Kimigayo – Reign of Your Majesty

The national anthem of Japan played at the opening ceremony of Olympic Games held in Rio City was the best music I have ever experienced.

The amazing version of our national anthem was arranged by Jun Miyake, a Japanese composer based in Paris, using incredible technique of mysterious harmony of Bulgarian Voice.

For many Japanese like me, Kimigayo is naturally ‘a poem’, rather than ‘a music’ to be played in a western harmonic texture. Because the lyrics for Kimigayo was first appeared in the “Kokin Wakashu”, the anthology of poetry edited in the 10th century, as a poem.

Given that Kimigayo is a poem, its performance must be more comfortable to be like a poetry reading, instead of a song.

I suppose what is behind the certain strangeness I have been always had when I sing Kimigayo is its complex history and structure. The lyrics was from 10th century’s poem; the melody was made in 19th century in Gagaku (the ancient Japanese court music) style, and was harmonized by a German military bandmaster soon after the creation of melody. I have never got successful in reconciling these painfully different elements while singing the 60 seconds song.

The Miyake version of Kimigayo, so clean, calm but with strong spirit of words, resolved the strangeness that all the other conventional versions of Kimigayo had.


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