Masio Suzuki Hietsuki Fushi b/w Karichikuri Uta 7" (Victor Japan)
There are some very simple rules I follow when digging for records: 1. Buy anything with the word "boogaloo" in the title, 2. Every box is worth looking through, and 3. Do not pass up records that have great covers and absolutely no English on the cover, especially when you are only paying a buck per record. These rules have served me well and in the case of today's record, they are golden.
Until I asked for the translation assistance of Young Steve Strange, the only thing I knew about this record is that the A side has one of the greatest vocal performances I've ever heard, one every bit as great as the sounds you heard come out of Sabah's mouth a few months ago. Masiao Suzuki is the guy behind this song and from what I understand he is famous in Japan as a traditional folk music singer.
As far as what the songs are about, according to Young Steve:
The first song is called "Hietsuki Fushi." It is an old folk song sung by people harvesting the fields. I am not entirely clear as to what "Hietsuki" means. "Hie" means "millet" or "barnyard grass." and "tsukikomu" means to pound together. I think it's something to do with harvesting as well. "Fushi" mean melody. There is a legend that goes with the song:
Over 800 years ago the Heike Clan was defeated in the Battle of Dannouchi. After their defeat, they sought refuge in a village called Shiiba located deep in the mountains. Here they took up agriculture and lived a generally idyllic lifestyle. Despite the remoteness of their newfound home, word of the Heike Clan's mountain refuge soon reached the government in Kamakura, who dispatched an assassin to finish them off. However this assassin, Daihachi by name, found he couldn't bring himself to kill them once he saw how peaceful their new existence was. Instead of carrying out his duty to the kingdom, he resolved to live among the Heike and learn their ways of agriculture.
During his time there Daihachi fell in love with a young girl of noble birth named Tsurutomi. Before long, Tsurutomi ended up pregnant due to their affair. Around this time Daihachi received word from Kamakura that he was to return to the capital at once. He couldn't very well return with the pregnant Tsurotomi, as she was the daughter of his sworn enemy, so he had no choice but to return home without her. Before he departed for Kamakura he gave Tsurtomi his sword, the "sword of heaven," with instructions to give the sword to her child. If the child was a male Tsurotomi was to tell him that he must use the sword to serve his country, but if it was a girl she was to plant the sword in the ground. I am not sure whether or not the child is a girl or boy, however the story of this "tragic" incident was immortilized in the "Hietsuki Melody."
Young Steve continues: The other song is called "Karichikuri Uta" and it measn something like "The Harvest Song." It literally translates as "The cutting and tearing song."
One thing that might be of interest is that the instrument on the record is a Japanese 3-strigned banjo-like instrument called a Shamisen. Traditional Shamisen (I dunno how old the ones on this record are) are made using cat skins.
And there you go. Thanks to Young Steve for the help on this one. This kid is desperate to get back to Japan but is having a hell of a time getting there due to immigration & work visa hassles. If you are in Tokyo and have a job for the young man or a lead, contact me and I'll pass on the information.
Minyo Records are awesome and you find them by the bin full for 10 yen(about 8 cents)apiece.I always come to my store with a stack and play them while veggie store folks sing along.The Songs can also be very local as there is a song for my neighborhood but my favorite one is from Amakusa.I drunkenly try to sing along to that with my okaso in law laughing at me.