TSUKASA Enka Show “Snack Tsukasa de ‘Poi Poi Poi!’” [日本語あり]

Live Report

by Chika Yoshizawa, Mio Nagasaki, posted December 4, 2014


TSUKASA of THE MICRO HEAD 4N’S, the world’s first visual kei enka singer, held his first oneman show at Shibuya CLUB CRAWL on October 3, 2014, hot on the heels of his first performance last June. SHUN. of THE MICRO HEAD 4N’S and Reeno (ex-SCISSOR) played support. The show was a big success—both the enka music and an amusing skit to boot.

As the curtain slowly opened, TSUKASA welcomed the crowd by spreading his arms, receiving the crowd’s cheers along with with DJ SHUN. and guitarist Reeno. Many colorful penlights held by the fans illuminated the floor right away. The fusion of the visual kei artist and the enka singer in TSUKASA could be seen in his costume, an outfit based on a red and black Japanese Hakama with spangles representing the rock faction.

The opening number was “Matsupoiyo,” TSUKASA’s original song. The lyrics “Poi Poi Poi” served as the title of the show as well as being part of the song’s chorus. TSUKASA relished the choreography along with the crowd. He put his hand on his chest to express feeling while using kobushi (a style of thick vocals in enka) and vibrato skillfully, and presented himself fully as an enka singer rather than a drummer. The second song, “Naniwa Bushi dayo Jinsei ha,” was the first song of the cover songs to follow in a rock arrangement. Reeno’s guitar invoked the rock sound as surprised cries, laughs, and cheers arose in response to the unique combination. Enka and headbanging, a never-before-seen combination, became a very real thing. Even SHUN. headbanged along to the music while he served as DJ.

“Although visual kei usually has a dark world view, I want to show bright visual kei with a big smile today!” TSUKASA declared. The mood changed with the agonizing intro of “Tsugaru Kaikyou Fuyugeshiki,” expressing a woman’s regretful sentiment. TSUKASA put his soul into the vocals, sweetly singing the sorrowful melody. In a sudden change of atmosphere, he put out thick, manly vocals suited to the shamisen for “Boukyou Jongara.” Then, in the following “Yukiguni,” he sang emotionally closing his eyes under the blue lights.

The members left the stage temporarily but SHUN. soon returned as a bartender. The DJ booth became the bar counter, lined up with several bottles of alcohol. The customer who entered the bar was TSUKASA, wearing a suit fit for his role as a company president. The skit was titled Snack Tsukasa (snack meaning a Japanese karaoke bar) and TSUKASA and SHUN. talked about TSUKASA’s history of participating in a karaoke competition when he was 3 at which point the recording of that performance was streamed. Surprised at the stability of the 3 year old TSUKASA’s vocal control, the crowd shouted support and praised his young tenor vocals with cries of “So cute!” However, when the last note was hit out of tune, everyone laughed as one, prompting the adult TSUAKASA to attempt a revenge performance of “Kitaguni no Haru” then and there. This time, TSUKASA proved his growth by singing on pitch the whole way through, likely performing with the thought of his background in Yamagata prefecture in mind for this song about one’s hometown. When SHUN. complained that the dialogue of the skit had not proceeded according to the script, TSUKASA responded, “Sometimes I cannot understand Japanese,” to justify his off-script responses, causing the audience to laugh once more.

Continuing the Snack Tsukasa section, he sang energetically for “Misoshiru no Uta” and entertained the crowd with his own original prose during the long spoken section of the number. The last song for Snack Tsukasa was “Hisame” which suited the scene perfectly. TSUKASA was completely the enka artist, singing with pauses and stresses that were true to enka style. “Thank you very much!” he said before exiting the stage once more. “I am deeply touched!”

TSUKASA and SHUN. came back onstage wearing their former costumes and the singer sang a pop/enka number called “Mugibatake.” Smiling, he called for a rhythmic clap from the crowd. Following that number, he prepared a Japanese flute and mic stand in order to play another original song, “Hitohira no Sakura.” TSUKASA concentrated on the sound of the flute, closing his eyes and rotating the instrument like a drum stick in his practiced hand. Though the arrangement was clearly enka, there was plenty of rock to the melody to satisfy those of the crowd looking for something a little less traditional.

A new original song, “Sabaku no Hana,” followed with a strong rock mood. This song was performed for the first time and Reeno and SHUN. excited the audience with their heavy guitar, rocking their heads as TSUKASA riled the fans, raising his fist. As more songs with primarily rock arrangements followed, the audience heated up, overjoyed with the unprecedented tunes as they headbanged and bent their bodies to familiar enka the songs “Yozakura Oshichi” and “Kitasakaba” until the end of the set.

At the very beginning of the encore, TSUKASA announced that another oneman show will be held at Shibuya CLUB CRAWL on January 9, 2015. The fans danced all over again for “Matsupoiyo” and their cheers were particularly loud this second time around. Another repeat, the rock version of “Kitasakaba” struck up again as the last tune. The sharp guitar matched to the quick rhythm allowed the audience to burn up their energy and the show was concluded with air-drumming by TSUKASA.

