Dad music for the Japanese summer

Dad Music

Matt Treyvaud lists out the hot summer jamz — Father Edition — for 2015.

Let’s be real. It takes a very careful series of life choices to keep attending all-night dub improv happenings in Shimokitazawa forever. For most of us, the appeal of settling down eventually wins out, and for a smaller but still substantial proportion of us, children follow. Parenthood entails many responsibilities, but here we address one of the gauntlets thrown at the feet of men in particular: dad music. (Mom music will be covered in a later post, if we can find someone to write it.)

Listening to dad music is one of the hallmarks of being a dad. But what is dad music in 2015? The traditional record collection-based definition makes no sense in a world where everyone has access to all music at all times. Yes — dad music, too, requires curation. Here, then, is our offering as the Japanese summer closes in.

Beating the heat

High humidity calls for spare music. You can’t be expected to endure a whole bunch of jangling and drumming and harmonizing when even your own clothes feel like wet towels against your skin. Oshima Yasukatsu‘s Bagashima nu uta – Song of My Islands, an album of traditional songs from Yaeyama, is what you need. The first full minute is just Oshima singing. Then he starts plucking languidly on his sanshin as well. That’s it. That’s as thick as the texture on this album gets. This is music that passes through the room like a gentle breeze, leaving no possibility of mold behind.

(Those seeking something a little more dad might consider Oshima’s Shimameguri – Island Journey, which features guest appearances from members of Kiroro and Altan.)

A touch of class

You can’t neglect the jazz side of things. How is your kid going to grow up to be a saxophone player living in a garret in New York if you don’t expose them to the music before they know any better? On the other hand, you’re a dad, and you’re worried that too much jazz will eat into your prog time. Solution: Fukamachi Jun‘s Haru no yo no yume (“A dream on a spring night based on the Tale of the Heike”). Okay, the season isn’t quite right — but just listen to Rakujitsu no shō (“The sinking Heike”). That is a summer synthesizer by any definition.

(Note: This album is also approved by Planet Mellotron.)

Rocking out

The kids are out catching tadpoles. Your wife is at an antique fair. Now is the time to open the window and let the neighborhood know that you remember how to rock. (But considerately.)

You have many options for this one. Most of the Taj Mahal Travelers’ oeuvre, for example, is available at bargain prices from Amazon Japan’s digital music store. They take a while to get going, though. Your family might come home at any moment and demand that you turn it down. For a quicker fix, why not dig out that battered old disc from the back of the 9×9 CD wallet you bought in college – Ghost’s Lama Rabi Rabi?

Did you know it’s been almost twenty years since that album was released?

Hold that feeling. Your kids are at the door.

July 14, 2015

Matt Treyvaud is a writer and translator living near Kamakura. He is Néojaponisme's Literature/Language editor and the proprietor of No-sword.

3 Responses

  1. Henry Says:

    I’m 25 and I have that ghost CD. I never thought of it as before my time but I guess it is.

  2. aragoto Says:

    Not especially on-topic in seasonal terms, but I live near the cafe Fukamachi Jun used to run in Naka-Meguro. I’d run into him all the time when I hung out there and he was charming, witty and very friendly. One night I lamented that it was impossible to get Sheena Ringo tickets because they sold out instantly, and he and his manager immediately phoned up Saito Neko (who was conducting the orchestra for the upcoming gigs) to hit him up for some. It was after midnight. Saito ignored the manager’s call but picked up Fukamachi’s right away, and a pair of tickets showed up a few days later. His manager muttered something about Saito ignoring her call and asked why he’d picked up for Fukamachi, to which the great man replied with a grin 「俺は偉いんだから」. Which he was. No-one could believe it when he passed away.

  3. Matt TREYVAUD Says:

    That’s a great story, aragoto, and I would have to agree about his eraicity. I didn’t mention it in the post because I couldn’t find the image (and don’t have a scanner), but the liner notes to HnYnY include the greatest and daddest photo of Fukamachi I have ever seen — giant 70s headphones, giant 70s sunglasses reflecting a giant 70s synth keyboard, and if I recall correctly a respectable 70s mustache too.