"Enka" refers to two styles of
Japanese music. The first is speeches set to music which were sung and spread by political activists during the Meiji period(1868–1912) and the Taishō period(1912–1926) as a means to avoid crackdowns by the government on speeches of political dissent. The second is a genre of Japanese popular songs ( kayōkyoku) developed in the postwar Shōwa period(1926-1989) , which has been likened to American country musicand Portuguese Fadoin terms of themes and audience. The term now usually refers to the latter type of traditional and melodramatic popular songs.
History and features of the genre
Modern "enka" (演歌 — from 演 "en" performance, entertainment, and 歌 "ka" song) came into being in the postwar years of the
Shōwa period. It was the first style to synthesize the Japanese pentatonic scalewith Western harmonies.clarifyme Enka lyrics, as in Portuguese Fado, usually are about the themes of love and loss, loneliness, enduring hardships, and persevering in the face of difficulties, even suicide or death. Enka suggests a more traditional, idealized, or romanticized aspect of Japanese culture and attitudes, comparable to American country and westernmusic.
The most well-known and beloved performer of this genre is
Hibari Misora(1937–1989), who was known as the "Queen of Enka" and "Queen of Shōwa" for the period (1926–1989) when she lived and was most popular.
The best-selling enka on the
oriconchart is Onna no Michi, which sold over 3.25 million copies, the second best-selling single behind Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun.
In recent decades, enka music has declined in sales and in recognition as Western-derived
J-popmusic has become more popular, and enka's traditional themes are no longer appreciated among younger Japanese. However, the genre still has many adherents. Its popularity among younger Japanese has increased lately because of singer Kiyoshi Hikawaand the early solo releases of then- Morning Musumemember Yuko Nakazawa. Enka singers, who are predominantly women, usually perform in a kimonoor in evening dress. Male enka performers tend to wear formal dress, or in some performances, traditional Japanese attire.
Nods to traditional Japanese music are common in enka, usually in the form of an interlude featuring instruments like the
shinobueand the shamisen. Besides television, enka can be heard in many restaurants, drinking establishments, karaokebars, and cafes.
In the United States, enka continues to remain popular among a section of the (typically older)
Japanese-Americanpopulation, and enka also has many fans among non-Japanese. There are some enka orchestras and performers active in the U.S., such as the San Jose Chidori Band, which occasionally performs at O-Bonfestivals in the summer.
As of 2008
Jerohas become the first black enka singer in 25 years to make the top 5 with his debut single "UmiYuki". By wearing modern hip-hop street fashion and performing the traditional style of music Jero has said he hopes to help bring appreciation of enka music to a younger audience.
The following are enka artists:
* [http://www.technogirls.org/enka/index.htm Barbara's Enka Site] including introductions to artist and album reviews
* [http://www.okada.de/archive-japanasitis/enka/enka.html Enka – Song of sweet resignation] three page introduction
* [http://j-fan.com/edit.cgi?selected=enka Enka: Suffering and Nostalgia for an Imagined Past] A nice introduction to enka, which also analyzes its lasting popularity
* [http://www.japanprobe.com/?p=3695 Jero: ] Japan's first black Enka singer.
* [http://jasgp.org/content/view/677/179/ Jero: Japan's First African-American Enka Singer] - Article - Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia
Yano, Christine R. "Tears of Longing: Nostalgia and the Nation in Japanese Popular Song". Harvard University Asia Center: 2003.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.