Guardian Song of the Week: Kenta Maeno, “Nee, Taxi”

For The Guardian’s new music from around the world blog, this is a loving recreation of classic 1970s style Japanese folk.Kenta Maeno: Nee, Taxi

Nee, Taxi is a textbook contemporary example of the style of the style of folk/singer-songwriter music that flooded Japan in the early 1970s, by one of this current generation’s most talented and versatile songwriters. Largely out of fashion now, Kenta Maeno nonetheless dives headfirst into the genre, recreating with the utmost sincerity and affection the bittersweet melodrama, with both his vocals and the music itself shifting in and out of its own rhythmical constraints. While the songwriting is deeply rooted in the 1970s Japanese folk tradition of artists — in particular the legendary Yosui Inoue — Maeno’s approach, aided by producer and musical collaborator Jim O’Rourke, also owes a great deal to contemporary alternative and alt-folk in its delivery.

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4 Comments

Filed under Guardian new music blog, Reviews, Track

4 responses to “Guardian Song of the Week: Kenta Maeno, “Nee, Taxi”

  1. Jim

    Reminds me of Quebecois singer-songwriter stuff of those same 70s.
    The video is appalling. Cliche-ridden imitation of the invasion of someone’s privacy followed by a dollop of fatuous ego-stroking. Too bad — it pretty much erased any “sincerity” the song itself might have.

    • I think the overseas roots of this style lay partly in 50s and 60s French chanson, so there are perhaps shared origins with the Quebecois stuff you mention. It may have had something to do with language, in the way French (and Italian) pop tends to be syllable-timed, which makes it a bit more easily compatible with a “moraic” language like Japanese than stress-timed English language pop, which poses all sorts of problems to native Japanese speakers.

      • Jim

        Fascinating. I haven’t come across “moraic’ before, it’s a useful concept. Just spent some web-time getting a grip on it … I think. (In the few small attempts I’ve made at Japanese, I’ve noticed that each teaching scheme leaves out one feature or another of the language, which means you have to cobble together the big picture from any and all sources.)
        One thing that Had occurred to me quite recently, though, is that sung Japanese, like sung French, commonly includes all written syllables, even those skipped or slipped over in everyday speech, like terminal “e”s in French. Whereas sung English, if anything, leaves Out more sounds than the spoken form.
        So …. “syllable timed” helps with that, thanks.
        Something to chew on.
        It also helps explain why early French rocknroll sucked so badly.

      • I only picked up this terminology recently myself. Another useful term I learned was the “melismatic” effect, where a syllable is stretched out over multiple notes, which seems more common in English language pop. What Japanese 70s-style folk like the track above does is kind of the opposite, what they call hayakuchi kotoba, compressing lots of syllables into single notes. Most contemporary J-Pop is quite rigidly one-note-one-syllable/mora.

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