Congrats so far to Blackanese Singer Judith Hill on ‘The Voice’

Black-Japanese singer Judith Hill has wowed the judges on the US television show: The Voice on her first night.  I am not a particular fan of these kinds of shows, but I always appreciate a Blackanese artist of success in the public limelight!  She is truly a great singer!

Angela Aki: “The Letter” 手紙 : Hapa Sensation in Japan

The Song TEGAMI  手紙 (the Letter) was a huge sensation in Japan in 2007.

It was sung by Hapa White-Japanese singer Angela Aki, who sings in fluent Japanese and English in many of her recordings.  The song Tegami, thrust Angela Aki into the limelight for its poignant and almost all-encompassing power to bring school children of junior and senior high schools across Japan in communicating its all-too-familiar message to encourage strength through alienation, loneliness, bullying, and the compulsory examination systems through which tremendous pressures are thrusted into the lives of the Japanese youth for its capitalist machinery.  This song touched millions.  It was also a social change, social consciousness project connected to money-making as well, let us not be mistakenly naive or purist.

In listening to the lyrics and the melody and emotion, it is clear that this song is moving and touches upon something deeply engrained, resisted, endured, and made to become something the youth of Japan (and other countries) must fight against with body and mind, in order to become something our global system of dominance deems “adult.”

It was written to encourage young teenagers in Japan, suffering from the pressures of society in those school years.

Masami Goto, of Japan National Public Broadcasting System — NHK, has this to say about this song (in 2007):

This year is the 75th anniversary of the NHK Schools Chorus Contest. We asked a popular singer-song-writer, Angela Aki, to write a compulsory song called Tegami (Letter) for the junior high school division. The song is based on a letter Angela Aki wrote as a senior high school student to her future self. A related project called Tegami starts in May, in which we ask junior high school students to send in their thoughts on this song and related personal anecdotes. Angela Aki visits junior high schools and interviews the pupils for a documentary feature that will be shown on General TV at 10:00 p.m. on May 9 and again in September. We have asked Naoki Award winning non-fiction writer Eto Mori to write lyrics for the compulsory song in the elementary school division, and an another author, Hiroyuki Itsuki, to do the same for the senior high school division.


 LYRICS (courtesy of:meheartdancing.livejournal.com)
 

The Letter


Dear you,
Who’s reading this letter
Where are you and what are you doing now?

For me who’s 15 years old
There are seeds of worries I can’t tell anyone

If it’s a letter addressed to my future self,
Surely I can confide truly to myself

Now, it seems that I’m about to be defeated and cry
For someone who’s seemingly about to disappear
Whose words should I believe in?
This one-and-only heart has been broken so many times
In the midst of this pain, I live the present

Dear you,
Thank you
I have something to tell the 15-year-old you

If you continue asking what and where you should be going
You’ll be able to see the answer

The rough seas of youth may be tough
But row your boat of dreams on
Towards the shores of tomorrow

Now, please don’t be defeated and please don’t shed a tear
During these times when you’re seemingly about to disappear
Just believe in your own voice
For me as an adult, there are sleepless nights when I’m hurt
But I’m living the bittersweet present

There’s meaning to everything in life
So build your dreams without fear
Keep on believing

Seems like I’m about to be defeated and cry
For someone who’s seemingly about to disappear
Whose words should I believe in?

Please don’t be defeated and please don’t shed a tear
During these times when you’re seemingly about to disappear
Just believe in your own voice

No matter era we’re in
There’s no running away from sorrow
So show your smile, and go on living the present
Go on living the present

Dear you,
Who’s reading this letter
I wish you happiness

***********************************************

Romaji Lyrics

 TEGAMI

Haikei kono tegami yondeiru anata wa
Doko de nani wo shiteiru no darou

Juugo no boku ni wa dare ni mo hanasenai
Nayami no kanae ga aru no desu

Mirai no jibun ni atete kaku tegami nara
Kitto sunao ni uchiake rareru darou

Ima makesou de nakisou de
Kieteshimaisou na boku wa
Dare no kotoba wo
Shinji arukeba ii no?
Hitotsu shika nai kono mune ga nando mo barabara ni warete
Kurushii naka de ima wo ikiteiru
Ima wo ikiteiru

Haikei arigatou juugo no anata ni
Tsutaetai koto ga aru no desu
Jibun to wa nani de doko e mukau beki ka
Toitsu dzukereeba mietekuru

