The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Tag: music

Deaf, dumb, and dead

My heart clenched with pain
when I heard that song on the radio
that I knew you liked
and can no longer hear.

I spoke your words the other day
to help your friend in need
who needed to hear your voice.
But I can never be you.

ささやかだけれど、役にたつこと (A Small, Good Thing)

I’ve always been fond of Shibuya-kei, and have even written about it on this site. While I can’t fully grasp all local references, I’ve been listening to this Shibuya-kei song by Kaji Hideki (ヒデキカジ). It’s been helping me close the chapter and impelling me along.

君が旅に出た それも突然
You went on a journey, it was sudden
Because of that, I came back from my journey.

ドアの向こうには もう誰もいない
On the other side of the door, there was no one
I’m not supposed to be the only one in love.

ささやかで役に立つ インスタントでできた
A small, good thing, INSTANT things can be
Be they dreams, be they coffee, even if they turn cold
I think they’re still great.

And so I begin my next journey
例えば この空から雨が降るように
Like, for example, rain that falls from this sky.

ささやかで役に立つ レイモンドは語る
A small, good thing, RAYMOND says
A white shirt that does not match the blue skies.

キミドリの庭を上 犬たちが飛び回る
Above the yellow-green garden, dogs are circling overhead
A letter from you arrives in these sunny days.

Let’s definitely meet somewhere again.



On the first day after Josh died, I had a lot of trouble doing the dishes. Japanese Shibuya-kei and blues singer Mayumi Kojima (小島麻由美) was playing in the background and her song “Itoshi no Kids” came on, I had to take a time out — it was too much. I didn’t realise it at the time, but the lyrics were hurting.

さよなら、愛しい人 もう一度だけ笑って
Goodbye, beloved one. (If only) you could laugh again
その横顔 ずっと 焼き付ける 瞳のフィルム
That profile will always be burned into the film of my eyes

あなたとのドライブ 黙っている二人は
Driving with you, silently, with just the two of us
ゆるやかに響くメロディに 耳傾けるだけ
Tilting my head just to listen to that gently, reverberating melody

いつか、あなたのことも 赤の他人のように
Someday, you will also be like a stranger
痛みも涙もなく 想う日くるのかしら
Perhaps one day I will be able to think about you without pain or tears

さよなら、優しい人 向こう岸に行きましょう
Goodbye, kind one. Let us go to the shore on the other side
ゆるやかに 響くメロディに 耳傾けるだけ
Tilting my head just to listen to that gently, reverberating melody

いつか、あなたのことも 赤の他人のように
Someday, you will also be like a stranger
痛みも涙もなく 想う日くるのかしら
Perhaps one day I will be able to think about you without pain or tears

さよなら、かわいい人 もう一度だけ笑って
Goodbye, adorable one. (If only) you could laugh again
ゆるやかに響くメロディに 耳傾けるだけ
Tilting my head just to listen to that gently, reverberating melody

Notes on how to pronounce Malay words in ‘Semoga Bahagia’

Singaporean musical group The TENG Ensemble did a cover of one of my favourite childhood songs, “Semoga Bahagia,” which translates loosely from Malay into “wishing you happiness” or according to Wikipedia, “May you achieve happiness.” Their use of traditional Chinese instruments for the song makes for a wonderful arrangement, led by local indie singer Inch Chua, who sounds great.

However, and some have noticed and commented on the ensemble’s Facebook post about the video, Chua does not quite get the pronunciations of the words right. Chua’s pronunciation is a highly Anglicised/Americanised vowel/consonant map, informed by her Chinese background. If the TENG Ensemble ever wishes to redo their video — and I think they’ve indicated their interest in doing so — here’s my notes on how to get the Malay words right. An understanding of IPA transcription will help in understanding this post better but even if not, I’ll try to transcribe it in an easily understandable format.

Note 1: The Malay language uses flapped/tapped r’s (/r/), which is similar to the r’s in Spanish, Japanese, and many other languages in the world. It does not use the rhotic r (/ɹ/) English uses.

Note 2: Vowels in spoken Malay tend to be preserved in their lengths and rarely shortened unless spoken very fast. Therefore words like “jiwa” should sound like “jee-wah” (/dʒiwa/) rather than “juh-wah” (/dʒɪwa/). When singing, it’s especially important to preserve the vowels since they become very apparent when shortened.

