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Nobuyasu Okabayashi

Referred to by some as “Japan’s Bob Dylan,” Nobuyasu Okabayashi and his music exemplify the potential of American-inspired folk music in the trans-Pacific diaspora. Okabayashi was born in 1946 in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, and his father was a preacher in the Omi Christian Mission. Okabayashi entered theology school in 1966, but became disenchanted with Christianity and studied socialism. He learned how to play guitar from Takashi Tomoya. In 1968 he played at the third Folk Camp event in Tokyo and began to record for Victor Records. His first album and set of singles, recorded through 1969, were in the “topical” protest song tradition but he quickly grew exhausted with the form and his inability to have his songs played on the radio. In 1970 he hired the Japanese folk/psychedelic rock band the Happy End to back him and began recording his second album, Miru Mae ni Tobe. In 1971 he went into seclusion but reemerged in 1973 and signed with Sony. He developed a more rock-oriented sound that maintained his Dylan-esque lyrical style. The censorship continued as he was dropped from a series of concert bills, which led to his entering an agricultural community outside Kyoto. At the community, he studied the tradition-adjacent music form of enka, and began to collaborate. He signed to Columbia and released three albums during his enka stage, before signing again to Victor, where he stayed until the early 1980s. In the mid-1980s he found himself unable to be signed by any major label and instead decided to start his own “Bare Knuckle Review,” where he toured the country playing his old acoustic protest music while experimenting with the new “enyatto” genre he had created. This resulted in his being signed to Toshiba and being able to continue recording. His “Off-Season Flowering Live Concert” returned after a thirty-six-year hiatus in 2009 to a jubilant crowd.