Japan’s respected National Theatre surprises everyone with traditional rendition of PPAP

It seems everyone is willing to board Piko Taro’s train to fame by riding on the animal-print coat-tails of the Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen-singing comedic star. We’ve seen Ryuk from the movie “Death Note” do it, along with Elmo and Cookie Monster from “Sesame Street” and even a famous Japanese singer, who racked up more than a million views on YouTube with his own classical version of the original PPAP hit song.

Now it’s time for another traditional version to grab everyone’s attention, and this one comes from Japan’s elite group of performers at the National Theatre. As masters of their craft, these talented musicians can usually be heard providing the musical accompaniment for the stylised moves of traditional kabuki theatre performers. Now, however, they’ve surprised everyone around the country by appearing with a costumed mascot character called “Kurogo-chan” (“Black-robed stagehand”), who dances around to their traditional sound with a pen, a “sampo” (wooden stand used in shrines) and a “nurisampo” (lacquered stand used in shrines).

This is one of the weirdest versions of PPAP we’ve ever seen. Not only does it feature the serious-looking faces of traditional musicians in formal outfits, it also features the usually covert stagehand as a smiling mascot character dancing around at the front, clutching a number of traditional items that give the song its acronym, PNSP.

What’s more, the flute, drums and shamisen used in the routine fit perfectly with the original sound of Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen, as do the vocals, provided here by Saki Kineya, who comes from a respected family of traditional singers whose roots can be traced back to the Edo period (1603-1868). Even Piko Taro’s characteristic grunts are replicated by Kineya in true classical style, using traditional techniques that take years to master.

According to the National Theatre, which produced the video, this unusual performance was created in order to spread the traditions of classical music to a much wider audience, especially in 2017, which marks the company’s 50th anniversary. Now that they’ve dipped their toes into the world of viral videos, perhaps their next move will be to follow up with a rendition of Piko Taro’s latest single, “I Like Orange Juice.”

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