Yokohama Peeps: Yokoyama Ken
Yokoyama Ken, singer for the Crazy Ken Band, is more than just a Yokohama legend; he is a Japanese pop icon who has been playing and writing songs for decades. Most of his songs celebrate Kanagawa or Yokohama in some way, but his sound transcends national borders.
He grew up in Honmoku, Yokohama, which was then home to a large U.S. military base. He recalls hearing rock-n-roll from ventilation ducts of bars that catered to Americans and being intrigued by the sound. As his tastes matured, he began listening to other genres of music in the international city: rockabilly, reggae, hip hop, R&B, Motown. As for native influences, he cites old Showa folk ballads.
But Ken and his band don't want to simply create nostalgic songs. They like variety and try to play a mix of modern music. Ken calls it the sound of the streets.
Ken's life before he was a superstar was humble. Although he started playing in bands when he was 14, for a while he operated a forklift in Yokohama's Chinatown just to get by. He was also an export inspector, opening crates for 8 years. It's no accident that his songs have an appeal to working-class crowds, much like, say, Bruce Springsteen in the U.S.
When not crooning, he enjoys driving his car around nearby towns or dropping in to hip hop and reggae events in the neighborhood. A celebrity nationwide, Ken remains a local at heart.