Grannis, if you don’t know, is a talented hapa singer-songwriter whose prolific work is available on a YouTube channel that includes her hummable originals and tons of interesting covers. Back in 2008 I wrote about her when I stumbled upon and was enchanted by her breezy cover of “Sukiyaki.”
She’s part of a growing list of Asian American musicians who are making a mark on the mainstream pop scene.
Surfing YouTube videos can be like the early days of surfing the Internet. Following links to random Web pages is a leap of faith, a trust in kismet, that what you’re about to see is both somehow related to what you were seeking in the first place, and hopefully entertaining.
In the midst of one of my YouTube forays, following related videos then backing up and taking another path to other videos, I came across one of my favorite songs of all time, “Ue O Muite Arukou” by Kyu Sakamoto, the Japanese pop star who had a worldwide #1 hit with the song in 1963.
You probably know the song better by the name put on it by its American label, “Sukiyaki.” It’s been covered in English by a number of artists, most notably Taste of Honey in the ’80s and the Viet pop singer Trish Thuy Trang more recently. She sings both English and Japanese in her version. (See Sakamoto’s, Taste of Honey’s and Tran’s video versions below. They’re all available on YouTube.)
From there, I clicked to a cover version of the song by a hapa musician named Kina Grannis and was pleasantly surprised by the sweet, cool, understated quality of her version of the song — which she sings in the original Japanese — as well as the scope and depth of her talent on other videos. Here’s the video:
Grannis is from Southern California, and won a songwriting contest sponsored by Doritos with the catchy song, “Message from Your Heart,” which was aired during the Super Bowl in February. The contest led to a deal with Interscope Records. Continue reading →