Fra Foa - Rock From the Heart
"Kami-sama wa boku ni kono koe o kureta... sorede boku wa ano hito ni, nani o kaeseta?"
"God gave this voice to me... and for that, what did I give him in return?"
So sings Chisako Mikami, the petite and yet overwhelming vocalist of Fra Foa. If you have never been graced by the music of this band, then now's the time to start scouring for their albums. Founded in April 1998, in the city of Sendai, Fra Foa played in festivals and livehouses in and around Sendai for two years before being picked up by Toy's Factory. Under that label, they released their first album, "Chuu no Fuchi" (The Deep Pool of Space) in February 2001, and their second album, "13 Leaves," in September 2002.
The best word to describe Fra Foa's music is "cathartic." Their music is a roller coaster ride of emotions mixed with loud guitars, drumming, and possessed singing. There are many things that strike you immediately when you listen to them. For one, their music is raw, really raw, as if from one of those bands you find playing in a roadhouse. Then there's Chisako herself, whose vocal range goes from a melodic whisper, to a body-slashing scream. Fra Foa, unlike Do As Infinity or ELT (both of which have female vocal leads), are definitely heavier, noisier, and ten notches up on the "throbbingly painful" scale (in a good way ^_^). Musically, you cannot go wrong with this band.
Then there is the matter of the lyrics themselves: poignant, and brilliantly written by Chisako Mikami. She sings about finding herself, asking "Was it okay for me to have been born?" She sings of her paranoia, her fear of losing her love, of being alone and empty. She sings about her dead brother, and a summer night's walk hand-in-hand with her mother. She answers her own questions in her lyrics, as well. She sings of hope, of starting over, of going forth despite the past, despite the pain, despite love lost. She sings:
"...koukai shinai sa, donna ketsumatsu demo boku no CHOICE, boku no LIFE; ima masa ni iki dashita."
"...without a single regret, no matter how things turn out, (this is) my choice, (this is) my life; now, at last, I have begun to live."
The most appealing thing about Fra Foa is the honesty of their music. Their raw sounds, Chisako's heartfelt singing, and direct and meaningful lyrics all mesh together to make real, reachable, and honest music. Fra Foa doesn't have that aura of a newbie band out to storm the J-rock stage, nor is their music fan-oriented or fan-serviced. Their music is just that -- Fra Foa's music, full force. What you hear is what you get, and what you hear is distinctively theirs. There is a real weight to these songs, and this is a real band. To say the least, this is powerful, emotionally-charged music-making at its brightest.
Currently, Fra Foa is on a semi-hiatus following Chisako's marriage and her pregnancy in late 2002. Their contract with Toy's Factory has also ended. It's expected that they will be signed by a bigger recording company, and speculation says that they will start doing live performances again in late May.
For the question at the opening of the article, which she asked herself in "Sumiwataru Sora, Sono Mukou ni Boku ga Mitamono," she answers:
"Kami-sama no kureta kono karada tsukatte, ikiteru kono yorokobi o utaunda..."
"With this body that God has given me, I'll use it to sing the joy of living..."