Petty Booka
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Petty Booka

Tokyo, Japan | Established. Jan 01, 1995

Tokyo, Japan
Established on Jan, 1995
Duo Pop Roots

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Music

The best kept secret in music

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"Where buzz is born"

AUSTIN, TEXAS — Texas has seen its share of bizarre acts, but never one like Petty Booka, a ukulele-playing Japanese duo who dress in Hawaiian-print skirts, cowboy hats, and leis. In their appealing sopranos, the petite women were singing heavily accented covers of pop songs, from Van Halen's "Teacher's Pet" to Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," at South by Southwest, one of the premier US music festivals. Think of it as Sundance for musicians.
The pair, who go by the names Petty and Booka, record for an Italian label and created their act, Petty says, because "We thought, 'It's gonna be unique.'" Unique is the operative word for every act that performs at SXSW, the South by Southwest conference, aka "spring break for the music industry.” - Lynne Margolis Special to The Christian Science Monitor


"Under the sway of Petty Booka"

Picture this: Two girls, cousins, growing up in the lush, tropical paradise of Hawaii, learn the ukulele at their father’s knee. Singing the old, mournful island love songs with their mother, harmony and melody come as naturally as the hula.

Or this: Two girls gigging their way through Tokyo’s garage punk scene come under the sway of leis and the tutelage of musical Svengali Hiroshi Asada, responsible for the original Pizzicato Five mondo onslaught.

Whichever version you choose to believe, Petty Booka’s kitschy take on the ’50s Hawaiian vibe is as intoxicating as a frangipani blossom.

The duo of Petty Booka, conveniently known as Petty and Booka, prefer to keep their identities under wraps, preferably in flowery sarongs. Rumor has it that Booka was part of a legendary all-girl punk band Flamenco Au-Go-Go in a previous incarnation. Petty is actually Petty Two, Petty One having “returned to Hawaii to walk her dog,” explains Booka.

Backed by a cadre of ukulele-strumming fellows in Hawaiian shirts, theirs is a beguiling fiction. The gentle, almost plaintive, pluck of the opening notes to “Ukulele Lady,” the first number on their new album of the same name (Benten Records), wafts like an island breeze. Wrapped in a cocoon of Booka’s sweet high warbly soprano, Petty’s slightly fuller, richer contralto and, of course, ukuleles, songs as disparate as Tom Waits’ “Hang Down Your Head,” or Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting in Limbo,” take on a sweet almost melancholic innocence. A cover of Chris Isaak’s “Pretty Girls Don’t Cry” is particularly beautiful, ukulele and steel guitar weaving a shimmery musical net underneath Petty Booka’s harmonies. The whole album, easy and kicked back, sings of summer.

Aside from their inspired “Hawaiianization” of modern hits, a Petty Booka album is always a treasure trove of reworked ’50s and ’60s gems. “We are trying to introduce a new generation to the good songs of yesterday,” explains Asada.

While in the U.S. golden oldies rule the radio waves, only the garage rock scene in Japan has embraced ’50s style and music. Though Petty Booka’s repertoire is heavy with American songs from the ’50s, Asada’s musical retrospective is definitively a Japanese one.

In the ’60s and ’70s, Hawaiian bands became fixtures on the radio and in the nightclubs of Japan. Asada draws heavily from this era. Interspersed between the Hawaiian and occasional country standards are Japanese nuggets such “Tokyo Dodompa Musume,” reworked for a younger generation. If Petty Booka can be accused of “copying” a foreign musical idiom, it is through the lens of Japan’s own musical heritage.

The force that ties it together is none other than the ukulele. It is enjoying a revival at the moment, hanging beside the Fender basses and Gibson guitars in instrument shops.

“It’s sweet and easy,” explains Booka. So easy in fact that the present Petty, only on the job for one month, seemed mighty proficient during a live show recently in Shimokitazawa. Petty Booka concerts are veritable ukulele conventions; at one point there were five being played onstage. For the last number, members of Ukulele Afternoon, a casual ukulele group that doubles as a Petty Booka fan club, whipped out their instruments to bring the count to an impressive 15.

