Sunday, August 12, 2012

Haruo Minami

Artist: Haruo Minami
LP: Let's Dance the Ondo Together For the World's Fair
Song: "Tokyo Olympic Ondo"
[ listen ]

Olympics, Olympics, Olympics. I don't know about you, but I'm kinda glad it's finally over. Since I don't get any TV channels, I pretty much missed the entire thing, but I did fortuitously happen to catch a glimpse of the Italian men's volleyball team one morning while I was at the gym. They all look like underwear models! Then yesterday I spent a little time on the elliptical machine and got to see Evgeniya Kanaeva's incredible gold-medal-winning performance with a hula-hoop in the Individual All-Around Rhythmic Gymnastics competition. I'd never seen this sort of thing in the Olympics or anywhere else before, and I was totally mesmerized. I kept imagining how many times I would have accidentally sent that hoop flying into the bleachers if I ever dared to attempt such a routine. The performance was so otherworldly, beautiful, and strange (especially with no music or crowd noise), it was like watching science fiction!

Does anyone remember the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo? Maybe the theme song will jog your memory—you can listen and then download it to use as your ringtone here. If singer Haruo Minami were still alive, he would remember the 1964 Olympics. Haruo, a popular performer of enka music (not to be confused with the Anka music of the west) had a hit with "Tokyo Olympic Ondo" (lyrics included below) which was very likely played to death during the internationally televised 1964 event. The song was also included on this terrific Haruo Minami album full of ondo music a few years later. There are instructions inside the LP for learning to dance various types of ondos; I've included one of my favorites below. The album also features a track called "Ondo for the World's Fair," which I'm assuming was prepared for the 1970 Expo in Osaka (see some neat photos of Expo '70 here). Haruo reportedly caused quite a stir by performing in a kimono, which Japanese men just weren't doing in the 1950s and '60s. Everyone eventually got used to the idea though, and Minami even enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in the early '90s when his songs were featured in the "Super Zugan," animated TV show. You can read more about Haruo Minami here and find an interesting music-video-type-thing for "Tokyo Olympic Ondo" below. This posting is dedicated to my friend Aki, who gave me a vinyl-to-mp3 turntable for my birthday earlier this week. "Tokyo Olympic Ondo" is the first file produced by my new apparatus, and I'm looking forward to its modern convenience allowing me to post more regularly again, and not just whenever somebody dies. Thanks, Aki!

Haruo Minami on YouTube:

 [ Haruo Minami: July 19, 1923 — April 14, 2001 ]

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