Friday, December 24, 2010

Yuyake Lamp At The Turkey

On a side-street in Shibuya surrounded by love hotels is the small club Shichimencho, Japanese for 'turkey'. I asked the manager why it was named that, and he said the Turkey was once a bar, and when the Mama of the bar got drunk, her face would turn into many different colors, like the bird. Red, pale, maybe even blue, green and purple...? And thus, the name. At the Turkey the entrance is right next to the stage, so for the minute or two while you pay for your ticket, you become part of the show (and some of the musicians encourage that, calling out 'Welcome!' as a new guest enters).

I was there to see Yuyake Lamp, who just released a great new mini-album called Umi no Mori ('Forest in the Sea'). The event brought together musicians that once lived in a cheap apartment called Shunpu-sou. It's usually not a good sign in terms of luxury if an apartment is called 'sou'. The nicer dwellings have western names—Mansion this, Casa that, Villa, Manoir, etc. Sou's are old, wooden apartments with small tatami rooms and communal toilets.

Maybe the most famous of them is Tokiwa-sou, where some of the greatest manga artists of the 20th century lived when they were starting out—Tezuka Osamu, the Fujiko Fujio duo, Akatsuka Fujio, Ishinomori Shotaro—talking manga, working together, emulating Tezuka. Yuyake Lamp singer Yunn joked that Shunpu-sou in Kyodo was a sort of Tokiwa-sou for musicians. Thin-walled, she could hear the songs neighbors were creating and practicing. Yunn was the only girl in the apartment, and one of only two Japanese. It was a friendly place where, if she screamed because she had an insect visitor, neighbors would rush into the room armed with brooms and slippers. Sadly, like Tokiwa-sou, Shunpu-sou no longer exists, torn down to build a 'mansion' or a 'manoir'.

At the Turkey, Yunn sang her new, beautiful title track, “Forest in the Sea”: 'green, green, blue, and the yellow of light, the forest in the sea'. Such a distinctive, high singing voice, as unique as Chara's. And a stage presence that comes from years of performing, in clubs and on the street, traveling and playing in all corners of Japan.

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