I have a confession to make. Don’t judge me for this, but I enjoy bluegrass country music. Okay, let me clarify a couple things first. For one thing, I’m not a music expert. I enjoy listening music, I’ve taken my prerequisite piano lessons and I think I have pretty good taste (if you disregard the Hilary Duff songs on my iPod) but don’t ask me about the roots of country music or where indie bands are heading next. I don’t know.
Secondly, I don’t live in the South, I haven’t worn a pair of overalls since 7th grade and I’m as LA-centric as you can get. Like, totally.
So what is it about bluegrass music that strikes a chord in me? At first, I thought I was just weird and that maybe the joy stemmed from some past hick life in the Appalachians. There’s something inexplicable about the beat, the vocal harmonies, the lyrics and the instruments that makes me supremely happy. The juxtaposition of the singing with the fast paced instruments makes the music sound both lonesome yet happy, as if these songs are carrying on an age-old tradition of a long forgotten pastime–of course, a pastime, culture and history that my own Asian American identity has very little to do with.
I thought I was crazy for loving this stuff and even entertained thoughts of booking a live bluegrass band for my wedding (SERIOUSLY), but discovering the music video above changed my hesitation completely. Apparently, bluegrass is quite popular among the Japanese. No, really. I mean, sure, we can be hicks, too (have you met my youngest cousin?) but bluegrass bands in Japan? What!? There’s even a whole blog dedicated to the genre!
Perhaps this collective appreciation for hardcore American country music stems from our tradition of enka, a music genre of “blues” ballad that reflects our own history and culture. Maybe this is just another example of Japan so easily taking and adapting another culture’s tradition to create something original. Maybe the next step for me is to pick up the banjo or mandolin. Regardless, I like to think that we’re just all country lovin’ folks deep down inside.