Note 3: Malay does not usually do aspirated consonants. There is strong aspiration in Chua’s d’s in “pemudi-pemuda,” which is how we usually pronounce d’s in English. Thus the Malay “d” sounds different from the way one would pronounce “dog” in English, which has an audible breathy release in the initial consonant. (Contrast the d consonant in “dog” vs. “dandan 淡淡”)

Note 4: In Malay orthography, “ng” is the velar nasal (/ŋ/), even if it’s between two vowel. Thus “dengan” is “duh-ng-an” and not “deng-gan.” (/dəŋan/) Same with “c” it’s a postalveolar affricate (/tʃ/) as in “ch-urch” and never an “s” sound.

And now for the second-by-second analysis! My comments will be in the form of (observation); followed by suggestion if applicable.

  • Pandai cari [0:35] — rolled r; do flapped r instead.
  • pelajaran [0:39] — rolled r; do flapped r instead.
  • jaga diri [0:46] — rolled r; do flapped r instead.
  • kesihatan [0:49] — Chua said kAH-see-ha-tan; kuh-see-haa-tan, preserve e vowel, don’t aspirate t.
  • Serta sopan santun [0:53] — mispronounced, rolled r; SER-TA sopan santun.
  • dengan [0:58] — good job on de-NG-an!
  • bersih serta suci [1:23] — rolled r; do flapped r instead, preserve all r’s.
  • hormat dan berbudi [1:27] — rolled r; do flapped r instead.
  • jaga tingkah [1:29] — k consonant dropped; preserve the k sound in tingkah, but lightly released.
  • Capailah [1:38] — diphtong aɪ changed to vowel a; don’t drop the i in ca-pAI-lah.
  • pemudi-pemuda [1:42] — aspirated d’s; don’t aspirate d, especially audible in pemuDA.
  • kita ada harga [1:48] — rolled r; do flapped r instead.
  • di mata dunia [1:50] — good job on the d! This is the example of the unaspirated d.
  • kalau kita [2:10] — a vowel changed to e (/a/ to /ə/); preserve A vowel, kAH-lau instead of kUH-lau.
  • lengah [2:12] — added a g consonant; there is no g consonant, it’s pronounced le-ng-ah, not len-gah.
  • serta [2:13] — rolled r; do flapped r instead.
  • hidup [2:15] — Chua said he-daap (/hidap/); it’s pronounced he-doop (/hidup/)
  • sia-sia [2:16] — Chua said saya-saya (/saɪya-saɪya/); it’s see-ah see-ah (/sia-sia/)
  • jiwa [2:19] — Chua said juh-wah (/jəwa/); preserve all vowels, it’s pronounced jee-wah
  • besar sihat serta segar [2:19] — rolled r; do flapped r instead.
  • dengan (2:23) — good example of dengan.
  • perangai pemudi [2:28] — rolled r, aspirated d; do flapped r instead, don’t aspirate d.
  • cergas [2:31] – Chua said sergas, rolled r; it’s pronounced CHeRgas, ch consonant, do flapped r instead
  • suka rela [2:35] — rolled r; do flapped r instead.
  • berbakti [2:37] — rolled r; do flapped r instead. This word is also an example of unreleased ‘k’
  • sikap yang pembela [2:38] — vowel was changed to p-uhm-bUH-la (/pəmbəla/); preserve vowel, it’s p-uhm-bAY-la (/pəmbela/).
  • berjasa [2:41] — rolled r; do flapped r instead.
  • capailah [2:44] — see before
  • pemudi-pemuda [2:47] — see before
  • rajinlah supaya berjasa [2:52] — rolled r; do flapped r instead.
  • semoga bahagia [2:56] — bahagia was pronounced as bUH-ha-g-i-a (/bəhagia/); preserve the A vowel in “ba,” making it bAH-ha-gi-a (//bahagia/). It’s ok to break “gia” into “gi-a” for stylistic purposes but “ba” should remain “ba.” In Malay, “be” (/bə/) and “ba” (/ba/) are contrastive.

Hey, no one ever said Malay was easy, right?

Here’s an example of the song sung by a Malay person (I’m assuming) with all the right consonant sounds, although I think it’s interesting when he overdoes some of his r’s and turns it into a trill [0:33].

It’s a lovely touch that gives it a very folksy flavour, that I’ve heard sometimes older Malay Singaporeans do than younger ones. It’s not quite dissimilar in Japanese, where the flapped r can become a trilled r, called makijita (巻き舌 or rolled tongue), and it is sometimes associated with rural communities, and — interestingly — with the Yakuza and in war cries (“uorrrrrrryaa!”). Pay attention to how he pronounces his d’s, r’s, t’s, and k’s.

