Saturday, 9 April 2011

Nippon Girls - Japanese Pop, Beat & Bossa Nova 1966-70

Take a look at your record or CD collection, or at the mp3's on your player. Chances are the vast majority of tunes are by white westerners, usually male to boot. Certainly the case for my own collection, I'm afraid to say. This CD compilation, released in 2009 goes some way to rectifying this embarrassing fact.


Like Britain, Japan is an island nation with a complex, sometimes suspicious interaction with the rest of the world. Just over a couple of centuries ago no foreigner was allowed to enter the country and all foreign trade was conducted via a man-made gated island at the port of Nagasaki. (For an insight into this era I recommend reading David Mitchell's excellent novel "The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet").

Japan also has an amazing track record of hardiness and re-invention after suffering devastating horror and destruction, both natural and by mankind. Think of Nagasaki, Hiroshima, along with devastation caused by the recent tsunami. Japan may currently be suffering and greiving but the new Japan that emerges from this most recent disaster will certainly be a country worthy of our respect and admiration.

But I digress, we're here to talk about music, so what can you expect from this CD? 25 tracks of 60's kitsch, western influenced grooviness that would help Austin Powers get his mojo back. The clue is in the title really, the songs here have borrowed heavily from British and American pop from the same era, as well as taking cues from the French yé-yé scene. There's something extremely refreshing about not having a clue as to what's being sung about, and the range of emotion on offer is broad. From jaunty and disposable (Eiko Shuri - Yé-Yé), to sophisticated and longing (Mari Atsumi - Suki Yo Ai Shite). And it's emphasised by all the hallmark instrumentation of the time, fuzz guitars, sweeping strings, muted brass, Farfisa organs, and McCartney-esque bass counter-melodies. 

It was released on the Ace Record label and was compiled by girl-group expert Sheila Burgel, who also wrote the fantastically imformed sleeve notes. It's worth checking out Sheila's wonderful website dedicated to all things girl pop.

Here's the first track from the CD, Jun Mayuzumi's "Black Room"...