Yoko Kanno Does Not “Make Up” Languages…

…her alter-ego, “Gabriela Robin“, does.

I’ve always loved Yoko Kanno’s music ever since I watched Tenkuu no Escaflowne (The Vision of Escaflowne). I may not be an expert in music, but I find hers to be so distinctive that I can usually tell if a song/score was composed by her. That was the case when I watched the crappy film, Ashura-jo no Hitomi and heard the song Perdeski Cloyn. I immediately thought that it sounded very Yoko Kanno. And it turns out that it is.

Much like Kanno’s other songs in Escaflowne and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, I had no idea what language “Perdeski Cloyn” is in. I did my usual Google search, but I couldn’t find any website that actually specified what language the song is in. So I hopped on over to YouTube, found a video with the song in it, and posted a comment, hoping that someone watching the video would be able to enlighten me.

And then someone said: “if it’s yoko kanno it’s probably a made up language.”

Actually, “Perdeski Cloyn” and some other songs with lyrics by “Gabriela Robinmay be written in made-up languages, but there are songs with music composed by Yoko Kanno actually come in a variety of real languages, including Russian, Romanian, and Italian. Most of the songs’ lyrics, however, were written by the singers who performed the songs themselves or by different lyricists; not by Kanno or Robin.

Here’s a list of some non-Japanese, non-English Yoko Kanno songs with links to lyrics and streaming mp3s/videos, where available.

From Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG

  • Rise, performed by Origa – Russian/English [Lyrics]
  • I Do, performed by Ilaria Graziano – Italian (with bits of English) [Lyrics]
  • Dew, performed by Ilaria Graziano – Italian [Lyrics]

From Cowboy Bebop

From Wolf’s Rain

So there we have it. Just because you don’t recognize the language in a Yoko Kanno song doesn’t automatically mean it’s made-up, especially if the credited lyricist is someone like Ilaria Graziano.  If the song’s lyrics aren’t in Japanese or English and were written by “Gabriela Robin”, however…that’s another story.

5 thoughts

  1. Well, yes of course. Many of the songs composed by Yoko are in fact in another language (not japanese) just like Fantaisie Sign (french) or Mushroom Hunting (english, duh!) both from Cowboy Bebop OST’s. Made up language songs, just like Green Bird, only speak of what a genius she is. Great post and keep enjoying Yoko!

    1. ¡Otro argentino que aprecia el trabajo de Yoko Kanno, qué bien! Yo la vengo siguiendo hace bastante e intenté escuchar todos sus álbums lanzados hasta el momento, el problema es que es muy difícil encontrarlos originales.

  2. Good article, but there’s one thing I find most disheartening about this issue:
    Many people are pretty much clueless when it comes to detecting and knowing different languages.

    What I mean by that is: People don’t know by ear very many different languages and can’t e.g. determine Russian from Polish or Swedish from Danish.

    And when it comes to major languages like French, Italian, Portuguese or difference between Korean, Japanese and China many don’t really hear the differences or can’t even determine where the language is most probably from or if it’s even a real one.

    I just wish people had the interest to see, hear and know different cultures, languages and people so they’ll be better equipped with different cultures and languages what world holds.

    Surely each of us have heard French, Italian and Portuguese sometime in their life and do know what they sound like 🙂

    At least I hope so! 😀

    1. I’ve learned not to expect everyone to have heard one language or another, nor to expect anyone to have as much interest in learning/distinguishing languages as I do. Aside from knowing I’ll be disappointed, it’s never really fair to expect people have an interest in something that I do, or to have had as much exposure to something (in this case, another foreign language) as I have.

      I myself don’t really know how to distinguish Danish, Polish, and Swedish languages on the fly, though I do know the difference between Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. :p It actually takes a lot of exposure and research to get a good enough grasp of a language to distinguish them from one another, which is why I say it’d be unfair to expect that “surely each of us” have heard a specific language enough to know what they sound like. Thinking that way can actually be off-putting to others, because it seems…a bit snobbish?

      Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s great that you want everyone to be open to other people’s languages and cultures, and I definitely don’t think you’re a snob! 🙂 I just felt the need to point out that there will always be people who are interested, and there will always be people who are not. I don’t find this disheartening – that’s just how things are. The best thing we can do is to share our interest and knowledge with people and hope they pick it up too. 🙂

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