The Music of Japan - Brief Summary

The Music of Japan - Brief Summary For many outsiders, Japanese music is associated entirely with cheap,disposable bubblegum pop, of which there is plenty of. However, manydistinct styles and innovative artists play folk and classical music, muchof it very intense, and others play distinct forms of rock, electronica, hiphop, punk rock and country music. Classical music There are two types of classical music in Japan. Shomyo, or Buddhistchanting, and gagaku, or orchestral court music. Gagaku Gagaku is a type of classical music that has been performed at theImperial court for several centuries. It consists of three primary bodies:native Shintoist religious music and folk songs, saibara, as well as aKorean form, komagaku, and a Chinese form, togaku. By the 7th century, theshakuhachi (an end-blown flute), the koto (a zither) and the biwa (ashort-necked lute) had been introduced in Japan from China. These threeinstruments were the earliest used to play gagaku. Komagaku and togaku arrived in Japan during the Nara period (710-794),and settled into the basic modern divisions during the Heian period(794-1185). Gagaku performances were played by musicians who belonged tohereditary guilds. During the Kamakura period (1185-1333), military rule wasimposed and gagaku was performed in the homes of the aristocracy, but rarelyat court. At this time, there were three guilds based out of Osaka, Nara andKyoto. After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, musicians from all three guilds cameto Tokyo and their descendents make up most of the current Imperial PalaceMusic Department. By this time, the traditional instruments, the biwa, kotoand shakuhachi, had been supplemented by various drums, shamisen (athree-stringed lute, modified from a native Okinawan instrument) andshinobue (a transverse flute). Related to gagaku is court theater, which developed in parallel. Noh wasdeveloped in the 14th century, and soon evolved into bunraki and,eventually, the lively and popular kabuki; kabuki, in turn, helped inventthe popular nagauta style of playing the shamisen. Biwa hoshi The biwa, a form of short-necked lute, was played by a group of itinerantperformers (biwa hoshi) who used it to accompany stories. The most famous ofthese stories is The Tale of the Heike, a 13th century history of thetriumph of the Minamoto clan over the Taira. Yukar Among the minority Ainu of the north, yukar (mimicry) is a form ofepic poetry. The stories typically involve Kamui, the god of nature, andPojaumpe, an orphan-warrior.Folk music There are four main kinds of Japanese folk songs (min'yo): work songs,religious songs (such as sato kagura, a form of Shintoist music), songs usedfor gatherings such as weddings and funerals, and children's songs (warabeuta). Many of these songs include extra stress on certain syllables, as wellas pitched shouts (kakegoe), especially in northern Honshu. In min'yo, singers are typically accompanied by shamisen, taiko andshakuhachi. A guild-based system exists for min'yo; it is called iemoto.Education is passed on in a family, and long apprenticeships are common. A unique form of drumming from Sado island has become internationallyfamous through the groups Ondekoza and Kodo. Okinawan folk music Okinawa has been under the control of Japan since 1609, except for abrief period of US domination during and after World War 2. Umui, religioussongs, shima uta, dance songs, and, especially katcharsee, livelycelebratory music, were all popular. The arrival of Western music After the Meiji Restoration introduced Western musical instruction, abureaucrat named Izawa Shuji compiled songs like "Auld Lang Syne" andcommissioned songs using a pentatonic melody. Western music, especiallymilitary marches, soon became popular in Japan. Two major forms of musicthat developed during this period were shoka, which was composed to bringwestern music to schools, and gunka, which are military marches with someJapanese elements. As Japan moved towards representative democracy in the late 19th century,leaders hired singers to sell copies of songs that aired their messages,since the leaders themselves were usually prohibited from speaking inpublic. This developed into a form of ballad called enka, which became quitepopular