Sunday, July 19, 2015

"tree that bringeth not forth good fruit" - A Successful Japanese Comic Band

Around Tokyo

A Successful Japanese Comic Band

When the Beatles made the first and last live performance in Japan in 1966, a few Japanese bands acted as curtain raisers.  The one that played immediately before the appearance of the Beatles on the stage in the Budokan, Tokyo, was the Drifters, a comic band.

The leader of the Drifters was Chosuke Ikariya (1931-2004).  He led other four members as strong leader, since Ikariya was somewhat successful as a band man that had played in US military camps around Tokyo after WWII.  When he came to lead the band anew after some members left the Drifters except young one, Kato, in 1964, Ikariya recruited three musicians, Takagi, Nakamoto, and Arai, in haste.  But later Ikariya found that Arai was a pianist who couldn't play the piano but simply sound codes of rockabilly with a piano.  Ikariya also thought Arai was younger than he as other members, but later he found that Arai was three years older.  But Arai said, "Cho-san (meaning Chosuke Ikariya), you are the leader of us.  If you are younger than I, it is not funny.  Fans will not think it is funny.  So, outwardly I will tell that I am younger than you."

Ikariya admitted later that his band, the Drifters, was the fifth-class band, since Ikariya himself was a fourth-class guitar player in the Japanese popular music communities after WWII.  But, his members could perform a musical comedy.  And in comedies they played, the personality of Arai became a key factor.  Between bossy Ikariya and sullen Arai, other members found their roles and requested personalities.  Accordingly, the Drifters became so popular as a comedian group from the middle of 1960s (or after the performance on the same stage as that for the Beatles) to the middle 1980s.  They also came with a big hit song several times.  They are still remembered today as one of the most successful entertainers in Japan after WWII.  (In addition, Chosuke Ikariya played a certain role in Kurosawa's movie Dreams released in 1990.)

After Chu Arai died in 2000, Ikariya wrote a book recalling his professional life.  Ikariya specifically referred to Arai.  Though Arai was a poor performer as a musician, Ikariya learnt many things from Arai, including literature and world views.  Ikariya respected Arai and ascribed most part of the success of the Drifters to Arai.

Very ironically or interestingly, a great success story of the fifth-class comic band began after they played at the Budokan, Tokyo, as a curtain-raiser for the Beatles in 1966.  One almost ignorant leader and four weak and poor musicians became one of the most popular comic bands in Japan after WWII.

They were very different from Christ Jesus and His 12 disciples, but there must be something instructive for success of a human group in the case of the Drifters whether it is related to religion or entertainment.

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The Drifters

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Mat 7:19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.