Tuesday, February 22, 2011

An Introduction to Japanese Drinking Songs

This past weekend my friend from Japan came to America as a graduation present to himself. My friends and I only saw him for two days and three nights, though he had been exploring other parts of the Northeast like NYC and Washington DC (thank goodness, as much as I was happy to see him, my friends and I were the ONLY thing of interest up here, so hopefully he got his money's worth).

Anyway, we had a lot of fun and of course threw a little nomikai in one of our apartments. And then he taught us a great, fun, easy to learn drinking song.

(I realized just now that I don't personally know any English drinking songs. The only one that comes to mind, embarrassingly,  is "99 Bottles of Beer" on the wall, which I'm sure 99% of the time is sung by little kids on road trips and at summer camp.)

Anyway there are many, many 飲み会のコール (nomikai no kouru, from the word "call," as in chant) a.k.a  一気コール(ikki kouru), and the only one that I learned AND remembered (I know there's a second one that I learned but have since totally forgotten, probably because I was already a bit drunk) is a very simple repitition of 飲んで (nonde, literally, "Drink!") as you would chant "Chug! Chug! Chug!" in English. The rhythm is more complicated than that quintessential "Chug!" though it speeds up in the same way, and ends with もう一杯(mou ippai, "One more!). Here's a video with the proper rhythm.

This one, though a bit more complicated, is still very easy for a non-Japanese to learn, because the way my friend taught it to us, the tune is to the classic Disney song "Bippity-Boppity-Boo." Each verse starts with a month of the year, and ends with 酒が飲めるぞ (sake ga nomeru zo, "We can drink booze y'all!). You go in order from January to December, and in the middle, you come up with your own "reason" to drink for that month. For example,

一月は雪が降って、
酒が飲めるぞ
酒が飲める、酒が飲める、酒が飲めるぞ!

(In January, the snow is falling,
So we can drink booze!
We can drink booze, we can drink booze, we can frickin' drink booze!)

Although the tune is slightly different in this video (copyright issues?), it goes more or less like this. They're mostly holidays, but pay particular attention to September and November:





These drinking songs, of course, are very popular with the young'uns, so many universities in Japan have clubs/teams that actually performed WITH CHOREOGRAPHY and then COMPETED in a national competition (I'm pretty sure this competition hasn't been held since 2008, but, that's why there's Youtube):





So join in on the festivities the next time you find yourself at a nomikai!

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