in the 20th century, though its popularity has waned since the 1970sand enjoys little favour with contemporary youth. Famous enka singersinclude Misora Hibari and Ikuzo Yoshi. Also at the end of the 19th century,an Osakan form of streetcorner singing became popular; this was calledryukoka. This included the first two Japanese stars, Yoshida Naramura andTochuken Kumoemon. Westernized pop music is called kayokyoku, which is said to have begunwith "Kachusha no uta" (1914; see 1914 in music). This song was composed byNakayama Shimpei and first appeared in a dramatization of Resurrection byTolstoy, sung by Matsui Samako. The song became a hit among enka singers,and was one of the first major best-selling records in Japan. Kayokyokubecame a major industry, especially after the arrival of superstar MisoraHibari. Later, in the 1950s, tango and other kinds of Latin music, especiallyCuban music, became very popular in Japan. A distinctively Japanese form oftango called dodompa also developed. Kayokyoku became associated entirelywith traditional Japanese structures, while more Western-style music wascalled Japanese pops. In the 1960s, Japanese bands imitated The Beatles, BobDylan and the Rolling Stones, along with other Appalachian folk music,psychedelic rock, mod and similar genres; this was called Group Sounds. Since then, bubblegum pop and J-Pop has become one of the best-sellingforms of music, and is often used in films and television, especially inJapanese animation. The rise of disposable pop has been linked with thepopularity of karaoke, leading to much criticism that both trends areconsumerist and shallow. For example, Kazafumi Miyazawa of The Boom, claims"I hate that buy, listen and throw away and sing at a karoake barmentality". Japanese rock Homegrown Japanese rock had developed by the late 1960s. Artists likeHappy End are considered to have virtually developed the genre. During the1970s, it grew more popular. The Okinawan Champluse, along with Carol, RCSuccession and Harada Shinji were especially famous and helped define thegenre's sound. In the 1980s, the Southern All Stars became the biggest bandin Japanese rock's history, and inspired alternative rock bands like ShonenKnife & the Boredoms and Tama & Little Creatures. Most influentially, the1980s spawned Yellow Magic Orchestra, which was inspired by developingelectronica, led by Hosono Haruomi. In 1980, Huruoma and Ry Cooder, an American musician, collaborated on arock album heavily influenced by Okinawan music for Shoukichi Kina. Theywere followed by Sandii & the Sunsetz, who further mixed Japanese andOkinawan influences. At the same time, singer-songwriters like Yuming becameextremely popular. Other forms of music, from Indonesia, Jamaica andelsewhere, were assimilated. Soukous and Latin music was popular as wasJamaican reggae and ska, exemplified by Rankin' Taxi and Tokyo Ska ParadiseOrchestra. Roots music In the late 1980s, roots bands like Shang Shang Typhoon and The Boombecame popular. Okinawan roots bands like Nenes and Kina were alsocommercially and critically successful. This led to the second wave ofOkinawan music, led by the sudden success of Rinkenband. A new wave of bandsfollowed, including the comebacks of Champluse and Kina, as well as new actslike Soul Flower Union. An updated form of Okinawan folk called kawachi ondobecame popular, led by Kikusuimaru Kawachiya; very similar to kawachi ondois Tademaru Sakuragawa's goshu ondo. Western classical music Western classical music has a strong presence in Japan and the country isone of the most important markets for classical music. A number of Japanesecomposers have written in the western classical music tradition, with ToruTakemitsu (famous as well for his avant-garde works and movie scoring) beingthe best known. Also famous is the conductor Seiji Ozawa. List of Japanese popular artists (including some J-Pop) Agatsuma HiromitsuAikawa NanaseAikoAya MatsuuraAyumi HamasakiThe Brilliant GreenBuddha BrandB'zCharaChitose HajimeDa PumpDir En GreyDo As InfinityKiroroKyoko FukadaMad Capsule MarketsMissalina ReiMorning MusumeMUCCNobukazu TakemuraPizzicato FiveRomantic ModeShakkazombieShiina RingoSMAPThe PillowsTSPOUAUtada HikaruX JapanZeebraTraditional instrumentsShakuhachi (Bamboo Flute)ShamisenTaiko Wadaiko