There was a while there in the mid to late 90s when it looked like Japanese pop chanteuse Kahimi Karie would break out of Tokyo’s hip and fashionable “Shibuya-kei” scene (which included Pizzicato Five, Plastic Fantastic Machine, Dee-lite’s Tōwa Tei and others) to find international stardom. She certainly had the potential, the looks and the style. I think when European and American music fans first discovered her, it was assumed that there might be other, similar J-Pop singers like her still to find, but this sadly wasn’t the case. Kahimi Karie (real name Hiki, Mari) was unique within that category, if she even deserved to be lumped in with J-Pop at all.
Influenced by the French yé-yé singers of the 1960s and finding her own Serge Gainsbourg(s) in the persons of then boyfriend Keigo Oyamada (aka the brilliant Cornelius) and quirky Scottish performer Momus, Karie’s whispery, half-spoken Claudine Longet-esque vocals were the perfect gloss on a pop confection that looked backwards and forwards equally.
Her best-known single “Good Morning World” was commissioned for use in a Japanese cosmetics company’s TV commercial. The song’s playful, nearly nonsensical dada lyrics named-checked a Fall song (“How I Wrote ‘Elastic Man’”) and it utilized a particularly effective sample lifted from the Soft Machine’s “Why Am I So Short?” Talk about two insanely cool dog whistles to smuggle into a corporate advertising jingle. Bravo!
There was much to like in the Kahimi Karie package, but for whatever reason, other than the small hipster J-Pop audience, few outside of Japan took notice.
Karie’s sound has radically changed over the years as she’s collaborated with the likes of Arto Lindsay, Add N to (X) and Yasuharu Konishi. Now 48 and living in New York after a long period of residing in Paris, it seems like she has turned her back on hoping for another mainstream pop hit. Recent projects have been produced in collaboration with Japanese noise rocker Yoshihide Otomo and experimental musician Jim O’Rourke. She actually hasn’t been that active in music for many years and her website, infrequently updated, seems to indicate that she might be involved with fashion and bag design these days.
“Good Morning World” written and produced by Momus:
More from Kahimi Karie after the jump…