(MP3) Listen to the Story Behind Japanese Modern Jazz Opera (Momotaro)

Dogmeat Presents Japanese Modern Jazz Opera (Momotaro) *World's Best Video
Simply the best thing I've ever seen

READ THE STORY BEHIND THE WORLD'S MOST OBSCURE JAPANESE ODE TO AMERICAN BOP! [[posterous-content:pid___0]][[posterous-content:pid___1]][[posterous-content:pid___2]][[posterous-content:pid___3]][[posterous-content:pid___4]][[posterous-content:pid___5]]

Japanese Modern Jazz Opera features actors dressed up as
traditional Japanese peasants performing some sort of story to
the accompaniment of American jazz standards. Which they sing.
With Japanese lyrics. At first glance its just funny.

The standard view of Japanese popular culture, at least here in
the United States, is that it's wacky, chaotic and impossible to
fathom. That's the first reaction you might get from a video
doing the rounds online. It features actors dressed up as
traditional Japanese peasants performing some sort of story to
the accompaniment of American jazz standards. Which they sing.
With Japanese lyrics.

At first glance it's just funny. But The World's Alex Gallafent
digs a little deeper.

So a colleague sent me a link to a video. It had been forwarded
to him by another friend: you know how it goes.

The video is titled: Japanese Jazz Opera

And here's how it begins

Yep, that's 'Now's The Time', by Charlie Parker ( http://www.cmgww.com/music/parker/ ). Only in the video it's sung
by an old peasant couple, with Japanese lyrics.

The setting is a kind of studio version of an olden-days Japanese
village. They seem to be actors in some kind of elaborate comedy

But before you have a chance to consider what might be going on,
they move on to Miles Davis ( http://www.milesdavis.com/ ).
Superficially the video, which runs to about ten minutes, is just
spectacularly odd.

But still,

what IS it?

I turned for help to Roland Kelts. He's the author of Japan
America - and splits his time between Tokyo and the US. It didn't
take Kelts long to recognize the actor playing the part of the
old peasant woman - a middle-aged man in sunglasses.

KELTS: "In Japan, this guy Tamori, the comedian behind this
video, this show, is everywhere, he's ubiquitous."

OK, progress: so we know it's a skit starring one of Japan's
biggest celebrities.

KELTS: "If you can imagine someone… posters… beer… that you see
on TV every night in Japan."

And this video clip, Kelts says, comes from Tamori's nightly
variety show, an edition from March 1986.
It was called 'What a Great Night'.
Kelts recognizes the subject of the skit too.

Turns out it's a take on Momotaro, or the Peach Boy - one of the
all-time classic Japanese fairy tales.


"It follows the narrative very closely, it hews quite close to
the narrative, but everything is done tongue-in-cheek."

The first part of the story goes like this. There's a poor old
couple. They can't have kids. One day, a giant peach floats down
the river to their village. The old couple take the peach home
and try to eat it. But when they cut it open, they find a boy

In Tamori's version, this is where they sing Thelonius Monk's

So now we've got a Japanese TV variety show from the 1980s doing
a tongue-in-cheek version of a classic fairy tale.

But why the jazz?

It starts to make a bit more sense, says Roland Kelts, when you
know that Tamori - the comedian - was born in August 1945.

That makes him the archetypal post-war boomer.

Kelts: "That generation grew up idolizing America pop culture.
They read American novels, they listened to America jazz, they
watched Am TV. So knowing those specific numbers and who created
them, who composed them would be a point of pride."

And Kelts thinks that back in the 80s, that self-aware
sophistication - knowing relatively obscure jazz tunes like this
one, Bill Evans' Waltz for Debby - fit into a broader sense of
Japan's place in the world.

Tamori's TV show took full advantage.


"That was a time when Japan's economy was expanding… show that
was perceived to be how far Japan had come… can poke fun…. at
ourselves… best known fairytale in Japan."

In Japan, but not here in the States. Here's how it ends. The
peach boy grows up. And, along with some animal friends, he
travels across the ocean - um, to the Herbie Hancock tune, Maiden

The peach boy arrives at the island of the ogres - they've been
stealing from the villagers. In Tamori's skit, the chief ogre is
painted red from head to toe, wears glasses and sings the bebop
tune Donna Lee. In the end, the peach boy defeats the ogres and
returns home with a load of treasure. In Japan it's about as
well-known a story as you can get.

But Roland Kelts says that for younger Japanese today, the only
thing they'd understand would be the story.

Today their focus is domestic not international - in music and in
other things.

"It's a symbol or a sign of how pessimistic younger Japanese
feel. Tamori's generation, they were looking to a Japan that
continued to grow and the growth seemed endless. Your real estate
holding would grow in value, forever. Some people said back then
we'd all work for a Japanese company. It seems absurd now."

So did the video when I first watched it. But it turns out to be
much more than anonymous Japanese TV comedians singing jazz tunes
in peasant costumes.
It's really a historical document of a Japanese attitude - one
that's slipping away.

And maybe the United States can relate to that feeling… a feeling
that something's been lost: that carefree sense of being on top
of the world.

--For The World, I'm Alex Gallafent.


Thanks to doc ( http://people-vs-drchilledair.blogspot.com/ )

listen or download MP3

HERE ( http://media.theworld.org/audio/02172010.mp3 )


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* Japanese Modern Jazz Opera YouTube ( http://youtube.com/watch?v=i-t30jaxC_w )

(download ( http://draft.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=5814215280137236213&postID=5428884192803549970# ))

( http://posterous.com/getfile/files.posterous.com/temp-2011-01-15/kHpukHblEkGrwqcxCcEseezJCaBuyskbsDhtyFmhhribAzrDoBlrBcnsxfIB/Jazz_Opera_Japan.mp4 )
Click here to download:
Jazz_Opera_Japan.mp4 ( http://posterous.com/getfile/files.posterous.com/temp-2011-01-15/kHpukHblEkGrwqcxCcEseezJCaBuyskbsDhtyFmhhribAzrDoBlrBcnsxfIB/Jazz_Opera_Japan.mp4 ) (28482 KB)


Thanks to doc ( http://people-vs-drchilledair.blogspot.com/ )



Related articles by dogmeat

* (#video) Japanese Modern Jazz Opera (モダン・ジャズ・オペラ 桃太郎) Simply
the best thing I've ever seen!




listen or download MP3  HERE http://media.theworld.org/audio/02172010.mp3 

Charlie Parker ( http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Charlie%20Parker&search=tag )

Miles Davis ( http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Miles%20Davis&search=tag )

Thelonious Monk ( http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Thelonious%20Monk&search=tag )

Sonny Rollins ( http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Sonny%20Rollins&search=tag )

Clifford Brown ( http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Clifford%20Brown&search=tag )

Charles Mingus ( http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Charles%20Mingus&search=tag )

John Coltrane ( http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=John%20Coltrane&search=tag )

Now's The Time ( http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Now%27s%20The%20Time&search=tag )

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