b. Bunji Kitazume, 1923, Tsukayama, Niigata, Japan. In 1939, in his mid-teens, Kitazume entered a school for rôkyoku, a popular art of narrative chant, and re-named himself Fumiwaka Nanjô before converting to the style of kayôkyoku (formerly the most common and typically Japanese form of popular song) and performing as Haruo Minami in 1957, when his three debut singles were released. The first couple, ‘Chanchiki Okesa’ (okesa is a kind of folk dance and chanchiki is an onomatopoeic word) and ‘Funakatasan Yo’ (‘Halloa, Boatman’) won Minami significant success and were followed by ‘Yuki No Wataridori’ (‘A Wanderer In Snow’) in the same year and ‘Otone Mujô’ (‘Merciless Otone’) in 1959, making him known as a singer of historical songs. Minami was hailed as a ‘national singer’ when his single, ‘Tokyo Gorin Ondo’ (Tokyo Olympic Dance), became a million-seller in 1964, the year of the Olympic Games in Tokyo for which the song was commissioned. His sinewy vocals and gaudy kimono-costumes, both of which are reminiscent of his rôkyoku background, have long been familiar to Japanese television audiences.
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