[Japanese Modern Jazz Opera] http://whatgetsmehot.posterous.com/japanese-modern-jazz-opera-my-favorite-video
Posted: 15 Jan 2011
Simply the best thing I've ever seen
Momotaro Modern Jazz Opera
The standard view of Japanese popular culture, at least here in the United States, is that its wacky, chaotic and impossible to fathom. Thats 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 its just funny. But The Worlds 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 heres how it begins. Yep, thats Nows The Time, by Charlie Parker. Only in the video its 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 skit. But before you have a chance to consider what might be going on, they move on to Miles Davis. Superficially the video, which runs to about ten minutes, is just spectacularly odd. But still, what IS it?
In Japan, this guy Tamori, the comedian behind this video, this show, is everywhere, hes ubiquitous."
OK, progress: so we know its a skit starring one of Japans biggest celebrities.
"If you can imagine someone posters beer that you see on TV every night in Japan." And this video clip, Kelts says, comes from Tamoris 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 its 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.
Theres a poor old couple. They cant 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 inside.
In Tamoris version, this is where they sing Thelonius Monks Misterioso.
Heres 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 Voyage
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