Monday, July 8, 2013

"Ue wo muite arukou" 50 years later

I've been thinking about how culture is remix. Old stuff is constantly being repurposed, recontextualized, recovered, and redone: REMIX. This post from September 2010 is a single example, a song that I knew in my youth by the odd name of "Sukiyaki."
Back in 1961 Kyu Sakamoto had a hit in Japan with a wistful ballad called "Ue wo muite arukou."

It quickly became an international hit, more often than not being known as "Sukiyaki," the name given to it in the English-speaking world. The song has nothing whatever to do with sukiyaki, but ... it got covered in instrumental and vocal versions and has been recorded ever since. Here's two recent versions. An acoustic ballad by Kina Grannis, sung in Japanese:

Here's an instrumental version by an astonishing young pianist, Hiromi Uehara:

This version completely reconceptualizes the tune. From this version you'd hardly guess that the song started as a wistful ballad. I also suspect that that Uehara wanted to reclaim the song from all those really crappy instrumental versions that are out there.


  1. kina granis has that zing

    whereas if it was emilia grannis it would be more fused
    "kina granis! gadam! lets go for it!"

    like lisarina
    first i thought it was some brand name or a professional property (like balerina)
    or a disease

    but no lisa rina is a woman