Interviewed & written by Isao Tokuhashi
Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Luis Carlos Severich (Bolivia)
Singer/Guitarist (Folklore & Latin music)
(He’s been in Japan since ’83)
Today’s guest is Luis Carlos Severich from Bolivia, a guitarist and singer of mainly Latin music. He’s been here in Japan for about 25 years and and taught us his culture and music for a long time with his groups, such as “Los Tres Amigos”. He was a young folklore superstar who used to win the Golden Disc in Argentina.
Why did he come to Japan? What did he see when he stepped in the heart of Tokyo?
They wore ties even though it was hot. It was awesome.
I came here for the first time on July 16, 1976. It’s my anniversary. Before I came to Japan, I visited Japanese Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina and looked into Japanese history of society, economy and culture.
When I read a book which introduced Japanese way of life, I found photos of Japanese businessmen and businesswomen. They were in suits, ties and uniforms. Those were colorful and very cool. They were sure-footed and seemed to be proud of themselves.
When we arrived at Tokyo Int’l Airport, I saw them. We went to Japan in summertime but they wore ties even though it was hot. It was awesome. They had good postures and sashayed. I was really surprised at that.
I was impressed by the “smell”. We smelled the sea as soon as we arrived in Japan. In South America, you will smell soil.
“You have to have lunch in 3 minutes in Japan”
The record company people, our manager and the president of the music office welcomed us and we received bunches of flowers. I was overwhelmed. They paid respect to us and I thought, “Wow! This is Japan!” Also I saw people in Kimonos. They were beautiful! I saw them for the first time. I felt that I needed more eyes to see everything.
I was also impressed by seething mass. People called “Baby Boomers” were young at that time, so many businessmen and businesswomen were all around. They were very energetic. I thought, “This is true Japan”. They worked so hard, that’s why they could establish enterprises, such as Sony, Toyota, Seiko (a Japanese watch company) and Yamaha. I found the reason why.
I felt a cultural shock every day. I was interested in those things. Businesspersons were eating something very fast. The music office president told me “You have to have lunch in 3 or 5 minutes, or you wouldn’t be a good businessmen/women”. It was unbelievable. We usually have lunch for about one hour and a half. During the lunchtime, we talk about what happened to us and what we are doing. Japanese are totally different from us.
Japanese people were very friendly. In South America, we were superstars so people hesitated to talk to us. But Japanese people were interested in us. Our Japanese staff members promoted our activities here in the way that was suitable for our culture. It was really striking for me.
A waiter always welcomes you.
I saw a lot of things because I prepared for interviews from South American media. They asked what I saw in Japan or How the Japanese social environment was. We didn’t know about Japan and Japanese people didn’t tell us even though we asked them. Japanese are so shy so we got interested in Japan more.
When you go to any restaurant, a waiter or waitress brings you a hand-towel and a glass of water, and he/she says “Welcome!”. We don’t have this kind of service in my country. So I feel that he/she treats me like a very special guest here in Japan.
Things which I haven’t experienced in my country were only in Japan so I started to learn Japanese history. I bought a book about the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu written in Spanish and read it. Then I liked Japan more.
Returning a favor to Japanese people.
I wanted to slip into a new way of life here. I wanted to care for my folks in South America so I decided to leave them. I wanted to settle down.
When I start to create a new page of my life, I am so excited about how my life goes. When I started my musical activities here in Japan, I wanted to create a good page of my story. Now I am in the middle of the story of my life. I don’t want to go back on what I decided to and don’t want to lie to myself. Then I can create pages which are very understandable for everyone.
I’m getting older and the music I play is changing little by little. I used to be a hit maker so I want to use my career here. In order to do that, I have to learn about Japan more, such as language, culture, customs and society. I want to see how I enjoy the days from now and I want to return a favor to Japanese people. So I want to make a name in the world. And I want to play with Japanese artists.
I’m perfectly in tune with Japan better than my country. Rather, I think now Japan is my country. Maybe Japanese people would be surprised at how I know about Japan. I feel my way of thinking has been Japanized.
I’m a foreigner but I’m working hard. So you also should.
Recently I’m asked to talk to students at schools. I even go to juvenile collective institutions. I sing and talk at those places.
All of us are on the same ship called “Japan” and everybody is working hard in every part of this ship. We have to take care of them. Especially kids in the institutions are immature. Anyway, I have a lot of things to do.
I want to try Japanese children’s songs. So I want to come into contact with teachers, experts and people in countryside and listen to their music, then I understand their souls. It’s like homework. I want to sing songs only in Japanese and those must be accompanied by Japanese instruments.
I want to sing to people all over the world. Who played the role of “Last Samurai” ? Tom Cruise, right? I want to do the same thing. So I will sing Japanese songs in Japanese. I will make it come true even though it takes many years.
Japanese are cracking up. They feel anxiety so I would like to cheer them up. “Everybody, haranbee! I’m a foreigner but I am working hard. So you also should!” Japanese people should rise from the ashes.
I want people to be comfortable with my activities. I always think like that.
*Photo by Masa Takemori
What is Tokyo is to you?
Tokyo is a wonderful traditional city, where is filled with a cultured atmosphere!