This is a journey that will take us to Eastern Europe, 1954, Joe’s Pub, and The Japan Society. It begins, as all great journeys do, with a pig. Our pig is named Ding and…
OK, maybe that’s a bit much. The sisters of Charan-Po-Rantan aren’t trying to proselytize on behalf of Klezmer music (the traditional music of the Ashkenazim). They are just trying to have a good time. Back when they were kids Cirque du Soleil visited (in the tradition of the traveling circuses). They come from an artistic family. Both parents are artists, and their mother designs and makes their outfits.
Upon further reflection, the tradition they seem most connected to is that of vaudeville. Talented performers traveling the world, trying to have a good time and maybe make a buck or two. Their travels brought them back to New York, for a pair of shows. First, they hit up Joe’s Pub, along with Alicia Svigals. They followed that up with a concert at the Japan Society headlined by Hikashu. Quite a week for our trio.
It’s worth checking out the set list from the show.
- Sweet as sugar
- デイドリームビリーバー (Daydream Believer)
- スーパーマリオブラザーズ (Super Mario Bros.)
- ハバナギラ (Hava Nagila with Alicia Svigals)
- 愛の讃歌 (Hymn a L’amour)
- ムスタファ (with Alicia Svigals)
Traditional Jewish music. Neil Diamond. Edith Piaf. The Monkeys. Charan-Po-Rantan can do it all.
What were they like live? Charming. You can tell they put in their time as outdoor performers and it shows.
Momo having fun out in the crowd.
Alicia Svigals and Koharu jamming out together. Ding is having a good time.
For me, the best moment was the switch from the regular Mario music to the under 100 seconds pace. I knew it was coming, but the transition was still awesome live.
After the show I checked out three of their recent albums. Check out their discography and the dates at CDJapan.
It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Koharu is the most prolific songwriter I’ve seen since Prince. It makes me wonder what would happen if they had the opportunity to create beyond their usual fields. If given the opportunity, could they create their on circus show, à la, Cirque de Soleil? My guess is yes, and I know I’d love to see it.
The Friday night show at the Japan Society was quite different. First of all, Godzilla was the headliner. At some point during the rehearsals Godzilla ate Ding, which is why there were no pigs on stage Friday night. Second, it was an absolutely packed stage, with a full horn section and drums, as well as a keyboard. I learned a ton about Godzilla. A fairly brief list:
- Godzilla was originally a gorilla-whale hybrid, partially inspired by King Kong.
- King Ghidorah was a mix of Yamata no Orochi (Eight headed and eight tailed snake) and the mythical Hydra. Also, a spiritual descendant of the Chinese dragons.
- Mothra was a defender of the Earth. She was accompanied by Earth spirit fairies (played on stage by Charan-Po-Rantan).
Charan-Po-Rantan as Mothra’s spirit fairies. Note, Godzilla has already eaten Ding.
Hearing the Godzilla music live made me want to go watch the giant kaiju again. We’ll have to wait a while for the home release of Shin Godzilla.
The show itself was an absolute blast. Hearing the work of the late great Akira Ifukube performed by a live band was a treat. Coincidentally, Ikufube had suffered radiation poisoning and had to quit his career in forestry. His passion was classical music, which makes sense given his soundtrack for the 1954 introduction of Godzilla.
If you find yourself in Manhattan, I’d recommend a visit to the Japan Society to check out their art exhibition of Beautiful Youths.
Having seen Charan-Po-Rantan twice in one week I can confidently say that their charisma is infectious in person. Most of the crowd at Joe’s Pub couldn’t understand the lyrics (which are quite a bit darker than the light tone suggests). Despite that, they enjoyed the music and the energy. I know they’ve dipped their toes into cinema, but perhaps if the circus thing does work out, would they like to work in television? Then again, television viewers are rarer and rarer these days, so maybe an internet show. Who knows what the future will bring from Charan-Po-Rantan (although if the past is any predictor, the answer will be more albums at a very brisk pace).
If you aren’t yet familiar with Charan-Po-Rantan, I highly recommend checking out some of their Youtube videos of the songs from their set. Their creativity is exceptional.