Areta seishun no umi wa kibishii keredo
Asu no kishibe e to yume no fune yo susume

Ima makenai de nakanai de
Kieteshimaisou na toki wa
Jibun no koe wo shinjiaru keba ii no?
Otona no boku mo kizutsuite
Nemurenai yoru wa aru kedo
Nigakute amai ima ikiteiru

Jinsei no subete ni imi ga aru kara
Osorezu ni anata no yume wo sodatete
La la la, la la la
Keep on believing
La la la, la la la,
Keep on believing, keep on believing, keep on believing

Makesou de nakisou de
Kieteshimaisou boku wa
Dare no kotoba wo shinji arukeba ii no?
Aa Makenaii de nakanai de
Kieteshimaisou na toki wa
Jibun no koe wo shinjiarukeba ii no
Itsu no jidai mo kanashimi mo
Sakete wa torenai keredo
Egao wo misete ima wo ikite yukou
Ima wo ikite yukou

Haikei kono tegami yondeiru anata ga
Shiawase na koto wo negaimasu

..............

JERO ジェロ – Performs 晴れ舞台 in San Francisco, April 2011

I cried this past weekend, from seeing and hearing the African-American singer JERO in San Francisco on the night of April 8th at the Mini-concert he gave for the Hapa Japan Conference held at UC Berkeley.

I cried because of one song in particular called “Harebutai.”  This song, which can be named “Gala” but has the concurrent meaning of a Performance Stage that is a wide-open, sunlit, clear sky.  Please refer to my earlier posting which addresses who Jero is, in the history of traditional Enka music in Japan.  He is a huge star at present, in a genre that was relegated to the dust-heeps of Japanese music history, as something passe.  Much like how we treat elders increasingly everywhere, Japan–even as people like to think of it as a nation that reveres elders, is increasingly forgetting and with this forgetting goes history.

Jero performs this song, dedicated to his grandmother, with a sensitivity that records an inter-generational intimacy, where he wants to acknowledge the painful past in Japan (and also in the present) that Japanese women endured, when marrying western men, and in particular, African-American men.  Like my own mother who protected me often from racist brutalization in Japan when I was growing up, the hardships that these women, our mothers and grandmothers endured, are ‘forgotten’ because they are too traumatic and unacknowledged by most of our young.  with it goes knowledge and history that could help us, as human beings, get through our struggles with race, sexuality, socio-economic class and gender relations, among other violent hierarchies of identity, that continue to determine much of our social relations, silences, rage, grief, and international politics, not to mention how these are reflected in our family and communal dynamics.

I cried when I experienced this song.  At the evening get-together after the day’s conference events, Jero was there, offering his quiet, gentle, yet strong presence.  I had the opportunity to tell him that he was living out my own dream as a dark-skinned singer in Japan, considered ‘foreign,’ singing the Enka music which kept me alive and comforted through many dark times in Japan.  These songs, often of sadness and longing, are soulful for me, of my generation, growing up as outsider in Japan.  In addition, the song “Hare-butai” was written by Nakamura Ataru, for Jero, with Jero’s thoughts and sentiments regarding his singing as a way of an offering to his deceased grandmother, who did not get to see him perform on the ‘Kouhaku Utagassen’ show that runs every New Years’ Day in Japan since the Postwar era, celebrating the best of Japan’s popular singing stars.  This show is a testament to artists who have ‘made it’ in Japan and Jero’s grandmother would’ve been proud.

I have included my version of the English translation of the lyrics to 晴れ舞台   “Harebutai”.  You can see get a glimpse of honoring and care and inter-generational respect that has gone into this song.  It is no wonder that folks like me, and especially the older women of that generation alive today, cry upon hearing this song.  It is healing.  And even those of the younger generation now, who had forgotten about the Enka and considered it stupid, are now listening.

Jero’s popularity is not only that he is such an anomaly as a race and nation outsider, who has now been considered legitimate as a singer in Japan, especially in a genre not dominantly considered “American,” ‘Modern” or “Black.”  His singing is actually outstanding and nuanced emotionally in perfect pitch.  His Enka singing is really really good!!  It is not just that.  He is also known for his good character.  But it is also true that many young people in Japan are increasingly identifying and admiring Blackness as a way to resist their homogenization into the general Japanese identity-systems and are creating fewer ways in which the youth of Japan can exist with difference.  This dynamic creates problems as well, because the notion of challenging racism is a fairly new aspect of reality that is only in its infancy in regards to dominant Japanese society.  Histories of racism are complex because of European race-science and its role in the rise of Japan as a nation that could be seen as legitimate by white societies in history, and also its relation to the tightly woven caste system that has ruled Japan for hundreds of years.

