Enka, I suspect, is not an acquired taste. It would appear that at first exposure, you either enjoy it, or you don’t. I am able to wax rhapsodic, and get all tingly, at the drop of the first notes of the haunting pentatonic scale of this unique form of music from Japan. Not Japanese folksong, traditional classical or contemporary pop, its niche lies somewhere in between. It first emerged as a specific musical genre in the post-war years and rapidly gained in prominence. Currently the popularity of Enka in Japan is primarily with the middle-aged or older generation. Geezer tunes. Hey, we’re everywhere and our ranks are growing!
Despite the pentatonic scale, similar to that of Greek, Celtic, and Gypsy music, the chords are typical of Western music. [Much of the traditional rural music here in Thailand is also similar in structure to that of Enka.] I was raised in a European home filled with the strains of Mozart, opera, lieder and other classical music of the occidental world, and which is still my mainstay. Then, barely out of my teens and while working in Japan, Enka music entered my life and lodged firmly in my soul.
It was at Barbara’s marvelous site [devoted to the genre, its artists and has downloadable MP3 clips] where she wrote that Enka is composed of bittersweet music which resides within the profundity of the Japanese heart. I’ve never been able to describe it more adequately or as succinctly. Soaring poetic melancholy, embellished with quivering vibrato, and manifested in haunting melodies which linger. . .
Many of my Enka CDs were purchased at the Kinokuniya bookstore in San Francisco and even Amazon.com now has a number of Enka selections There are also several websites in Japan where Enka CDs can be purchased, and if you find the Japanese language daunting, CD Japan is probably the easiest to navigate.