Friday, 22 April 2011

Smoke on the water Japanese Style


Shamisen, flute and taiko players take on 70's rock, with Western strings and brass. How narrow is our view of culture and music in particular? This is one of those things that one never even contemplates existing.

The famous British rock song Smoke on the Water is being played by a Japanese traditional orchestra, commemorating Ooedo No Hikeshi, the 250th anniversary celebration of the Great Fire of Edo (Edo is the traditional name of Tokyo) the most destructive of many blazes, held along with the Great Eruption of Fuji-san 300th Anniversary. This is the Kabuki-za orchestra and readers along with part of the Suntory Hall Orchestra, which occasionally features the Crown Prince on viola (but not in this one)...
I was introduced to this track by Stuart Maconie a couple of years ago when Radcliffe and Maconie were in the middle of their Radio Two evening run. For some reason I remembered it whilst driving home during the week and found it lurking on a few web video sites.

The audience identifies Smoke on the Water from seven notes - and it gets a laugh. This is such a famous intro that many music shops ban customers playing it on guitars they try out in store.

I originally thought this is a Western audience seeing the orchestra on tour, however further research hints (unreliably) that it is a commemorative concert with a Japanese audience. Deep Purple (original version) were 'big in Japan' and the irony of the track is not lost on them. There's a hush when the audience realise that it's not a joke and they're going to play the whole thing.

Some songs transcend rock and roll. It's surprising how well it works with traditional Japanese instruments and traditional Japanese vocal styling. Much as I like the Western orchestral strings and brass section which give it that symphonic sound, I would love to know how it sounds with just the traditional instruments.

I don't know how to describe this track. Inspired. That will have to do. RC

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