Music is something that is generally approved. People around the world produce music and enjoy it.
Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without. (Confucius)
I am a classical music fan, but like to broaden my taste by listening to other styles too. And of course, Japanese music is no exception. In the least, I often find myself randomly picking some Japanese songs on Youtube. I already fell in love with enka (the latest hits sounds like songs your grandma used to listen to in her youth). In my opinion, Fuyumi Sakamoto is the terrific example of a graceful Japanese woman. What a voice! I take vocal lessons myself, and can roughly estimate what it takes to come to such a technique. In short, the main differences between enka and Western style music are: 1. scales: mostly pentatonic or heptatonic 2. no harmonic basis for melody 3. syllabes are allotted to several pitches, what requires continuous use of ornaments (melisma), portamento and vibrato 4. ‘out of rhythm’ feeling.
I’m also a fan of traditional Japanese instruments. I have a cd of Teruhisa Fukuda, pieces that in fact only contain Shakuhachi 尺八 (vertical bamboo flute) sounds. But every note is just perfect. What’s interesting about traditional music, is that it can be turned into something new. Playing traditional songs with modern instrument for example. But, it can also be the other way around: composing new music with traditional instruments. I’ve found a lot of interesting examples for that.
The Yoshida Brothers (Yoshida Kyōdai 吉田兄弟) conquer the world with their shamisen 三味線 rock. They are pretty popular, in Japan as well internationally.
I made an important discovery last Monday. The group is called “Shōrinka” 傷林果 and they play modern hits with traditional instruments (shamisen, koto 箏, taiko 太鼓, fue 笛, shakuhachi). This song, “Bad Apple”, for example:
It’s funny if you hear the original techno version afterwards. It’s one of the songs out of the game “Tōhō”.
Another song, “Senbonzakura” was originally sung by Miku Hatsune, the famous non-existent vocaloid singer. I love the version of Shōrinka in which singer Kyōnosuke is featured.
At first, traditional music may sound a bit weird. You have to get used to it. Listening to this catchy songs is a good start for slowly entering the niche of Japanese music.
– Musical Characteristics of Enka, Okada Maki and Gerald Groemer, Popular Music, Vol. 10, No. 3, Japanese Issue (Oct., 1991), pp. 283-303
– Youtube, with all rights reserved for the artists (The first clip you have to watch on Youtube).