“It’s not so much a boom, but a cult,” says Booka of the ukulele’s popularity. Rolling Coconuts, a ukulele magazine, regularly schedules “ukulele strolls.” Booka says they offer an opportunity “to enjoy playing the ukulele surrounded by the beautiful vistas of mountains and fields.”

Then again, you can just pick up “Ukulele Lady,” and dream about it.

Petty Booka performs at 2 and 6 p.m. Aug. 1 at a free concert for the grand opening of Osaka Umeda Hep Five Building; Aug. 28 at the Hachinohe Grand Hotel in Aomori.

For more information, call (03) 5292-5550 or check the Petty Booka Web site: www.sister.co.jp

Samm Bennett, musical jack-of-all trades, emerges from the depths of the studio for a rare solo performance July 29. Bennett is a fluent performer who lightens the often serious tone of improvised music with a touch of play, and when necessary, a bit of structure. His songs, inviting on the surface, twist melody and rhythm in unexpected directions. Lately his attention has turned to electronics, so don’t be surprised to hear a bit of drum ‘n’ bass or trip hop added to the mix. - UZANNAH TARTAN


"Petty Booka music featured in movies and TV shows:"

So You Think You Can Dance
S14 · E10 · Top 9 Perform · 21 Aug 2017
Sydney's solo dance

Dancing With the Stars
S23 · E9 · Week 6: Latin Night · 17 Oct 2016
Amber Rose and Maksim Chmerkovskiy dancing the Cha cha - Tunefind


"Petty Booka – Singin’ In The Rain"

There’s no denying that Japan’s Petty Booka is a novelty act. With their ukuleles, their faux-grass skirts and their innocent but sexy stage manner, the singers (named Petty and Booka) create an atmosphere of some mythical vaudeville stage – even when they’re singing songs by the Ramones or Culture Club.

But what a novelty they are. Beneath the Hawaiian trappings (which they sometimes forsake in favor of cowgirl clothes when they decide to do a country act), Petty and Booka exude enough raw sweetness to disarm the cynical. What’s so wrong about pretty girls singing pretty songs anyway?

This eight-song EP (subtitled Petty Booka Rain Songs Collection Vol. 1) is a concept album — yes, hula-soaked versions of songs about precipitation. Included are Dee Clark’s oldies-radio staple “Raindrops”, Brook Benton’s “Rainy Night In Georgia”, the Carpenters’ “Rainy Days and Mondays” (featuring steel drum and steel guitar), and a Hawaiian song, the spirited “Rain Kilikilhune”.

Petty Booka also does two rainy tunes by ’50s rock icons: a reggae-rhythmed “Crying In The Rain” (made famous by the Everly Brothers) and “Raining In My Heart” (recorded by Buddy Holly). The fadeout of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Rain On The Roof” contains a sly nod at a rain song Petty Booka has yet to record: a ukulele version of the signature lick from the Cascades’ early ’60s hit “Rhythm Of The Rain”. Perhaps a hint of what’s coming on Petty Booka Rain Songs Collection Vol. 2…

But the highlight of this EP is the title song, which is so simple, so sweet, so sonically gorgeous, my first reaction was that there must be a part of Brian Wilson’s brain where this song plays all the time.

Eat your heart out, Gene Kelly. - Editor of No Dpression


"Petty Booka – Country & Far Eastern"

Alternative country can have more than one meaning once you get out of Dodge. For Petty Booka, the alternative country is Japan, and their venue is the 24-hour craziness of Tokyo. In the audio wasteland that is Japanese pop, only the strong or really perverse can survive the overwhelming pressure to conform. But for Petty Booka, it’s an opportunity to do something different, and with exquisite taste.

Tomomi Asano (a.k.a. Petty) and Yuka Yamada (Booka) were already signed to Benten, an alternative indie label whose acts are exclusively women. Label manager Kimura Shisaka explains that “Benten is the only female in the seven lucky gods of Japan; she’s our inspiration.” The outrageously funny and downright raunchy nature of some of Benten’s promotional material sinks any image of meek Asian women.