Due to TSUKASA’s unique status as a visual kei enka singer, the unusual fusion of enka and rock has become a reality and the crowd’s heated response proved the future potential of this brand new genre. With the release of his first CD and his next show already announced, TSUKASA has just gotten started with his solo activities and there is surely more development to follow from here-on out.

69: Japanese Enka singers usually have kanji or hiragana names, so please tell us about why you chose to preserve TSUKASA in roman letters for your Enka career.

TSUKASA: I thought it would be cool if there was kanji, 司(TSUKASA) in red letters behind the roman letters, “TSUKASA”but it seems like a Japanese noodle restaurant. [Laughs]

69: There are lots of Enka songs in Japan. Can you tell us the standard for your selection of music?

TSUKASA: I chose songs that were popular and everybody knew because it was my first oneman show and it seemed there were a lot of fans listening to visual-kei music.

69: What do you think is the allure of Enka?

TSUKASA: It is a Japanese mindset. I think people can learn Japanese tradition and customs that must not be forgotten and can study history a little bit—as young people are especially listening to pop and rock now. And you can learn various localizations through Enka songs and feel warmth. In contrast, there are many darkly themed songs such as extramarital love affairs, and you can get into the stories. In addition, you can enjoy various expressions from various singers who sing past popular songs remade. There are many ways to enjoy songs. That is also a piece of the allure.

69: We believe that this might be your first experience of doing a skit during the show. Can you give us some feedback?

TSUKASA: I had a dream that the show proceeded with songs between short talks. It was really fun that I could enjoy the skit, mixing in the audience’s response rather than putting on a serious skit. Also, I appreciate that guitarist and DJ SHUN. of THE MICRO HEAD 4N’S prepared various things and I believe that the audience could enjoy the show without getting bored.

69: You created a new musical genre called Enka-rock. Please share with us the circumstances that led to arranging Enka into rock.

TSUKASA: Although I haven’t been particular about rock arrangement, so much, kazuya—leader of THE MICRO HEAD 4N’s—and a producer said that rock arrangement for a few songs was necessary to entertain the audience because it was visual kei. I thought it would be fun so I asked kazuya and SHUN. to arrange a few songs to the rock style. The result was great so I hope to change more songs to include a rock arrangement in the future.

69: We know there are very particular scenes for Enka songs so please explain the scenes for your release of Matsupoiyo” and “Hitohira no Sakura.

TSUKASA: The lyrics for “Matsupoiyo” mean exactly the same as the title suggests [Matsupoi means Mabushii (bright) in the Tohoku dialect] and I wanted to sing that I should do my best to remember my bright memories, such as scenes and memories from when I came to Tokyo and my local friends. I think my listeners have parents and friends who support them warmly. The song is absolutely not about self-satisfaction but rather that I think that everyone can sympathize with the lyrics and it will cheer listeners.

I wrote of sad and lonesome feelings based on separations in spring [the fiscal year starts in April—spring—in Japan] for “Hitohira no Sakura.” Sakura expresses an example of a precious person, who one might not be able to meet anymore. They will be sad with such a situation even if the cherry blossoms bloom so beautifully and wish that they could catch a petal of the falling blossom. In addition, there is a man playing the flute in the lyrics. He is a listener of the song, and hoping to deliver the song to his precious lady who lives far away through the tones of his flute.

69: Please tell us your favorite points of the costumes.

TSUKASA: Red and black mean aggression and darkness. Those colors are quite significantly visual kei. Kimono expresses Japanese Enka. However, the usual kimono is not unique so I added studs and spangles. I like the points of surprise to those who see my costumes.

69: You are good at drawing and we heard that you drew the jacket of CD this time. There is a character stepping forward powerfully. What does it mean?

TSUKASA: It simply means stepping forward, and I expressed my enthusiasm. The character is one of my original characters from the Kan Kiwatarou family and his name is Tsukatarou. [Laughs]

69: You are a drummer for your band a singer of Enka. Have you ever thought that you wanted to be a vocalist in a band?

TSUKASA: Yes, I have. However, I considered it impossible to sing songs other than Enka because I naturally sing using kobushi [a style of thick vocals particular to Enka) all the time.

69: Your activities as a member of a visual kei rock band as well as an Enka singer are getting quite active. Lastly, can you share with us your current goal?

TSUKASA: My goal is to perform at Tokyo Dome both as a member of rock band and as an Enka singer.


VK Exclusive

There are 37 photos in this visual kei exclusive.

Chika has been interested in visual kei music since VK bands first began holding free lives the Hokoten area in Harajuku. She was too young to go watch them back then in the early 90s, but the scenes on TV caught her eye. Since then, she has loved the passion of VK music and, of course, music in general. She majored in English literature in Japan and learned to speak English in the UK. After graduating from university, she has worked for both American and Japanese companies in IT and as a translator and continues various translations today.

Mio Nagasaki is a freelance photographer lending her time, skills, and love for the genre to ROKKYUU Magazine.

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