Out of period but of possible interest: Geisha Blues on DVD
- Sample clip:
In 1976, while training to be a geisha, anthropology student Liza
Dalby recorded a singer and shamisen accompanist perfoming kouta, as a
study aid to help her learn to perform the songs herself. For those of
you who grew up after the invention of the CD, the sound quality might
seem somewhat muddy, however, it's not bad for a homemade recording
that's benefited from a bit of digital remastering and sounded all
right on my stereo TV set. You can clearly hear the quiet vocal cues
the shamisen player gives the singer during each performance.
Running about 30 minutes, and tantalizingly labeled "Volume I" (might
there be a Volume II?), the DVD features an introduction by Dalby
which describes the kouta. Unlike the big performances at festivals,
kouta are meant for intimate performance - instead of using a
plectrum, the shamisen is played with a quieter, fingered technique.
Twelve brief songs on a variety of themes are presented - Dalby
introduces each, then each is set against a backdrop of artwork
evoking the mood. Lyrics are displayed in Japanese, romanji and
English at the margins of the screen. The translations are presumably
Dalby's own. "Iki" is translated as "cool" in the opening piece, for
example, lending a very personal and colloquial air to these "blues."
There's even a song inspired by the Madame Butterfly story, "Nushi wa
Amerika," while the humorous "Sake to Onna" praises the merits of
drink and pretty women.
I ordered my copy through Amazon.com.
Saionji no Hanae
Province of the Mists