The Nakano Brothers
The Nakano Brothers are the most famous tap team in Japan. Keisuke, born March 21, 1935 and Shouzo, born February 8, 1937 began their careers as child actors. They learned tap from Japanese tap master, Takeo Yoshida. In 1953 they started using the name "Nakano Brothers" while working on a US military base. They were "discovered" by a well-known pop singer of that time, Chiemi Eri, who began to include them in the dance numbers that were part of her performances on stage and television. Through this exposure and of course, a great deal of talent, their careers blossomed till they became the most well known tap dancers in Japan . By the way, the late 50's, early 60's pop scene in Japan is fascinating; sort of proto J-Pop, but so much better. You'll find a brief history at Far Side Music, a terrific web site.
This record, released by Toshiba-EMI on February 5, 1977, celebrates The Nakano Brothers' 30th Anniversary as performers. Side A contains a 20-minute medley of 14 famous tap tunes like Basin Street Blues, Tiger Rag and Tea for Two. Tunes from the 30's and music from Astaire movies are accompanied by the tap sounds of the Nakano Brothers. In their version of Singing in the Rain they record the tap sound in water covered floor. Actually there is so much echo, it sounds more like tapping in a bathtub, but it is great fun anyway. Side B contains original songs by the Nakano Brothers in a kind of 70's pop song style. One of these songs is composed by the famous Japanese musician, Ryudo Uzaki. Most of the tunes are from Nakano Brothers stage shows. Not many tap dancers get to make records, particularly in Japan, so this album is unusual and interesting.
The Nakano Brothers have no web site of their own, but the photos we show on this page have been collected by the folks at New Balance Dance Studio in Kyushu, Japan. In the summer of 2007, New Balance is producing a special show celebrating the 60 anniversary of the Nakano Brothers life in show business. Check it out at Nakano-Tap. Better yet, click the image link to the left and watch the Nakano Brother 60th Anniversay promo video on Youtube.
In 2005, and again in the summer of 2006, A new musical was produced in Japan called Tennessee Waltz, the story of that pop star Chiemi Eri. Chiemi is portrayed by Kaho Shimada, well known to anyone my age as Robin-chan, a character in the famous kids TV show, Ganbare Robocon! Ms. Shimada also starred in a Japanese production of Les Miserable and served as the voice of Julie Andrews in the Japanese language dubbed DVD of The Sound of Music. I have been fortunate to be cast as Keisuke Nakano. My good friend, Tadashi Kato portrays Shouzo Nakano. We try to recreate the breezy style that made the Nakano Brothers Japan's most famous tap duo over the last 60 years.
Here are some rehearsal shots from the production of Tennessee Waltz
Tennessee Waltz opened in Tokyo in 2005 to critical acclaim and came back in the summer of 2006 for a national tour. We'll be at it again in September, 2007.
— Shinichi Matsumoto