The precise origins of the Japanese people are not known.Although, since ancient times, waves of migrating cultureshave added their influence to what was already there. Eventoday, the Japanese absorb foreign culture in a unique way,but maintain a strong independence. As well as Chinese,Mongolian, Korean and Southeast Asian influences.
In traditional Japanese music, there are three general types ofinstruments - percussion instruments, stringed instruments and wind instruments.
There are many different variations of Japanesedrums. Most have two membranes which are nailedor laced and are struck with sticks. The mostdramatic is the Odaiko (big drum). The physicalenergy and sheer excitement of an Odaikoperformance is an integral part of many Japanesefestivals.
The koto is plucked using picks on the thumb and first twofingers of the right hand, while the left hand can be used tomodify pitch and tone. Koto are used in an ensemble as asolo instrument. One of the most famous koto players andcomposers was the blind musician Miyagi Michio who washeavily influenced by western music. Miyagi Michio (1894~1956)
The shamisen is a 3-string lute. It firstbecame popular in the pleasuredistricts during the Edo Period(1600~1868) and also began to be usedfor the musical accompaniment inkabuki and bunraku performances.Traditional shamisen playing requiresthe player to be quite stiff andexpressionless. But young players likethe Yoshida Brothers or AgatsumaHiromitsu bring a whole new, somewould say rock and roll approach .
The most famous flute is the shakuhachi bamboo flute. It has 4 or 5finger holes on the front face and a thumb hole on the rear face. Inmedieval times, the shakuhachi became associated with wanderingBuddhist priests known as komuso or priests of nothingness. Theyplayed the shakuhachi as a spritual discipline. Other flutes includethe nokan used in noh performances and the side-blown takebue andshinobue which were often heard during festivals.
Sword dances are recorded from throughoutJapanese history. There are various traditions of soloand mock battle sword dances still performed today. The Japanese Parasol Dance is an example of a simple Japanese dance that uses an umbrella or fan. The Parasol Dance is from Kabuki.
Noh DanceKabuki Dance Kagura Dance There is a tremendous diversity in traditional Japanese dance, from court and religious dance to the ritualistic noh dance-drama and theatrical kabuki dance.
There are four main kinds of Japanese folk songs(minyō): work songs, religious songs (such assato kagura, a form of Shintoist music), songsused for gatherings such as weddings, funerals,and festivals (matsuri, especially Obon), andchildrens songs (warabe uta).
Japanese music is extremely diverse: solo music, chambermusic, court music, festival and folk music, different types oftheatre music, percussion music, epic singing, and many more.The situation of traditional music has greatly changed inJapan, due obviously to Western influences. Althoughtraditional arts remain alive, there has been a decline ofinterest by young Japanese people, and this, mainly followingWorld War II.
The boom of the Hawaiian sugar industry in the 1870sand 1880s, in contrast to Japans painful transition to amodern economy that produced large-scaleunemployment, bankruptcies, and civil disorders,contributed to a much larger portion of Japaneseemigrants moving to America.
In 1835, American settlers established the sugar plantationsystem in Hawaii, which was then an independentmonarchy. The sugar plantations required large numbers ofworkers to cultivate and harvest the cane fields and tooperate the sugar refineries. Beginning in 1852, theplantation owners imported Chinese laborers. In many ways,this resembled the African slave trade.
After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the public began tofear the idea of Japanese Americans possibly aiding aJapanese invasion. This made life very difficult for JapaneseAmericans in the United States. However, the governmentconcluded that there was no evidence supporting a reason tofear sabotage from the Japanese Americans and they werereleased from the internment camps. One of the manymistakes we deeply regret.
Taiko is a drumming style of Japanese origin.While various taiko drums have been used inJapan for over 1400 years, and possibly muchlonger, the style of taiko best known today has arelatively short history, beginning in the 1950s
Seiichi TanakaAs Japanese immigrated to North America in the early part of the1900s, they brought taiko over with them as well. In 1968, SeiichiTanaka formed the first North American taiko group, the SanFrancisco Taiko Dojo. Taiko, although utilizing ancientinstruments, has been infused with a thoroughly modern spirit,and has continued to grow in popularity in both Japan andthroughout the world.
Although Asian Americans had been performing jazz music almost since the musics inception, it was not until the late 20th century when a distinctly Glenn Horiuchi Asian American brand of jazz began to develop. In the 1970s , West Coast musicians began to create a hybrid music that was reflective of their ancestral heritages and experiences as Japanese Americans, but which was at the same time also rooted in jazz.Fred Ho
Japanese American culture is strong today in the UnitedStates and continues to grow more and more all the time.Taiko and Jazz are always on the rise and traditionalJapanese music will continue to be appreciated for ages tocome.
The Moon over the Ruined Castle - Japanese Folk music:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IqryOGvLAEWalk in the Night – Japanese American Jazz:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1AK0jwHApQUmekichi – Traditional music:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVBGzaB7nSsTaiko - Drum Performance Festival 2011:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuYsJpos1U4