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Don't Dream It, Be It: Jero's Enchanting Enka Legacy

Posted by Kells, February 1, 2012 11:33pm | Post a Comment
In Japan, you'd have to living under a rock to not know Jero (or ジェロ) and prior to 2003 an event listing like the concert poster pictured below might have drawn attention for all the wrong reasons (see: Other).


There is certainly nothing inherently other about Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native Jero, Jerome Charles White, Jr., but he stands apart from the pack in that he has, before the age of thirty, achieved living his dream of becoming the first successful African-American Enka singer in Japanese music history.


Jero grew up among a str
ong influence of Japanese culture and began singing Enka at an early age due to his Japanese grandmother Takiko's enthusiasm for the genre. She had met Jero's grandfather, an African-American serviceman, at a dance in Yokohama during World War II. They married, had a daughter - Jero's mother Harumi - and eventually moved to Pittsburgh, his grandfather's hometown. Though his parents divorced when he was still very young Jero was reared under the cultural influence and familial guidance of his Japanese grandmother and his Japan-born mother in a mixed-heritage household.


Jero attended the University of Pittsburgh, majoring in information technology, and later moved to Japan to further his lifelong Japanese language studies and work as a computer engineer. He hadn't initially imagined making a career for himself as an Enka singer, but nevertheless he worked towards his goal of fulfilling a promise that he had made to his grandmother of one day performing in the annual
Kōhaku Uta Gassen song show broadcast every New Year's Eve in Japan. Amazingly, he achieved real success as a result of appearing on the show and subsequently competing in other singing contests. Unfortunately, in 2005 Jero's grandmother passed away before she could see her little protogé achieve fame as an international Enka superstar in 2008, reinvigorating the genre by melding it with modern hip-hop and R&B.

Enka, for those who have never heard of the vibrato-framed strains of Japan's most beloved (and somewhat unfashionable) sentimental ballad stylings, think of some modern, er, post Pacific war pop vocalists singing tearful songs of unrequited love and missed connections. Now imagine that these songs somehow speak to you about your life, moving your spirit into a slow emotional tailspin that is somehow also characterized by a deep sense of nationalistic pride way down in the darkest depths of your heart (I fully realize that this exercise will seem a wee bit of a stretch for some of the Americans reading this). Now, an Enka song is not gonna be about a truck or ni**as in Paris, but if it makes you feel proud to to be an American and deathly depressed that you never gambled with a kiss on the one that (in theory, because if you're exercising your imaginary Enka vibe correctly you've been pondering heartache waay too much) got away then you've nailed the sentiment. If you've seen Kill Bill then you've pretty much heard Enka, or at least something like it.

As to the Enka singing style, well, perhaps Jero could fill in the rest. Here he is singing an old standard「宗右衛門町ブルース」("Soemonchou Blues") on a televised, all-star by request Enka revue:



New Video by Strange Talk First to Feature Interactive Rewards

Posted by Amoebite, August 19, 2011 01:15pm | Post a Comment
Strange Talk EPAustralian electro-pop band Strange Talk only just released their debut self-titled EP (on Neon Gold Records) in May, but they're making a name for themselves with their innovative, interactive, and product-tied music video for the single, "Climbing Walls."

Cheer detergent sponsored the Strange Talk video as part of their "We Dig Color" campaign, creating a “Dig It, Get It” interactive music video that lets you click out of YouTube and into Facebook in order to win various prizes. This is the first time someone has created a video using Google Annotations technology to create embedded "clickable hotspots" in a YouTube video.

So what does that mean exactly? Click on something colorful in the video (Get the connection? Cheer keeps your clothes colorful) and you are taken to the Cheer Facebook page where you can register to win prizes ranging from flip flops to guitars to iPods. The prizes are apparently going fast (as of this posting they were gone for the day already). 

Facebook - Cheer Page


I first heard Strange Talk when we got their Free Download for "Climbing Walls" back in June. It's dancey, poppy, electro summer fun, satisfying my Cut Copy (another Aussie electro-pop band) meets Friendly Fires meets Phoenix cravings. (If you knew me, you'd know those cravings were pretty strong.)

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Omar Souleyman at the Mezzanine in SF this Tuesday June 7

Posted by Kells, June 2, 2011 02:19pm | Post a Comment
Syrian master of dabke and Iraqi choubi jams Omar Souleyman will be setting the sweaty boogie-party off this Tuesday in San Francisco at the Mezzanine! Come one, come all and join the one-third of the Amoeba Music SF staff that already hold tickets to this high-impact, calorie-shedding dance party --- hope they properly packed that keyboardist this time 'round: get your tickets here!
check out this sweet vid below featuring "Leh Jani" --- the opening track from the Sublime Frequencies CD Omar Souleyman - Highway to Hassake: Folk and Pop Sounds of Syria:

12 Song Soundtrack for Memorial Day BBQs & The Kick Off of Summer 2011

Posted by Billyjam, May 30, 2011 03:20pm | Post a Comment

With the smell of BBQs in the air this Memorial Day weekend and the kick off of the summer season that gladly brings with it the time to relax & kick back with family and friends, music steps up its role in playing a central theme in our lives. Hence this (subjective) summer song playlist culled from the literally thousands of great songs out there that celebrate summertime and  just hanging out in the sunshine in the park or backyard, or at the beach.

Here are a dozen personal faves (lots of classics) from the rap and pop categories culled from over the past several decades including Len's "Steal My Sunshine" (1999), Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince's "Summertime" (1991), Raewkon's "Ice Cream" (1995), The Foo Fighters' "Barbeque Song" that they did for an MTV special (2007), Mac Dre's "California Livin'" (1992), Dove Shack's (with Warren G) "Summertime in the LBC," and dating back to 1966 with The Lovin Spoonful's summertime classic "Summer In The City."

                           
Main Source feat Nas, Joe Fatal, & Akinyele "Live from the BBQ" (1991)


           
Foo Fighters "Barbeque Song" (2007)


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Ports O' Call: Paradise is Spinning (at 33 1/3 rpm)

Posted by Kells, February 22, 2011 12:00am | Post a Comment
What do you get when two nerds from the same record store meet regularly to discuss all manner of music, art and general enjoyment over rum flights and multiple cocktails at San Francisco's best stocked "tiki" lounge? Hmmm, somehow I can't rememeber...

...oh right, "Ports O' Call" --- three hours of uninterrupted Exotica mixed live on the wheels of steel as a part of Amoeba's weekly, in-house "Mandala" DJ series! DJ Martin Baxter Lyman (a.k.a. Amoeba jazz-man extraordinaire, Mr. Scott Walker) and DJ Long Gone Gamelan Gong (that's me!) will be exploring the experimental themes and concepts of Polynesian infused grooves from the founding fathers of Exotica and their Tiki temple grounds to popular Hapa Haole and Surf styles, with respect to native influences inherent to and modern music influenced by the genre. So if all sounds Exotica are your thing then this Friday, February 25th, from 6 to 9pm is the best time for you to come down to Amoeba Music in San Francisco to do a little vinyl treasure hunting while we mix up some island fever inducing south seas sonic realness. Requests welcome!

Martin Denny & Si Zentner "Tiki" from Exotica Suite
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