About three weeks ago, deep into late night Deecing, a friend and I were elaborating on our music tastes of the week. Our discussion was pretty standard until one of us remembered that, a few months ago, the same friend and I showed up at the last Japanese department karaoke party ready to sing “PonPonPon” by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, an obnoxious classic. We talked about how soon after our embarrassing performance, someone walked up and began to rap an extremely upbeat song with an equally intriguing video of a stop motion runthrough of various places. Both of us were immediately in love, but also forgetful of the name of both the song and the artist until we got bored with the other music we were playing and simultaneously remembered the masterpiece from karaoke night.
After some internet sleuthing, I was able to find the name of the song and the creator, which turned out to be a Japanese band called Wednesday Campanella (水曜日のカンパネラ or Suiyoūbi no Kanpanera). Active since 2012, Wednesday Campanella is a Japanese electronic-rap-pop trio made up of singer and face of the band KOM_I plus members Kenmochi Hidefumi and Dir.F. They have released a total of 12 EPs and LPs combined, with another EP, “Galapagos,” set to be released on June 27. With a wealth of music videos and content, I began my immersion into the artist’s work in an Odyssey-like clickthrough of YouTube thumbnails from when the Deece closed that night until now.
“Shakushain”: The first video as well as the same one that appeared during the departmental karaoke, it did not lose its charm on the first, second or 20th listen. Multiple translations and a Wikipedia search of the name suggest the conclusion that it is a song juxtaposing today’s features of the location the song is about (including ramen at the zoo and a variety of modern landmarks) with details and names of people involved in a historic 1669 rebellion.
“Genghis Khan”: As you would expect, this song is about the great Mongol Empire founder and…your local Mongolian restaurant serving the titular dish. The song starts off translated as, “One slice of mutton, two slices of mutton.” Similar to “Shakushain,” it provides a deep understanding of the comparison of past versus current locations, plus what has come of them.
“The Little Match Girl”: A retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Little Match Girl,” this song creates an atmosphere less humorous. The video is a ominous, intimate portrayal of an oblivious girl, smiling and running around no matter how hurt she gets. Likely depicting an unhealthy relationship, one of the early verses of the song incorporates the words, translated, “Meat meat meat meat meat meat meat meat dish. Full full full full full full full course. Give me a match,” and then continues, showing a piece of meat being thrown at the singer’s head. Becoming more violent, the video is a disturbing retelling of a classic tale.
“Momotaro”: Likely Wednesday Campanella’s most popular song, Momotaro retells the folk tale of a boy who emerges from a peach that was floating down a river. Instead of mirroring the plot of the traditional folktale, however, the song tells a story about a boy who likes to play video games all the time over the summer, but his grandparents don’t agree with the way he neglects his schoolwork. Its catchy chorus, “Ki-bidan kibi kibi dan o-ni-taiji onionitaiji,” roughly translated as a stylization of “Millet dumplings, demon exterminate,” made it popular a few months ago on the popular short-format music video maker Musicly, though it did not link back to the original audio track and was indiscernible from all of the other tracks that have mass-produced videos. You might have heard it before.
“Diablo:” This video is my favorite. Kom_I’s extravagant persona is expressed as the owner of a bathhouse, in which demons bathe to be able to live for 100,000 years. The video, much like “Momotaro,” features video game–like elements mixed in with surreal cinematography. The song does not miss a beat, and the wordplay across both Japanese and English is impeccable. The song starts almost like a diatribe, but soon speeds up. Halfway through, though, it cuts back to the beginning, and the entire song is performed with different lyrics, but the music video remains equally mesmerizing and confusing.
Kom_I’s image, as well as his style of rap and singing is enticing. The videos are great songs even without having to be translated. Wednesday Campanella is an international must-listen. What other artist utilizes puns across four alphabets and two languages?