While we don’t usually think about successful opera singers breaking into the rock music industry, there’s one man out there to prove that classically trained performers can, in fact, appreciate decidedly more “modern-sounding” music.
Japanese operatic tenor Ken Nishikiori (錦織 健) is one of the most prolific opera singers to come out of Japan. But recently the 55-year-old has been making waves on the net not for his sweeping operatic vocals, but for his astounding cover of British rock band Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody!”
As part of my father’s mandatory musical education while growing up, I was always surrounded by a host of classic rock bands (the Kinks in particular). Although Queen wasn’t one of his personal choices, even I can recognize some of the band’s biggest hits, such as the hugely influential “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
The song was originally written by Freddie Mercury for the band’s 1975 album A Night at the Opera. Notably, it features an approximately one-minute-long “operatic” segment within the song, right after the guitar solo. The effect of this choir-like vocal multi-tracking was achieved by having Mercury and the other band members record their voices for up to ten to twelve hours per day, for a grand total of 180 separate overdubs.
▼”Bohemian Rhapsody,” aka “179 dubs too many”
Enter Ken Nishikiori. The Shimane Prefecture native graduated from the Kunitachi College of Music in Tokyo and is today celebrated as a successful operatic tenor in his home country. In his spare time, he also participates in another ongoing gig in the form of a rock band that was originally formed during his school days–the Shimane Ken Band ( シマネ健バンド).
Nishikiori has a chance to shine as a rock vocalist through this separate outlet, while at the same time pay tribute to Queen, one of his own personal favorite bands. The band has so far released two CDs, one in October 2010 and the other in May of 2011, both of which exclusively contain Queen cover tracks.
▼Shimane Ken Band’s Seven Songs of Queen, also known as Kagayakeru nanatsu no uta (輝ける７つの歌) in Japanese.
The band’s label, Pony Canyon, uploaded their “Bohemian Rhapsody” cover onto YouTube earlier last year. It’s still picking up new views even now, with many Japanese listeners commenting on how Nishikiori’s vocals sound hauntingly similar to Mercury’s original rendition (minus the slight accent, of course). We’re not entirely convinced, however: