Veteran Entertainer Scores Hit with Unusual Dance Act (August 9, 2005)
"Matsuken Samba II," a song and dance act by a TV star who is best known for his samurai roles, is riding a wave of popularity. People of all ages are donning sequined outfits and dancing to a samba rhythm with shouts of "Ole! Ole!". The act is by Matsudaira Ken, a veteran entertainer who dresses as a samurai to perform the song. This unusual combination of a traditional Japanese costume and a Latin dance beat has captured the imagination of people nationwide.
|Matsudaira Ken in his costume (Geneon Entertainment)
Samba in a Kimono and Topknot
Born in 1953 in Aichi Prefecture, Matsudaira was discovered by the late Katsu Shintaro, an actor famous for his role as a blind swordsman in the period movie Zatoichi. In 1978 Matsudaira was chosen to play the lead role of Tokugawa Yoshimune - the eighth Edo shogun - in the TV series Abarenbo Shogun (Rambunctious Shogun), a part that in a single bound elevated him to the ranks of the country's top stars. Abarenbo Shogun became a long-running hit series, with 830 episodes broadcast over 25 years until it went off the air in April 2003. Matsudaira has also appeared in NHK's Taiga Drama series of period dramas and is today regarded as one of Japan's leading samurai actors.
In addition to TV, Matsudaira has also devoted himself to stage performances over the years. He has performed such original song-and-dance routines as "Matsuken Ondo" and "Matsuken Mambo." (Matsuken is a contraction of his family and given names and is what most people call him today.) "Matsuken Samba II" was originally written in 1994 as a finale for his stage shows. The act, in which the dancing is based on traditional Japanese dance techniques, was the brainchild of choreographer Majima Shigeki.
For "Matsuken Samba II," Matsudaira appears on stage heavily made up, wearing a topknot and sequined kimono, and singing and dancing to alluring samba rhythms while shaking his hips. He is backed by a group of dancers dressed up as Edo-period maids and merchants.
Instructional DVDs a Hot Item
Initially the popularity of "Matsuken Samba II" grew slowly by word of mouth, with new fans drawn to the extravagant stage act mixing such seemingly incongruous elements as topknots and samba. Then in July 2004, a decade after the song first appeared, a CD of it was released by a major label, and "Matsuken Samba II" was suddenly propelled to the top of the charts. Matsudaira won a number of music awards, including a Japan Record Awards special prize and the Japanese Gold Disc Award for the enka (folk song) album of the year. He also appeared on the famous New Year's eve TV program Kohaku Uta Gassen (Red and White Song Contest). Many people got their first glimpse of "Matsuken Samba II" on the show, and his fans grew to include people from all walks of life.
Matsudaira has inspired many people to try dancing themselves. A DVD teaching the dance steps has been an unexpected success, selling more than 150,000 copies. A variety of Matsuken Samba goods have also gone on sale, including batons that glow in the dark, just like those used by Matsuken's backing dancers, and extravagant Matsuken look-alike outfits.
On March 8, a date set aside as "Samba Day," about 20,000 fans gathered at Tokyo Dome. Matsudaira arrived on stage atop a horse before a frenzied audience, and Majima provided instruction on the samba steps. The event turned into a massive "Matsuken Samba II" dance fest.
Throughout Japan, people of all ages are dressing up like Matsudaira and dancing the samba. This year's summer festivals will likely turn into a venue not just for the traditional Bon Festival dance but for Matsuken Samba dancing too.
In an interview, Matsudaira said that he would like to do a samurai musical. Commercials using the song "Matsuken Mambo" continue to air, and with "Matsuken Samba III" set for release on September 14, Matsuken fever shows no signs of abating.
Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.
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