Hopefully this will help the TENG Ensemble and Inch Chua make a better second version of the song hitting all the right sounds of the wonderful Bahasa Melayu. After all, nobody wants to hear an ang-mor-cised version of our Chinese songs, do we?


(Woe…. da…. zheeeah.. gay woe! Eee shwaang zheeaan ding zhhh paaang….!!!)


I’m sure many are aware of the Japanese group World Order, known for their elaborate, synchronised pop-and-lock music videos. But, do you know the creative unit behind their works? Meet Hidali, a choreography unit headed by Ryo Noguchi and Takeatsu Nashimoto.

The icon the use to represent the company, 左, means “left” in Japanese.

Formed on March 2013, Hidali has since worked with not only World Order, but other artists both local and international, such as Japanese electronic artist Haisuinonasa and American recording artist

On their youtube channel, they’ve released a couple of interesting videos in their signature style, including a summer greeting, a “Respect for the Aged Day” one, and one for Christmas. All of their music are done by Yu Imai, also part of Hidali.

Musical notation, as described by cats

This amuses probably more than it should, but music geekery and cats? I think we have found a winning combination here. Reblogging from Trumpet Angst.


The music of the Young and Trendy

Even if one doesn’t speak or understand Japanese, listening to this song Sweet Soul Revue by Pizzicato Five, it is very easily established that it would not be what one would expect from a Japanese pop singer. In fact, it sounds closer to something put out in France in the 60’s or so.

Introducing a genre of Japanese pop known as Shibuya-kei, a branch that sounds decidedly so much more Western than its regular mainstream counterparts.

It also makes sense that this genre began and is named after the Shibuya district in Tokyo, a hyper-trendy neighbourhood famous for its scramble crossing, fashion, and shopping.

Just as French yé-yé focused on the innocent beauty of young girls as its selling point in the 60’s, Shibuya-kei is all about the young, the trendy and the beautiful. However, Shibuya-kei transcends merely its music, and its sensibilities have pervaded into a lifestyle and culture.



What is the Shibuya-kei aesthetic? Think clean and simple, minimal, with bold colours that are not afraid to be seen. The images above are screen shots from the movie, Detroit Metal City, which in itself pays homage to Shibuya-kei. Minimalism, portable, retro and futuristic elements all come together to create a sleek and airy feel. Designers such as marimekko would not feel out of place in such an environment.

sbykalbLooking at the cover sleeves of four of the biggest names in Shibuya-kei, Kahimi Karie, Cornelius, Flipper’s Guitar and Pizzicato Five, all reflect the sensibilities of Shibuya-kei design; sleek, clean and very pop-art-ish.


If mainstream J-pop is about producing for a Japanese market, Shibuya-kei seems to eschew itself from that by being everything not typically Japanese. It is synthpop, bossa nova, French yé-yé, jazz, and so many other element put into one. Given the vast possibilities within Shibuya-kei, each artist tends to build a certain style and sound to establish their identity within this genre. Yukari Fresh, shown above with her mini album, Cook Some Dishes, tends toward the light and whimsical synthpop elements, while Pizzicato Five leans towards French-esque bossa pop.

Other interesting stylistic elements include Minekawa Takako with her retro-futuristic electronic sounds (above, Fantastic Cat), or Kahimi Karie (above, Good Morning World) with her whisper-like vocals as she sings in French, English, Japanese and, sometimes, Portuguese (below, Take It Easy My Brother Charlie).


If there can be one thing that can be said to be consistent in Shibuya-kei, it’s the incessant exploration, creation and expression of new ideas and old dreams.

Yoshinori Sunahara imagines the opening of an underground airport in Tokyo in his album, Take Off and Landing (track above, Hawaii 2300) and many of his works feature his obsession with aeroplanes and flight. Others, like Cornelius, a key figure in the genre, explores the relationships between harmony and dissonance, or the relationships natural musical elements can have with synthetic ones, such as in his song Drop (below).

Shibuya-kei is dead?

Shibuya-kei started in the late 80’s and took off in the early 90’s. However, its popularity waned rapidly in the 2000’s as other music, such as Korean pop, started getting a hold of the local music scene.

Interestingly, where Shibuya-kei has floundered in Japan, it has moved overseas and found its niche in Europe and the United States. Artists like Kahimi Karie and Pizzicato Five have definitely found more acclaim overseas than they do in their home countries these days.

