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Childminder of Takeda

Yumi Hara Cawkwell - Music Department, City University, London

"Lullaby of Takeda" is a Japanese childminders' song that originated from Takeda village in Kyoto prefecture. Takeda is one of the discriminated against villages in Japan, called Buraku, where the situation of the inhabitants was not unlike that of the untouchables of India. The song was sung by young childminders in Takeda from about 1900-1930. It is a worksong for childminders, children themselves, who were daughters or sons of poor families sent to wealthy families to work for them while looking after their babies. Childminders began to work typically from about the age of ten. Their parents would have been paid in advance, so the childminders could not go home until the contract years were over.

"Lullaby of Takeda" was discovered in the `60s by a composer with Western classical background and was made famous by commercial folk singers. It was also the first Japanese traditional folk song to be performed and recorded in different styles and appealed to a cross section of Japanese public including a younger generation who had virtually no familiarity with Japanese traditional music.

But during the '70s and '80s, the song disappeared from the media and its origin was long lost and almost deliberately hidden in political conflict. It is now being re-evaluated but people have started to use it to try to manipulate public opinion for political reasons.

In this paper, I am going to examine the way "Lullaby of Takeda" has been perceived by musicians and the general public in the course of time, the roles musicians and political movements took as well as the way it was discovered, arranged and performed, how it was strongly influenced by Western classical music and Western commercial folk song, and the song's current political implications.

Yumi Hara Cawkwell studied medicine at University of Tsukuba in Japan. In 1989-93 she was a junior lecturer in psychiatry at Teikyo University after which she moved to the UK and graduated in music from the City University in London with a first-class honours degree. She has received a number of honours including a prize in the Continuum Ensemble Improvisation Competition (voice and piano) and Sculpted Sound competition (sound sculptures and voice). In 2000, she was invited to perform Childminder of Takeda for voice and bass clarinet in Japan, and the piece was broadcast on Japanese national television and radio. She led voice improvisation workshops for Yokohama Boys and Girls Chorus to perform at the International Society of Contemporary Music World Music Days Yokohama 2001. She regularly performs improvised performances on voice and electronics as well as drum'n'bass DJing. Currently she is studying in the PhD course in composition at the City University under Rhian Samuel.