Enka is a traditional-yet-modern take on music native to Japan.

The themes are similiar to US blues music: love, loss of love, drinking, etc. Although nature metaphors are often used to express these concepts.

The singing style is characterized by a particular kind of vibrato.

It’s WAAAAAAAAAY popular in the Karaoke set. (although I must say it is probably and acquired taste for people who didn’t grow up in Japan)

Anyway, in the past few years a black American of Japanese descent has become popular in the Enka world. His name is Jero.

What makes Jero so fascinating to me, is that he exploits that cognitive gap between what you would expect an Enka singer to be (slicked hair, suit or kimono)and what Jero is, a hip-hop style look and dancer with an Enka/vibrato voice. Naoto says his voice is “clean and clear” in terms of Enka.

So here’s one of his famous songs: Umiyuki, or “Snow Falling on the Ocean” (check here for translation of the lyrics.)

But notice the hip-hop style clothes, the dancing, the MTV like editing of the shots.

Compare with Ishikawa Sayuri a more traditional Enka singer both in costume and setting. Her song, Amagi-goe, or “Walk across Amagi”, is apparently loved by Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners.

Anyway, a little culture for you this friday. Break out of your musical box and check them out.

Both these videos were found and selected by Naoto.