I give to you the song and translation with notes, of Jero’s song “Hare Butai.”   The Music video here, of the song “Hare Butai” is *NOT SUNG by JERO* but by a pretty good singer.  Because I could not find the music video of the song online, I have included this version (with the original music background) by another singer, to give you the song.  The other videos are of Jero’s performances, including the popular ‘hip-hop’ moves that are a part of his  Live performances.

“Hare Butai” was written by Ataru Nakamura for Jero, both of them contemporary singers in Japan.

The song’s composer is Ataru Nakamura, who writes beautiful melodies and lyrics from the standpoint of her marginalized and often brutalized experiences as an outsider in Japan as  a MtF (male to female) transsexual, especially during her middle and high school years.

Jero (Jerome White, Jr.) is a computer engineer/English teacher, African American and  Japanese, who decided to fulfill a promise to his deceased Japanese grandmother that he would perform enka – the traditional popular music of Japan – on the big stage.

When Jero performs this song in Japan, many people of my generation and older, especially mothers of the mixed-race children, or who were from poor families, for instance,  who went through the tremendous hardships in war-time and postwar Japan where generational experience was dislocated and displaced by forgetting, cherish this song and often cry openly.

Indeed, during the recent mini-concert Jero gave in San Francisco at the Hapa Japan Conference at UC Berkeley on April 8, 2011, I cried, and almost the entire row in the concert hall who could understand Japanese, cried when we heard this song.  As I have been working on publishing a manuscript about my relationship with my mother, as a mixed Black-Japanese boy being raised in 1950s Japan, I had begun to realize how much my mother has gone through in order for me to be able to live and how often women’s and other marginalized peoples’ and communities’ experience is relegated to the backroads of history.  In hearing this kind of song, there is a healing and inspiration.  I hope that other young people, who understand those whose backs we stand on, can take inspiration from Jero’s example.

Other videos to begin:  a Reuters introduction in English, of Jero and a video of his live performance, complete with the hip-hop a la Japan moves, of his Debut Hit “Umi Yuki” which means “Ocean Snow.”

Here is a Link to an Interview with him from the Discover Nikkei website:

http://www.discovernikkei.org/en/journal/2010/2/1/jero/

Live Performance of is DEBUT song "UMI YUKI"



Note on English translation of HAREBUTAI:

I have taken a bit of liberty with the translation to show the emotion that would be lacking in a literal English translation.  I have translated ‘Oira’ as ‘young-one’ or “ol’ me.”  It could be “Me—the young bumpkin” or something like this.  It is a term used by people in the informal form, and is a term used often by people in the rural areas of Japan to refer to “I” and “self” and “we” and “us.” It is a very intimate, tender term, most often used by youth.  So in other words, ‘oira’, all simultaneous include all meanings of Me, I, we, your children, your child, us young ones, we the outsiders, the younger generation, the forgotten generation or people (the rural people), little ol’ me, etc. in this context.

The Term “Hare” is also difficult to translate.  It is usually translated as ‘clear weather.’  It is used to refer to a sky that is blue and open and sunny (as opposed to a rainy day, cloudy day, etc.).  It connotes most adjectives in western languages that may describe the state of a clear blue, expansive, sunlit sky: unfettered.  I have translated it as “clear sunlit, but we must include all other qualities simultaneously: Sunlit, clear, expansive, cloudless, blue, bright, etc.

In Japanese language, much like many languages, the meanings are embedded in the words themselves, unlike dominant forms of English, for instance, where it must be ‘inferred’ or ‘alluded to’ as a ‘metaphor’ or ‘simile’ etc.  In Japanese, many of the words carry multiple meanings simultaneously.  Therefore, in my translation, I played with the many meanings to give more of the texture of the song in my own interpretation, rather than giving a literal translation, which is always contested when crossing languages, cultures, histories, etc.)

The below is a Link to the video of his performance of ‘Hare Butai’ at the Japan Society in New York City.