When Asano and Yamada’s punk band Flamenco A-Go-Go broke up, they decided to try a new adventure. So, they teamed up with Hiroshi Asada, one Japan’s top producers, and set out to see how far they could bend the rules of American music forms. “Country music and Hawaiian music were really popular in Japan through the ’60s,” Asada says, “but it is really rare to hear it these days. It is something new to young Japanese.”

Since then, Petty Booka have recorded nine CDs on Benten’s subsidiary label Sister Records, evenly split between their takes on Hawaiian and country styles. The odd one out is Christmas Everywhere, which features songs such as “Christmas In Prison” and “My Two Front Teeth”. Their most recent country CDs are 1996’s Fujiyama Mama, which features covers of songs by the likes of Junior Brown, Paul Seibel and Hank Williams, and 1997’s Sweetheart Of The Radio, on which they render classics by John Fogerty, Hank Snow and Gillian Welch, among others.

Indeed, what sets Petty Booka apart from every Japanese C&W band hoping to hit it big on the military base circuit is their unusual song selection. It’s rare to hear Madonna’s “Material Girl” in any country band, just as it is to hear the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” done with ukuleles (as on their 1998 Hawaiian-music disc “Blue Lagoon”).

Petty Booka’s harmonies are deliciously sweet with a strong Stanley Brothers feel, but accented by a melting Japanese lilt. While most Japanese idol bands cannot sing or play, these women can do both and are backed in the studio by local players who can flat-out smoke on their instruments. Petty Booka’s music is ultimately difficult to categorize, but their sheer talent and offbeat take on American roots music deserves a listen. - No Depression


Discography

Toconut's Hawaii" (CD Hawaiian) BNTN-008 (95.7.10) BENTEN
"FUJIYAMA MAMA" (CD-C&W/Bluegrass)BNTN-015 (96.5.25) BENTEN
"Christmas Everywhere" (CD Christmas song) BNTN-018
"Hawaiian Pure Heart" (CD Hawaiian) CRCS-1001 (98.6.25)
"Sweetheart of The Radio" ( C&W/Blueglass) CRCS-1003(97.11.21)
"Blue Lagoon" (CD Hawaiian) CRCS-1004 (98.6.24)
"Dancing with Petty Booka" (Dance Hall) CRCS-1006 (99.2.24)
"Ukulele*Lady" Petty Booka from Hawaii (CD Hawaiian) BNTN-041 (99.7.10)
"Singin' in the Rain" (CD Hawaiian) BNTN-054 (01.5.25)
"Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian" Label: Weed Records (03.4.1)
"Tokyo Bluegrass Honeys" BNTN-069 (08.7.2)

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Bio

Petty Booa BioWorld famous ukulele-playing pop duo from Tokyo.  Petty Booka do Hawaiian and Bluegrass  (including Reggae and ska) -inspired covers of country, punk and classic-rock - everything from Patsy Cline to Ramones. Since they have released their debut album "Toconuts Hawaii" in 1995 from BENTEN Label in Tokyo, they have been releasing the variety of albums of Hawaiian, Bluegrass, Country, Christmas songs and Dance Hall music with the greatest Japanese musicians and some special guest players, like the legend of exotic sound, Martin Denny plays piano and MFQ(Modern Folk Quartet )does the chorus of "Summer Breeze"  Their first US appearance was SXSW 2002 which was a big success and more than 200 copies of CDs were sold the night. Then they were featured by the radio program of BBS Global Hit broadcasted 500 stations all over the world. They have toured  US several times after that , they opened the tour of American ska punk hero, The Aquabats US tour (17 cities) and played SXSW in 2005 and 2008.  Petty Booka  released amazing dance music album called "Dancing with Petty Booka" The staple of the album Bla Bla Bla Cha Cha Cha was used as the soundtrack of Campari Red passion TV commercial staring Jessica Alba and directed by Jean-Paul Goude and also the song was used for the American dance competition show on FOX TV, “So You Think You Can Dance” last year. http://www.sister.co.jp/pettybooka

Band Members