Reporting Live: Charlotte Kate Fox’s Major Debut Single Promo Event at Aeon Mall Aratamabashi (May 9, 2015)

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As I jolted down future events in my schedule book, I took a look at past events and realized that I forgot to cover one important event. This event was the promotion event for the newest NHK Asadora (translated as “morning drama”) heroine, Charlotte Kate Fox, and her debut single “Gondola no Uta”.

If you haven’t watched the NHK morning drama “Massan”, you probably haven’t heard of Charlotte Kate Fox. Let me give a quick rundown! Born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the then-soon to be breakout star started as an actress when she was a teenager. She appeared in various small films and local theater productions until she landed the lead role, Ellie, in the Autumn 2014 drama Masan, a story about a young Scottish woman facing challenges and new adventures as she helps her Japanese husband establish a Whiskey company in 20th Century Japan. There is a wonderful interview on the website backstage about how she prepared for the role and got over her fears about it.

Charlotte Kate Fox quickly gained favorable reviews and popularity as “Masan” aired every morning. One of the fan favorite moments was when Ellie would sing the traditional Scottish folk song “Aung Lang Syne”. She was soon invited to perform at various music festivals and shows across Japan, even getting an invitation to appear on the prestigious end-of-the-year program “Kouhaku Utagassen”.

The actress made her major singing debut with the single “Gondola no Uta” in the spring of 2015. A soothing cover of a early 20th century Japanese folk song, “Gondola no Uta” is perfect for Fox. The actress-turned-singer has a beautiful range that is haunting, mystical, and marvelous. The best part is when Fox sings in the lower ranges as her tone is very warm and rich. Plus, the music video is pretty amazing with an interesting (and a teeny bit shocking) storyline.

To promote the single’s release, Charlotte Kate Fox embarked on a handshake tour all around Japan’s malls. She stopped at a mall near me in Aratamabashi, a name that is a mouthful! She only did handshakes and a quick chat this time, no mini-live before the handshakes which was a bummer because I would have enjoyed a mini-live by her. Oh well, she is going to have a concert tour this fall, maybe I will have a chance to see her if she comes to Nagoya.

After I finished my Saturday part-time job on that day, I rushed towards the mall first by bike and then by train. I was lucky as I barely made it to the three o’clock start time. i quickly bought a CD and then rushed to the handshake line. I probably had to wait about thirty minutes or so to shake her hands because there was a massive crowd. The crowd was full of people of different ages; college-students, kids, families, the elderly, and workers. Most were probably fans of Masan but supported her nevertheless.

As the line moved up, I pondered on what I should say to her. Should I speak in Japanese, a language that we both were accustomed to, or good old English? I chose the later because I wanted to stand out and be different then the other fans that were waiting in line. So, when I approached her, I said something like “I hope you enjoy New York City. Please enjoy New York pizza and cheesecake (because I miss it soooo much). Good luck!”, Her reaction was priceless! She was confused a bit when I said my message because everyone else was speaking in Japanese to her. Here comes this American girl speaking English, how confusing! Don’t worry, I feel that way sometimes too (when interchanging Japanese and English in a conversation)! After sporting the confused look, she quickly laughed it off and we joked about it as I had to say goodbye to her.

If you ever have a chance to meet Charlotte Kate Fox, you should most definitely pursue it because she is a complete doll and so sweet. And her music isn’t bad either, if you are into folk songs. If you don’t like folk songs, maybe you should her a chance and check out the video above. Or buy her new album, which comes out on August 18. 😀

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Stary Olsa – “Litvin”

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When I mention the name “Stary Olsa”, what comes to mind? Do you think it’s a heavy metal band? Perhaps a girl group? Or maybe it’s a rap duo?

Actually, it’s none of those above.

Stary Olsa (Стары Ольса) is a medieval folk band from Belarus. Yes, you are reading that right, it’s a contemporary band that plays music from the twelfth century.

Doesn’t that sound remotely cool?

Indeed, it does!

The band, which formed in 1999, got their name from a brook in the the Mahilou Region of Western Belarus. Stary Olsa collaborates with various historical institutions and museums to create new music with long-forgotten, nearly extinct musical relics like the zurna, the gusli (a cross between a Japanese koto and a lyre), hurdy-gurdy, and others. Many members have joined and eventually left the band over the years as the current leader is the duda and gusli player Zmicier Sasnouski. The band has produced many albums over the years with their latest album, “Santa Maria”, released last year. Most of the music that is featured on the albums are “Belarusian folk balladry and martial songs, Belarusian national dances, works of Belarusian Renaissance composers, compositions from Belarusian aulic music collections, Belarusian canticles of the 16th – early 17th centuries, as well as European popular melodies of the Middle Ages and Renascence.”[1] They also perform in medieval Belarusian fashion at many folk music festivals and flashy theatrical concerts with the folk dance group “The Javaryna Band”.

When I received their best album from my Reddit Secret Santa last Christmas, I was a bit hesitate at first. I thought it would be like one of those generic classic Beethoven albums you find at Walmart or Target that features songs that have been done over and over. I didn’t think it would be a high quality album based on the cover’s simple design. But, I was wrong once I listened to it! It was pretty neat as the songs, like “Litvin”, had modern feel mixed with the old-fashioned instruments, chants, and basic lyrics about life, war, and country pride. Although, I swear there is a hint of a guitar-like beat/rhythm in the song “Litvin”, especially at the beginning. I could be wrong though.

Although “Litvin” maintains a simple beat and musical structure, the lyrics are very interesting. Written in Old Belarusian, the song recounts the tales of the mighty, brave warriors that fought in numerous battles for Grand Duchy of Lithuania,. However, many Belorussians have called themselves “Litvin” recently as they think they helped to create the Grand Duchy’s rich culture. [2] The sense of country pride is no stranger to the song “Litvin” as this sentiment is carried in the war-like rhythms, rough chants, and the music video below. You don’t need to know any Belarusian to fully understand the song’s theme, just the music.

And if you enjoyed that, you might enjoy their rendition of Metallica’s “One”. No, I’m not kidding, their cover sounds amazing!

You can find information about Stary Olsa on:

Their Official Site

Facebook

Wikipedia

Next posting will be something from Japan again! Stay tuned!


Bibliography

[1] Thanks to those who played with us:. (n.d.). Retrieved January 8, 2015, from http://staryolsa.com/eng/band.html

[2] Litvin:. (2009, July 12). Retrieved January 8, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Litvin#Modern_usage