For the most part I detest “disposable music” — the ephemeral formula-driven stuff typically found on radio. My main beef with it is that it’s b-o-r-i-n-g. There’s nothing to really engage the mind or soul. It generally sounds the same, lyrics are predictable, and is designed to be consumed and tossed away. At this point people have read into those words what I did not say. I didn’t say it has no value. I said I don’t care for it for the most part.
I was pleasantly surprised to find the album Rainbow by Ayumi Hamasaki (浜崎 あゆみ, also known as Ayu) has been musically interesting enough to actually buy last year. I’m still listening off and on.
The songs have variety in their style and instrumentation. Many have musical structure beyond type typical A-B-A-B. If you want to sing along, well, it’s Japanese with a few English phrases here and there. That kind of comes with the territory if you’re talking about J-pop stars. J is for Japanese.
The lyrics that are floating around on the Internet are mindless cut-and-paste jobs by people who have never sat down and listened to the beautiful opening poem on “Twilight” from Vangelis’ album The City.
Sore-wa, toki-no mahō.
This is time’s magic.
Asu onaji toki,
Tomorrow at the same time
there will be a different magic.
Sore-wa, iro-ga kaori-ni,
It is when colour becomes fragrance,
kaori-ga iro-ni kawaru toki.
and fragrance becomes colour.
kagirinai ao-ni tokeru.
turns into fathomless blue.
(This is my shot at the lyrics as I hear them. Corrections and comments welcome.)
Finding interesting, engaging instrumental music — especially in the oft-tired genre of rock — can be challenging. The Furious Guitar from Magnatune grabbed me fairly quickly, and in the way that Vangelis’ Direct and Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells did so many years ago. When I say, “Don’t look for any of this on the radio any time soon,” it’s a great compliment.
This trio gives a clear presentation of khoomi singing, from Mongolia. The strange, almost whistling sound comes from shaping the mouth like the resonating box of a musical instrument, producing overtones. One can control the overtones by altering the shape of the mouth, allowing a person to “play” an instrument.
I encountered this interesting style of singing as a teen. In my twenties I spent time to figure it out, but haven’t practised for a decade or so. It’s not hard to figure out, but as with anything, mastering it takes serious, concerted effort.
Stumbled across a biwa. It’s a pretty rare Japanese instrument, despite the resurgence of its relative, the shamisen. It’s the lute-like instrument that the woman picks with the paddle. It’s nice to see groups keeping near extinct instruments alive.
The large horizontal stringed instruments are the koto. The recorder-like flute is called the shakuhachi.
The trio is called Rin. The song is called Sakura Sakura (Cherry Blossoms Cherry Blossoms).