Japanese Buddhist Monk Covers Ramones’ “Teenage Lobotomy,” “Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” & More

The music of the Bea­t­les, the most influ­en­tial band of all time, has endured for more than five decades now. It also seems to have crossed all cul­tur­al bound­aries: how many peo­ple around the world can lis­ten to the record­ings made togeth­er by John Lennon, Paul McCart­ney, George Har­ri­son, and Ringo Starr, and claim to be hear­ing some­thing alien? The sheer adapt­abil­i­ty of the Bea­t­les’ songs sure­ly also has some­thing to do with their stay­ing pow­er: they’re rec­og­niz­able when played more or less as the Fab Four played them, and they’re just as rec­og­niz­able when sung by com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent voic­es, played by com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent instru­ments, and set in com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent cul­tur­al con­texts.

Take the cov­er of “Yel­low Sub­ma­rine” at the top of the post, per­formed not by Ringo Starr but by a Japan­ese Bud­dhist monk who calls him­self Kos­san. Accom­pa­ny­ing him­self only with the kinds of drums and gongs one would hear in a tem­ple, Kos­san makes the Bea­t­les’ musi­cal tale of life beneath the waves his own.

Crit­ic Ian Mac­Don­ald calls the orig­i­nal “Yel­low Sub­ma­rine” a “sparkling nov­el­ty song impos­si­ble to dis­like,” and view­ers on Youtube have found this more monk­ish ver­sion equal­ly irre­sistible. Kos­san’s cov­er of the Ramones’ “Teenage Lobot­o­my” just above, whose dis­tort­ed gui­tars sound both incon­gru­ous and very con­gru­ous indeed, has also begun to attract atten­tion.

The orig­i­nal New York punk rock­ers may seem an even odd­er choice than the Bea­t­les for a Bud­dhist monk, but not for this Bud­dhist monk, who’s put in his own time on the streets of the Big Apple. “Every week­end, Kazu­ta­ka Yama­da straps on his blue Rollerblades and heads from his Chelsea apart­ment to the Upper East Side,” writes Corey Kil­gan­non in a 2007 post at The New York Times, refer­ring to Kos­san monk by his real name. “After nav­i­gat­ing the city’s streets and glid­ing through Cen­tral Park, he stops in front of the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art,” where he “puts on black shoes and a large, cone-shaped straw hat, then holds out a wood­en bowl and for hours on end, chants in Japan­ese the same four lines of a Bud­dhist prayer.” The Times also pro­duced a video of Kos­san’s pub­lic chant­i­ng, which includes a brief inter­view with the man him­self.

More in-depth is this Eng­lish-trans­lat­ed con­ver­sa­tion at My Eyes Tokyo, in which Kos­san tells of how his musi­cal career began in Cen­tral Park: “When I was play­ing the san­shin on a bench, a guy gave me a dol­lar. I was sur­prised because I did­n’t expect that at all. I was play­ing it there only because it was a nice day.” Thir­teen years lat­er he plays from his home­land to inter­net audi­ences around the world, per­form­ing not just hit songs from the West (and it would be hard to get more west­ern than “We Will Rock You”), but East­ern rock as well, like “Lin­da Lin­da Lin­da” by Japan­ese punk icons The Blue Hearts. Even in this way, Kos­san remains in a New York of the mind: “I’m total­ly Japan­ese and came from Japan so I stick to being a ‘100% pure Japan­ese’ here in New York,” as he told My Eyes Tokyo. “I believe that is a real New York­er.”

via Boing Boing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Punk Dul­cimer: The Ramones’ “I Wan­na Be Sedat­ed” Played on the Dul­cimer

Hear 100 Amaz­ing Cov­er Ver­sions of Bea­t­les Songs

The 15 Worst Cov­ers of Bea­t­les Songs: William Shat­ner, Bill Cos­by, Tiny Tim, Sean Con­nery & Your Excel­lent Picks

Japan­ese Priest Tries to Revive Bud­dhism by Bring­ing Tech­no Music into the Tem­ple: Attend a Psy­che­del­ic 23-Minute Ser­vice

Watch the Bud­dhism-Inspired Video for Leonard Cohen’s New­ly-Released Song, “Hap­pens to the Heart”

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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