When I find a favorite song, it becomes one of the only tunes I play for, usually, weeks on end. I never see it ever getting old. I play it in the car on the way to anywhere, again and again. It becomes a part of my routine, part of me. I’ll play it beginning to end, then I’ll rewind to the middle 30 seconds to listen to just the “sweet spot” a few times, revel in it, bask in its glory, cherish it, feel it! and move on, realizing just how much I am embarrassing myself. (“But it’s just so good!”) You probably know the drill.
Recently, I have found myself rewinding to excellent moments in Brian Eno’s “St. Elmo’s Fire” and Kate Bush’s “Why Should I Love You,” both such jubilant, feel-good songs. A lot of the Pixies’ incredible last album Trompe le Monde is on repeat, too.
But “体育祭” (“Taiikusai,” translated as “Sports Festival”) by Kiyohiko Senba & the Haniwa All-Stars, though it qualifies as a favorite, simply cannot be played on repeat. It’s too dangerous. It’s too powerful.
It’s positively and totally beautiful. Watch this video from a performance of the song in 1991 and experience its incomparable, simultaneously tear-jerking and hysterical wackiness: -Is the orchestra clad in polka dot suits and nurse uniforms? Yes, the orchestra is clad in polka dot suits and nurse uniforms.
-The triangle at the beginning is a quiet signal for something gargantuan coming.
-The lead violin player is wearing some sort of ribbon-hat, and looks dead serious throughout.
-The triangle before the final chorus is saying, “You made it! You are incredible! And it only gets better from here!”
-The unfolding of the fan at 6:45.
-The sweeping camera is really playing with my emotions right now.
I cannot play this song (especially with the video) on repeat because that would be like eating only Warheads for a day. So sweet! So sour! I’m crying! But this song is better – and more potent – than candy. And there is really nothing sour about this song; it just seems to contain that overwhelming, shake-you-to-the-core sweetness that just makes me shudder.
Really, this song – especially the final two minutes, with that victorious outro – makes me cry unlike any other song I have ever heard. I can only gush on about it.
I hardly even understand the lyrics. I lived in Japan from 2003-2005 with my family, and took Japanese lessons. I heard the lead vocalist sing “fun,” “the best,” and “I don’t understand” a few times. (Interestingly, those all describe in a nutshell how I feel about the song.) It’s safe to say this song takes me back to my time in Japan.
It’s definitely worth watching the other clips on YouTube of this band (orchestra?) performing. I’ve done some research on the group; Kiyohiko Senba is a renowned percussion player in Japan and composes/arranges the songs for the All-Stars. The clips are from a DVD of their 1991 concert, and in it, an incredible cast of characters – mostly other popular musicians in Japan, including heavy metal star Demon Kogure singing an absurd version of “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” – takes the stage to sing or solo.
If the song doesn’t make you cry, get a good laugh out of it. I recommend you watch the video in the morning every once in awhile. Let it influence your day in the most positive way.
Ryan P Mihaly has written two reviews for Flying Object, one here and another here. He has studied music, collage, and poetry at Hampshire College and will be graduating in May. He enjoys playing with several friends and musicians in the area, including/kenekt/ and Microsleep. You can listen to some of his own tunes here. Ryan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.