What’s more fascinating is that the genre that began and has hit more or less a dead end in Japan is starting to see foreign artists with sounds that increasingly sound like Shibuya-kei. While not a new artist, Momus (above, I want you but I don’t need you) has been likened to Shibuya-kei, as have been other artists.

Momus writes about his thoughts on the genre,

We western pop-makers are like the Brothers Grimm. We scribbled a few fairy stories a long time ago. And now they’re there, transmuted, misunderstood and built in stone at Tokyo Disneyland, and we’re wandering around the theme park in our frock coats murmuring aloud in wonder ‘Did we really start this?’

from Momus’ webpage,

The esoteric nature of Shibuya-kei of the 90’s has left Japan and taken residence overseas, where it is safe and carried on by foreign artists. Those left behind have transformed Shibuya-kei into something slightly different. While Cornelius and Minekawa Takako are still producing works with strong vibes of the Shibuya-kei of the yesteryear, other forefronts of the genre such as Fantastic Plastic Machine and capsule have turned their sights towards house, dance and electronic music. For example, Fantastic Plastic Machine that went from something like this (L’Aventure Fantastique, 1997):

To something like this (Daremoshiranai feat. 環ROY, 2013)

I am not lamenting the direction Shibuya-kei is headed these days; in fact they are all interesting directions. The perceptibly ‘Western’ flavour of Shibuya-kei of the past that was ironically ‘so Japanese’ has morphed into an international movement that artists around the world can participate in. Shibuya-kei is no longer only for and by the Japanese, and the scramble crossing of the district has transcended geographical borders.

Musical memories

Have you ever listened to a song, and be deluged by memories associated with it?

There are certain songs that will always remind of certain things. Amy Winehouse reminds me of my time in Prague, for I listened to a lot of it whilst there. The grey streets and grey looks of people staring across you on the tramvaj will always evoke the soulful tunes of the late musical talent.

Particular albums of Japanese electronic artist, Fantastic Plastic Machine, brings about images of my time in Munich and Vienna.

Songs from Chinese pop singer Faye Wong reminds me of this one friend whom I, of my own stupidity, did something cringe-worthy, and we’re no longer friends. We talked about how Faye Wong is one of his favourite singers. I can’t listen to her songs without being reminded of how dumb I had been.

Music is not something that is merely heard with the ears, but seen by the mind and felt by the heart. All it takes is music to remember memories, to feel emotions, to affect judgement (BrE. AmE uses ‘Judgment’). Just as diaries hold your memories for posterity, we are just as able to meaningfully code data into the tunes and lyrics of music.

It is said that Socrates used different locations of his home to memorise his oratories, by assigning a word or fact to a specific object or feature of his home. Likewise, I think tunes, rhythm and lyric can achieve the same storage effect.

Losing these memories, on the other hand, seem a lot harder. How does one consciously forget a tune? When one hears it, recollection of it is instantaneous. Plus, many memories imprinted onto music are done so subconsciously — perhaps an incident happened while you’re listening to the tune, but it is seldom a concerted effort. This makes losing that memory more difficult.

Be wary of musical memories, they have ways of nesting in your head.

I am mesmerised

This is quite everything I’ve wanted in a video: unicycles, video games, and music.

Also, I’m working on making an illustration for a short story I once wrote. It’s taking a lot longer than I expected.

Illusory Flowers

hana&chouI don’t know how to paint. I just hack away with pencil and brush and call it ‘fauvism’. I never took art classes, learnt how to correctly apply shades and lighting to colours. In the end, I just lighten where I think light should be and darken where I think darkness should be.

I made this painting (acrylic on canvas) a while ago, with an aim to create beauty from my mind. I think of the two most beautiful things in my head: butterflies and flowers.

There is beauty in budding, blooming, and withering. The idea of growth, blossom and death fascinates me, and perhaps in part inspired by the lyrics of one of my favourite songs.

狂い咲き命を燃やす 揺れながら
The life that blooms off-season burns as it trembles

You are dreaming

この世界は美しいと この胸に
This is world is beautiful  in my heart

It is surely blooming

True, the lyrics don’t make much sense, but the beauty of the image in which they conjure is something I’ve enjoyed for a long time, and it has helped me see beauty in many things, because things are surely blooming. It’s been a source of optimism for me, to see beauty amidst blight. Even if things are ugly on the outside, you can always count on the world to be beautiful in your heart.