Shintaro Sakamoto Invokes Early Forms of Popular Entertainment as a Path to Joy in a Time of Troubles on the Psychedelic Folk Song “Like a Fable”

Shintaro Sakamoto, photo by Takahiro Wada

Shintaro Sakamoto was the vocalist and guitarist for Japanese psychedelic rock band Yura Yura Teikoku (“The Wobbling Empire”) for 21 years from 1989-2010 when the group amicably split. Since then he’s embarked on a solo career with music that has gone stylistically well beyond that of his former project. The title track for Sakamoto’s new album Like A Fable (which released in June 2022) finds the songwriter sounding like he’s making music for relaxing at a seaside resort in the evening. But as with the earlier parts of his career the lyrics are more existential and this time around speak to an anxiety that emerged perhaps unbidden and mysterious in origin. He sings about taking a trip back in time the way stories were told in the kamishibai style where illustrations were used on cards to give the stories a visual component and it was a form of storytelling most popular in the 1930s but of course when the art form was taken on by future manga artists like Shigeru Mizuki it was a direct predecessor of what would become manga. Sakamoto is invoking going back to roots and falling in love “like in a fable” as a way to figure it all out or at least to connect with the spirit of a time and place that seemed free of being “Plagued by terrible thoughts.” And all to get to where one can feel an excitement for life instead of the wave of despair that sits like an ambient energy on a lot of the world by reconnecting with older forms of popular entertainment. With this blend of psychedelic folk, lounge jazz and that era of Japanese folk rock embodied by Happy End’s 1971 album Kazemachi Roman and the strange, otherworldly yet playful music video Sakamoto is creating a passage to a headspace that may make it possible to have a respite from the stress of dire world events and sometimes that’s what you need to get through it to be able to face what has to be done. The video looks like something that was shot on a Betamax machine yet benefits from modern video production while maintaining the aesthetic and there’s an undeniable charm to this eccentric visual presentation of the song. Watch the video for “Like A Fable” on YouTube and connect with Sakamoto at the links below.

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Author: simianthinker

Editor, primary content provider for this blog. Former contributor to Westword and The Onion.

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