichi Futamura
(1900-1948). I find it amazing that this song was made only 10 years after the Western style popular songs were first accepted by the Japanese people and that it sounds very far from the traditional Japanese tones.
Masao Koga composed "Kage wo shitaite" (Longing for your image) in 1931, which is thought to be the first example of enka songs. However, all previous songs composed on the pentatonic minor scale sound similar to this first enka. Masao Koga made many enka-style songs when enka became as a recognized category of popular songs in the 1960s and became the respected authority at the time. I think that this later reputation was the reason why people came to believe that Masao Koga was the creator of enka-style.
Howevere, Masao Koga did not confine himself to enka style. Ichiro Fujiyama
(1911-1993) made his debut with Koga songs. "Oka wo koete
" (Over the hill) in 1931 was a record-breaking hit. Fujiyama was a singer representing the Japanese popular songs before WWII. He was a promising baritone singer of the Japanese classical music world. However, while he sang baritone part of Beethoven's 9th symphony, he started to work also as a pop singer during his student time and had a firm position till the end of his life. His singing style comes from classical music, but he sang various types of songs. Classic singers were an influential group of Japanese popular songs at the beginning of their existence.
However, there were also other types of singers. In 1933 and thereafter a number of geisha girls made their debuts as popular singers and sang songs with Japanese atmosphere in their special mellismatic style, which was later adopted by enka singers.
Two major names are Kouta Katsutaro
(1904-1974) and Ichimaru
(1906-1997) and many others followed them as popular singers.
Kouta Katsutaro sang "Tokyo Ondo
" (*) in 1933 and lead a boom of new local ondos. However, they did not sing only folksong like songs. One of the geisha singers, Michi-yakko
(1917-1996), sang comical songs, such as "Aa, sorenanoni" (Ah, nevertheless) in 1937.
|(*)||"Ondo" is a special style of Japanese folk songs, where many people dance together with the same postures.|
Swingback to the tradition
As a reaction to the modern and Western style living and music, the return to the old Japanese things became also an influential trend. Appreciation of rural and agricultural mentality and resistance to the urban, modern and Western style created popular songs deeply linked with the traditional music of the feudal time. A typical singer was Taro Shoji (1898-1972). His first hit "Akagi no komori-uta" (Lalaby in the Akagi Mountains) in 1934 featured a yakuza(*) and its hit was followed by many "matatabi"(**) songs. "Matatabi" songs combined the traditional popular songs with shamisen(***) accompaniment with pentatonic minor scale. This tradition goes deep into the post-war period.
|(*)||"Yakuza" is Japanese mafia.||(**)||"Matatabi" means wandering life of yakuza-gamblers.
||(***)||"Shamisen" is a traditional Japanese string instrument. It was virtually the only instrument used for popular songs during the Edo period (1603-1867).|