Remember:  This is *not* Jero singing the song, but is a well-done cover because I’ve not found this done by him in video online.

晴れ舞台

Gala  (The Clear Sunlit Stage)

(Expansive, unfettered, clear-blue/open sky Space-of-performance)

ジェロ

Jero

作曲:中村中
作詞:中村中

Lyrics and music by: Nakamura Ataru

Dark curtains open to a tonight that seems similar to the colors of the news of the world, opens once again

Every time when in the blinding light I cover my eyes, I remember that smile.

Even as I intend to converse with you about  the past, “I’ve forgotten” is all you’ve been left to say.

But Mama, we do know.

Bring it all here to ol’ me, Mama—all those forgotten pasts that

cry at night (like a burden) without even a light being lit.

Because for the kind gaze that you left behind in your homeland,

I want to show them my(our) form/ my (our) actions.

To see and then laugh listening to “The Echigo Jishi Song” so many times until

it’s worn out and torn.

Mama, because you laugh and say that only our songs are precious jewels

We young-ones can’t dilly-dally around.

Come on over here Mama, the dawn is close

It’d be great if you could see my debut, leaving it (for eternal posterity) on the clear sunlit stage.

The name that they announce while I bask under rays of the spotlights is

the name you’ve raised me with.

In place of the past you’ve long forgotten, Mama I’ll give room for your dreams.

Pretty soon the dark curtains will open.  Just you watch!, my form/my actions.

Black Tokyo: Afromentary

From BlackTokyo website:

Black Tokyo (BT) was created in 1999 to provide a voice and a network for Blacks living in Japan.

The BT website (www.blacktokyo.com) provides news and commentary on Japan and commonly addresses inaccurate information, stereotypes and other issues concerning Blacks in Japan.

This goal of the Black Tokyo Afromentary series is to provide the viewer or listener with information on life in Japan from an afro perspective and to encourage discussion.

The Black Tokyo afromentary chronicles experiences in Japan from 1981 to present. Zurui shares his various points of view having served as a former US Marine based in Japan, an educator, japanese company employee, business owner and as an actor on primetime Japanese television.

Be sure to follow blacktokyo on twitter for additional updates!

Sezen Aksu: the Queen/Diva of Turkish Pop

Sezen Aksu (July 13, 1954 -) is the quintessential diva extraordinaire, of Turkish pop.  She is the indisputable queen diva of the Turkish pop music scene.  ‘Pop’ music, now worldwide, through the effects of American colonization, always mixes with its locales to create interesting hybrid music that also carries certain themes that repeats throughout the world.  Songs of falling in love, songs of loving what or who we cannot have, separation and longing, devastation and pride, sorrow and joy.  Also, to dance our butts off.  Sezen Aksu’s unique, rough voice carries emotions that many in the Mediterranean are attracted to.  She has influenced pop music in the mediterranean nations, the Balkans and changed the annual Eurovision Music Context with her protege, Ertab Serener.  From the 1970s through today, and continues to break barriers.

She is particularly attractive to me in other ways, making me like her music more.  Her life has not been comfortable, although her fame and fortune has helped her.  She has married and divorced several times, something Turkish society does not like and in some cultures within the Turkish nation, divorcing is a taboo that the woman pays for the rest of her life (although this is not unique just to Turkish sub-cultures).  She has also married an Armenian, works tirelessly and speaks out vigorously for women’s rights and gay rights, and for the rights of the Kurds.  She has been allowed to stay out of jail, even though she has sung songs in the ‘illegal’ language of the Kurdish people, Zaza cultures, and Armenian people  in Turkey, and has co-sung with some of these groups’ popular singers, raising the eyebrows and bringing much-needed discussions at Turkish dinner tables.  She dares the powers that be, to let democracy work, and to love who we love, and for singers and all artists, to express and to live.

I present a nice classical-tinged with a bit of Astor Piazzolla-esque ballad, and a rocking dance song by her.  The remixes of her dance music have been done by hundreds of different musicians.  The dance song ‘Rakkas’ has become a perennial classic in Turkish pop culture and also internationally it is one of the most ‘mixed’ songs in dance clubs by DJs from Spain, Greece, the UK, India, Germany, Hungary to Japan.

Sezen Aksu: wikipedia

Sezen Aksu official site

Kıran kırana

Rakkas