SOTD: “Urami Bushi” by Meiko Kaji

 

There is the odd time that I want something more pop-oriented the background but would rather not focus on lyrics. When I am in this kind of mood I tend to play a lot of Japanese pop from the 70’s or 80’s. It has that catchy hook, and with the lyrical disconnect, the voice just becomes another instrument. With that said, I am also attempting to learn Japanese and it is interesting how I can pick up the odd bit here and there within these tracks. The Japanese language is pretty complex though and I am uncertain I will get to the point where I can easily understand something when sung or spoken. I have been going to classes regularly for about three months and even understanding the language structure has been an interesting challenge. Dealing with informal, and formal speech, as well as connecting words that vary depending on the situation is rather fascinating.

In regards to Meiko Kaji, fans of exploitation film will know her as the film goddess who starred in various pink films. As an actress, Meiko kicks some serious ass, she is calm, collected, graceful and brings such strong character to her roles that she deserves the iconic status within the genre. The 70’s were an interesting time for building up strong female roles within a film. Although, being overly sexualized and still playing into the less progressive gender stereotypes of the period. There are many women in film from across the country that carved out a name by portraying these strong independent women, who embraced their sexuality and carried that into roles that showcased strong independent personalities. To me, Mieko Kaji stands as probably the best example of this archetype which was popping up in exploitation cinema around the globe. On top of her acting career, she also succeeded as a model and as a singer, and when the studious began to request work from her that she felt did not suit the empowered and dignified characters she was used to, she stepped away from the industry, to become immortalized within her filmography. A true once in a lifetime talent.

With my obvious affection for her as an actress, I think I may be a bit bias when it comes to her music career, as it is hard to separate her serenades from the character she built on screen. Trying to be more objective, perhaps the music itself is a bit generic, and her vocals, although great, don’t necessarily stand out. I feel that despite the language disconnect the sounds and sentiments still come across, and her music could pass in the background amongst multiple groups, it is unintrusive, while filling in a nice space.

To be a bit of an elitest snob, on the subject of the actress, her character did get some renewed interest in the form of Tarintino using her track and “homaging” her portrayal of “Lady Snowblood”. However, I don’t care for the director’s work, I think it often marginalizes the importance of the stuff it tries to emulate. If someone were to find her work through his cultural references it is still OK. However, again to show my snobbery, I have been a fan of Kaji long before the release of the Kill Bill films and implore fans of his to check out the films he references throughout his work. You can still have an appreciation for Taraintino, But his work is really not for me, and I feel when I talk about certain cultural things there is an assumption I would be attached to his work, which I am not in the slightest. Grumpy rant over!

For this track, I was able to find an English transaltion!

 

Meiko Kaji

“You’re beautiful, you’re the flower, he praises you. But if you bloom, he will get you scattered. Stupid. So stupid. I go so stupid singin’ my grudge blues. You can accept your pitiful fate. But when you cry, he’ll make you cry more. Women, oh women, It’s women’s tears that makes my grudge blues. I hate you. Full of regret, never forgiven. Try to erase my memory, but cannot forget you. It never ends, never, It never ends, ’cause that’s my grudge blues. They say it’s a dream, embers of one-sided attachment, laughing at you. So you decide to wake up, but fear to be fully awake. Women, oh women, Women’s soul beats on my grudge blues. Crimson roses have its sharp thorns. Don’t wanna hurt you, but have to stab you with my thorn. Burning, it’s burning, It keeps on burning within my grudge blues. No flower would bloom on my dead body. So I will live along hanging on my grudge. Women, oh women, My woman’s life belongs to my grudge blues.”

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