Enka is a genre of Japanese pop music that youngsters there absolutely adore. And at the moment, one of the leading proponents of this art form happens to be a 59-year-old Sardar businessman from Delhi – Sarabjit Singh Chadha, who’s also the only non-Japanese at it.
He’s pretty usual, except when he pairs up his neat turban and beard with silk Kabuki robes and belts out Japanese syllables, as excited as the youngsters that throng to his concerts across Japan.
It was a skill he acquired way back in 1970s, when studying in Japan. But his Enka prospects were dashed then, as visa hassles forced him out because, as Sarabjit notes, “people in Japan don’t like those who do too many things at a time”.
What wasn’t as exciting in the ‘70s has become a phenomenon in the more synced world 30 years later, when we can’t stop celebrating globalization. The comeback started in 2008, when promoters in Japan asked Sarabjit to, well, come back.
He’s still the upright businessman by day in Delhi, but now must afford time to travel to Japan for frequent performances. Although recently, his music happened to keep him home, as Sarabjit played Enka gigs at Delhi, Gurgaon and Chennai between Novermber 26th and 29th.
Where does he want to go with this? Sarabjit believes there is immense scope for expansion of the genre within the country. And listening to the generically up tempo beats and the catchy (though unintelligible) lyrics, he might even have a shot.
For broader mass appeal, there will be Enka in Hindi, of course – eventually leading to Enka in Bollywood, Sarabjit hopes. Till then, he’s reveling in his newfound role as an improbable ambassador for Japanese celebrity and culture.
Here’s a video of the straightlaced Enka turban delight, performing at Namaste India 2010 in Tokyo.