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Music of Japan

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Gagaku Gagaku[?] is a type of music that has been performed at the Imperial court for several centuries. It consists of three primary bodies: native Shintoist religious music and folk songs, saibara[?], as well as a Korean form, komagaku[?], and a Chinese form, togaku[?]. By the 7th century, the shakuhachi (an end-blown flute), the koto (a zither) and the biwa[?] (a short-necked lute) had been introduced in Japan from China; these three instruments 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 to hereditary guilds. During the Kamakura period (1185-1333), military rule took over and gagaku was performed in the homes of the aristocracy, but rarely at court. At this time, there were three guilds based out of Osaka, Nara and Kyoto.

After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, musicians from all three guilds came to Tokyo and their descendents make up most of the current Imperial Palace Music Department[?]. By this time, the traditional instruments, the biwa, koto and shakuhachi had been supplemented by various drums, shamisen[?] (a three-stringed lute, modified from a native Okinawan instrument) and shinobue[?] (a transverse flute).

biwa hoshi The biwa[?], a form of short-necked lute, was played by a group of intinerant performers (biwa hoshi[?]) who used it to accompany stories, most famous The Tale of the Heike[?], a 13th century history of the triumph of the Minamoto clan over the Taira.

Yukar Among the minority Ainu of the north, yukar[?] (mimicry) is a form of epic poetry. The stories typically involve Kamui[?], the god of nature, and Pojaumpe[?], an orphan-warrior.

Folk music There are four main kinds of Japanese folk songs. Work songs[?], religious songs (such as sato kagura[?], a form of Shintoist music), songs used for various gatherings, such as weddings and funerals, and children's songs (warabe uta[?]). Many of these songs include extra stress on certain syllables, as well as pitched shouts (kakegoe), especially in northern Honshu.

The arrival of Western music After the Meiji Restoration introduced Western musical instruction, a bureacrat named Izawa Shuji[?] compiled songs like "Auld Lang Syne[?]" and commissioned songs using a pentatonic melody. Western music, especially military marches, soon became popular in Japan.

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 in public. This developed into a form of ballad called enka, which became quite popular in the 20th century, though its popularity has waned among generations at all most age.

Westernized pop music is called kayokyoku[?], which is said to have begun with "Kachusha no uta" (1914; see 1914 in music). The song was composed by Nakayama Shimpei[?] and first appeared in a dramatization of Resurrection[?] by Tolstoy, sung by Matsui Samako[?]. The song became a hit among enka singers, and was the first major best-selling records in Japan.

A number of Japanese composers have written in the western classical music tradition, with Toru Takemitsu being the best known.

J-Pop J-Pop is a form of Japanese popular music. Many of theme songs brought with Japanese animation are J-Pop.

J-Pop artists include:

Traditional Instruments:

External Links Ongaku?The Evolution of Musical Appreciation (http://www.lookjapan.com/LBcoverstory/03FebCS.htm) -- cover story by lookjapan[?].

See also: Japanese rock bands, Japanese rap music, Saburo Kitajima, seiyuu

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