The Boom
The members of The Boom. (Toshiba EMI)
   

AN ISLAND SONG GOES BORDERLESS:
Japanese Hit Becomes Argentina's World Cup Theme Song
July 3, 2002

A decade since its creation, a hit song by the popular Japanese band The Boom (site is Japanese only) has become a bestseller in Argentina. The success of "Shimauta" there has led to its inclusion in the World Cup CDs of several Latin American countries. Meanwhile, another song performed by a young woman in the shimauta style native to the Okinawa and Amami groups of islands has been soothing Japanese hearts.

Becoming a World Cup Song
"Shimauta", a melodic song inspired by the folk music of subtropical Okinawa, became a million seller in Japan in 1993. The title means "island song" and is what the folk songs of Japan's subtropical islands are called. In December 2001 a cover version came out in Argentina, sung in Japanese, and it topped the chart after nearly half a year, at the end of April 2002. The song has achieved just what the refrain calls for: "Shimauta, ride the wind and cross the ocean."


the cover of The Boom's album
The cover of The Boom's latest album "Okinawa: Watashi no shima" (Okinawa: My Island). (Toshiba EMI)
   

The cover is sung by Argentine comedian, actor, and movie director Alfredo Casero. Casero happened to hear the song while dining at a sushi restaurant in Buenos Aires and warmed to it. He practiced singing in Japanese by listening to the original recording over and over, he says.

Although the lyrics have nothing to do with soccer, Casero's "Shimauta" was included in the Argentine version of the 2002 FIFA World Cup official album. As a rule, FIFA (the International Federation of Football Associations) approves the inclusion only of newly written numbers. But when in April "Shimauta" won three awards at the Premios Gardel, known as the Grammy Awards of Argentina, FIFA decided to add the song to the list. The track is also included in the official CDs sold in other Latin American countries that qualified for the World Cup, such as Uruguay, Paraguay, and Ecuador, where Argentine radio programs are broadcast.

Meanwhile Ultras Nippon, a major soccer supporters' club in Japan, has decided to use "Shimauta" as its theme song for this year's World Cup. At the friendly match with Costa Rica on April 17, its members chanted the song during halftime.

A Once-in-a-Century Voice
Along with Okinawa, the neighboring Amami Islands - part of Kagoshima Prefecture - are also famous for the music collectively known as shimauta. (It should be noted, though, that the Okinawa and Amami styles differ in several respects.) A pop song performed by a 23-year-old songstress from Amami Oshima, the largest of the islands, rose to the top of the chart this April and remains in the top 20.

Chitose Hajime made her major debut with this song, "Wadatsumi no Ki," on February 6. Although it is not a shimauta, she performs it using the melancholy, falsetto-rich vocal style of Amami that she has trained in since her childhood. Dubbed a "once-in-a-century" voice, her singing has even been seen to evoke tears at live performances. It has also attracted the attention of new age duo Deep Forest, and the French pair's newest album includes a track featuring Hajime as the main vocalist. In just a few months since her major debut, Hajime has broken out into the world music scene.


Copyright (c) 2002 Japan Information Network. 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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