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BEGIN Japanology

Jan. 24, Thu.


Songs of tragic love, driven by strong emotions, are at the heart of enka, often called "the Japanese blues."

Enka songs take up romantic, nostalgic, and melancholy themes. The roots of enka lie in the protest songs of Japan's "freedom and popular rights movement" of the late 19th century.

Later, these protest songs evolved into a type of popular music that has captivated Japanese listeners for generations. Enka's sentimental ballads about our everyday struggles and weaknesses really strike a chord.

Enka has developed while preserving a traditional Japanese musical scale and unique vibrato singing style that are quite different from most Western music. And because enka ballads are easier to sing than pop or rock songs, enka is an especially popular karaoke choice among middle-aged and elderly singers.

On this edition of BEGIN Japanology, our theme is enka. We explore the distinctly Japanese sensibility and sentimentality that give the Japanese blues its enduring appeal.