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Japanese Music

Special shout out to Nippon-Ichigo for hosting this month's Jblog matsuri. The theme for this month is called "Japanese music."

I think music is a huge part of any culture. It's just as essential to the transmission of culture as the actual spoken language of the country and its people. Before I was really into Japan I had an enormous interest in eastern European culture, especially the German culture's, language, and history and I remember the first musical piece I was introduced to called The Moldau by Bedrich Smetana; this was years ago! Moldau is German for Vltava which is a river that flows through the Bohemian countryside in present day Czechoslovakia. Though there are no spoken words to this musical piece you can get a sense of a mighty river flowing through an old city. The river isn't as mighty as it was centuries ago due to modernization and structural obstructions. Many have regarded this piece as nationalistic evoking a memory of the Republics defiant nature and turbulent past. I have always had an interest in music of a nationalistic theme, but I have also been fond of other types of sentimental music.

When I finally arrived in Japan I was quickly introduced to the culture and had quickly assimilated into the national pastimes here. I travelled all over this island with my gf. We started in Hokkaido, her hometown, and worked our way down to Honshu, the main island. We spent years enjoying the great outdoors. It was a great memory for me. The music that really sunk into my head, and the one that created the "Japan Experience" for me then and now, is still by the voice of Hitomi Shimatani when she sang the Kimigayo, the national anthem of Japan, and my most adored Japanese piece. This is a rare recording of that. She initially started her career off as an Enka singer, much like Black folks who started their singing careers off in Gospel. Both fathers of Rock-n-Roll, Little Richie and Chuck Berry are just two examples. As an enka singer Ms. Shimatani was very popular with the older generation, but with the growing popularity of Pop music her record sales didn't do to well. So like many artist, she had to change and give up on the musical genre she loved to pursue a more modern style of music. She enjoyed a successful career in not only pop music but acting as well. She's best known for her exotic voice and beauty.

Another great Japanese singer would be Masayuki Suzuki, best known as a former member of Rats & Star - without the "S". His trademark are sunglasses and a moustache, a far cry from the pretty little 'lady boy' boy band types you see nowadays here in Japan. "Martin" as Masayuki is called is a gospel/soul singer best known for his track called “Koibito" Some Westerners may be familiar with this singer's use of dark face paint to portray black people. A lot of Showa era Japanese enjoy listening to his music at "nomikai" or, drinking parties because his music is really easy to sing to when drinking. With Masayuki, like Shimatani, you pick up a lot of the energy of the times. I'm sure there are more people I like but these are the main two. Enjoy.


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