vendredi 6 octobre 2017

Hajime Chitose (元 ちとせ) - Eng

The princess of the Shima uta, a traditional style from the archipelagoes in southern Japan, comes from a small island lost between Okinawa and Kyuushuu; here name: Hajime Chitose. Mastering and surpassing the root frame, she highlighted her birthplace of Amami in the Japanese charts and then through her collaborations with several foreign artists and her participation in events promoting peace.

Hajime Chitose (元 ちとせ)

Peaceful Voice from the Ancient Kingdom

1e publication : 06/10/2017
Dernière MaJ: 07/10/2017


Hajime Chitose (元 ちとせ) was born on the 5th of January 1979 on the main island of the Amami archipelago (奄美), Ôshima (大島). 
Amami is not a very well known archipelago which forms a line between the 2 big touristic spots of Kyûshû, the southest of the main Japanese islands, and Okinawa archipelago with which it has constituted until the Edo era (17th century) the independent  Ryûkyû Islands Kingdom (琉球王国). The kingdom is then invaded by a samurai clan from Kyûshû who annex formally Amami, while the Shogun granted some autonomy to Okinawa because of its mediator role in trade with China. This last part is then formally annexed during the Meiji Restauration (19th century) with the creation of the Okinawa prefecture, while Amami stays linked to the one of Kagoshima on Kyûshû.
These islands thus developed a culture, language and a folk song style close to Okinawa, influenced by both China and Japan, the Shima uta ("song of the islands"), characterized by a kind of strong vibrato (melisma) and the use of a particular kind of shamisen, the sanshin.

Hajime Chitose learns this style during her childhood and gets noticed during songs contests which make her travel until the main island of Honshû. Several management agencies and Majors approach her in 1996-1997 after she released on her own some covers of traditional songs in the local language, but she prefers to go on studying in beautician and cosmetology, like her older sister. She leaves for Osaka but appears to be allergic to some cosmetics, which makes up her mind. 
Album Heiwa Gannen, 2015
She contacts the artists agency Office Augusta, the only one to have come until Ôshima to scout her. That's how she releases 2 mini-albums in 2001, one of covers of foreign songs, the 2nd original, Kotonoha (コトノハ) through the indies label of Augusta : Atsugua. She signs with the Major Epic the following year, with a 1st single mixing traditional voicing, modern poetry and a touch of reggae, Wadatsumi no ki, which ends up in 3rd place in the yearly Oricon chart, selling more than 1 million units ! It can be find naturally in her 1st album Hainumikaze (ハイヌミカゼ) released by the end of that year and which exceeds the 800 000 units. She was invited to the 53th Kouhaku Uta Gassen of the NHK but declined as she was in recording in Paris at that time.
She releases a 2nd album, more confidential, Nomad Soul, in 2003 then makes a break for her marriage and 1st child.

She comes back in the spotlights in 2005 with singles used as anime songs like Kataritsugu Koto dans Blood+ (arranged by Tokita from the famous duet Sukimaswitch, belonging to the same agency) or Haru no Katami in Ayakashi, and in movies like Ao no Requiem (Hatsukoi)... 
But she gets noticed rather through her cover of a pacifist Turkish poem in her style with a composition from the great composer Sakamoto Ryûichi : Shinda Onna no Ko, for the 60-year ceremony of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, a song she is regularly invited to sing again (she appeared in 2014 in the Concert for Peace of NHK World for example). She takes her role of peace ambassador very seriously indeed and was back in Hiroshima for a festival in August 2015. 
The tracks of this period are in the album Hanadairo (ハナダイロ) released in May 2006 (version CD+DVD to get Shinda Onna no Ko in bonus track).

From 2007 on, she collaborates with several foreign artists like the Irish traditional band The Chieftains, the Jamaican duet Sly & Robbie or the new-age French of Deep Forest, which leads her to release a concept of 2 albums in 2010, Orient (covers of Japanese songs) and Occident (covers of English-speaking songs). Meanwhile in 2008, a new original album is released, Cassini, including in particular Hotaruboshi from the movie Climber's high, composed by Tokita from Sukimaswitch.

Her Best of 2012
Since the release of a Best of and a tour for her 10th year in Major in 2012-2013, she slowed down a little her activities and goes on living on her birthplace island. She regularly tours with another male singer from Amami, a bit less known but talented too, Atari Kôsuke (中 孝介), under the name of Ochûgen (お中元, combination and alternative reading of their names' kanjis) in smaller stages, and partipates from time to time in TV shows.
Since her arrival in Office Augusta, she is a member of the informal bandformed by the agency's artists, in a quite family mood, 福耳 (Fukumimi)​, which in all discretion includes other celebrities such as Sukimaswitch, Yamazaki Masayoshi or Hata Motohiro ! This band is mainly the occasion to make live collaborations during the festival organized by the agency (Augusta Camps) but they release sometimes CD like the single of the 20th anniversary of the agency, "Love and Live Letter" in 2012.



The style Shima uta, in her most strict meaning impies a strong vibrato, close to the Enka and to the minyô of the rest of Japan, which may not be liked by everybody. It is nevertheless a technic hard to masterize, which underlines even more the talent of Hajime Chitose who manages to bring it out of the traditional frame without betraying it.
Her commitment for peace and her simplicity make her a nice personality. As an example, her album of 2015 was released specially for the 70 years of the end of World War 2: "平和元年 (Heiwa gannen)" and contains covers in Japanese of international songs. She regularly put her Shinda Onna no Ko to download around August and gives a part of the revenue to charities.
She can be considered as an "ambassador voice" of Japan, and more particularly of Amami.

Atari Kôsuke and Hajime Chitose in the center, in 2017.

Similar Artists

Japan: Atari Kôsuke, Kizuki Minami, Ikue Asazaki, The Boom (on some tracks)...

World: The Chieftains, Alan Stivell...

Great Standards

First performer:

Wadatsumi no Ki
Kataritsugu Koto


- Shinda Onna no Ko
Lili Marleen
- Tohoku he ikitai

Hanadairo limited version CD+DVD

Discography (selection) :

Affiliated links to CDJapan, with audio samples. Thank you for allowing cookies if you enjoyed the article to support the site m(_ _)m.

Kotonoha / Chitose Hajime
Chitose Hajime
2010: reedition of the 2nd indies album of 2001; includes Ryûgû no tsukai (animation movie of 2010 Planzet)...

Hainumikaze / Chitose Hajime
Chitose Hajime
07/2002: 1st Major album; includes Wadatsumi no Ki, Kimi wo omou...

Hanadairo [Regular Edition] / Chitose Hajime
05/2006: includes Kataritsugu Koto (anime BLOOD+), Ao no requiem, Shinda Onna no Ko (vers. CD+DVD)...

10/2012: 1er Best of; includes Wadatsumi no Ki, Kataritsugu Koto, Hotaruboshi, Ao no requiem, Nagoriyuki with Hata Motohiro...

Heiwa Gannen / Chitose Hajime
Chitose Hajime
07/2015: album of covers in Japanese of foreign songs for the 70 years of the end of WWII; includes Lili Marleen, Che Sara (Qui Saura), Shinda Onna no Ko...

03/2013: Best of Live 2012 fo the Office Augusta's artists; includes Wadatsumi no Ki, Love an Live Letter (with Fukumimi)...

Haru no Yukundo / Ochugen (Kosuke Atari+Chitose Hajime)
Ochugen (Kosuke Atari+Chitose Hajime)
03/2011: Maxi single of Ochûgen; includes Haru no Yukôdo


Other sources: wikipedia JP, reportages TV, Asahi Shinbun...

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