The Music of Japan.

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Mr. Afternoon

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Japan. It's a country. Cool.
@Sonik Wiz egged me on a while back to try some Japanese stuff, and I finally decided to dive into the bubble and see what it's all about.

Well now my music tastes have diversified even further.
If only I could understand what singers are saying without having to use Google Translate for every song.

:geek:

What have y'all's experiences been with Japanese music?
 
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quadsearcher

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Haroumi (Harry) Hosono. An outlier, in that he came to the US and recorded with help and production by Lowell George and Van Dyke Parks, then went on to make many records. Much of them in a style that was sort of Japanese tropes reflected by US culture, then reflected back by Hosono. It makes more sense to hear it. Paraiso is one place to start.
Also a cofounder of Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Lots more. Godfather of "City Pop".
 

furui_suterioo

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Stomu Yamashta Raindog
The Adventure of Kohsuke Kindaichi
(The latter is possibly cursed: one commenter on yt claims so, I put it to the test while driving and sure enough, an ambulance comes out of nowhere and some idiot nearly side swipes me while attempting to pull to the side. So beware if listening while operating machinery. Maybe the curse can be broken by downloading it instead of streaming?)
 

Sonik Wiz

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Japan. It's a country. Cool.
@Sonik Wiz egged me on a while to try some Japanese stuff, and I finally decided to dive into the bubble and see what it's all about.

Well now my music tastes have diversified even further.
If only I could understand what singers are saying without having to use Google Translate for every song.

:geek:

What have y'all's experiences been with Japanese music?

You knew, of course, I could not resist replying to this topic. I held off a bit to see if it was going to be treated with a collective "meh", but now that @quadsearcher stepped up and replied it's my turn.....

When I first started sharing my discovery of J music with friends, the comment that was always made is do I speak Japanese? No. Then why would I want to listen to lyrics I can't understand? Well I can't understand half the lyrics in most English speaking music & when I can they are insipid & un-inspired usually. The clever word smithing of Ian Anderson's quality is long gone. So I have looked up a few translations but mostly I'm good just to hear the voice as an instrument.


It was way back in 2004 that I was at a record store & some used Laserdiscs caught my eye. There was a group of LD's of Chisato Moritaka & because it was so cheap I bought the Rock Alive video collection mainly because I was intrigued by the album cover:

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Obviously any musician that can play a Rickenbacker 620 with pink gloves on must be a formidable talent!:ROFLMAO: She has noteworthy career worth expanding on. She was at her peak for about 9 years late 80's to mid 90's. Studio album, concert tour, concert album, concert video, promotional video collection. Then she took a whopping 20 years off to raise a family. She was always in the public eye doing commercials & endorsements. Then several years ago she made a comeback starting with what she called a "self cover" campaign. That is re-recording new covers of her hot 100 songs. She threw out the 1st pitch of the baseball season about that time. And got the ball across the plate! Most all of her earlier music was co-written with Hideo Saito but then in 2014 she collaborated with a DJ/producer called Tofubeats and sang to Don't Stop the Music.



Since this video is about a school girls fantasy performance as a singer, obviously Chisato is not in it. But another aspect of her comeback is that she & her back up group are almost the house band at the Tokyo Blue Note Club, playing there multiple times a week. You can see her perform this song live:



Oh but this isn't really the Chisato Moritaka thread, is it? Another singer I have very much enjoyed is Ayumi Hamasaki. One of the unique things about her is her use of American/European types used in her videos. That makes it even more interesting to me. The thing about her music is it's much similar to Western pop to be accessible but being from Japan still different enough to seem special. This is a great of hers to see:



There are some great J rock male bands too. It's just not all Idol stuff. But the vocals are much more varied. For example Asian Kung-Fu Generation might have afunny name but they make some kick ass hard driving rock that I bet a lot of folks would like on the forum. But for me I just don't care for the lead singer.

The Radwimps are another great choice for something other than J pop idol music. One of my favorites is the theme song they did for the anime feature film, Your Name. It starts slow but kicks in after about a minute & has some delicious hooks in it:



Part of the down side to my interest in this is that no one in Japan (that I know of) is making new popular music in surround. That had fizzled out by the time I get to the musical time period I like the most: mid-80's on. However Tokyo Cuban Boys and Iromi Hawasaki have been talked about the forum. And they go back far enough to be released in quad. I am certainly open to any suggested J pop/rock musiuc in surround to listen to.

So, Mr Afternoon. I f your musical tastes have been diversified and enlarged, what have you run across that sounds good?
 
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PurpleMoustache

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Japanese music is great! It's also profoundly expensive thanks to Japan's music industry pricing physical media as a luxury product (which ensures artists get paid well). I'll second the Harry Hosono/YMO recommendation, but also add the INCREDIBLE Japanese ambient scene from 1980-90.

One of... the weirdest things about social media these days is a lot of platforms have entrusted a Neural Network AI to come up with video recommendations to keep people on the platform. A few years back Youtube's started to recommend obscure Japanese ambient and jazz albums to people, which has caused a small mini boom for reissue labels like Light in the Attic, and (the label with the greatest name of all time) We Release Whatever The Fuck We Want.

There's even a good primer box set by Light in the Attic called Kankyō Ongaku (Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980 - 1990) (worth noting, the vinyl version has the most tracks, the CD version with the second most tracks, and the streaming version having the least. See note about Japan's music industry).

I'd like to call out in particular:
Hiroshi Yoshimura - Green (or really any of his albums, they're all great)
Inoyamaland - Danzindan-Pojidon
The works of Joe Hisaishi, best known for composing the soundtracks to nearly every Studio Ghibli movie (and there's quite a bit of his music in Atmos on AM)
Kenji Kawai - Ghost in the Shell OST
Osamu Sato (this one's a rabbit hole. Visual/computer artist that branched out into games, making one of the weirdest, and secretly most influentual PS1 games LSD: Dream Emulator. There's like 5-6 albums of material from that game, all worth checking out, and a few other albums that are unrelated. He's kinda a Japanese Aphex Twin)
Ryo Fukui - Scenery
Miharu Koshi & Harry Hosono Jr. as the band "Swing Slow" - s/t (has a new 2022 mix recently released. A bit divisive as it axes one song, and adds 3 others, as well as adding new effects. I like both versions and have paid the princely sum to preorder the vinyl for the 2022 mix)

Outside of the Jazz and ambient scene, I wanna highlight two more artists:

Nujabes, the pseudonym of Jun Seba, who was like the Japanese J Dilla, making mellow Jazz influenced hip hop beats. The similarities don't end there: they were both born on the same day, and both died tragically young.

and Fishmans (not to be confused with Phish or their drummer Jon Fishman), a genre bending dub/rock/ambient/electronic group I discovered through RateYourMusic.com. In a similar situation, Fishmans is no more, as the lead Shinji Sato died about 3 months after their last show in a farewell tour for their drummer. That show, 98.12.28 男達の別れ (98.12.28 Otokotachi no Wakare) [rough translation: A Man's Farewell] is ranked as the 18th best album of all time on RYM. Also great are their studio albums, in which I'd recommend Uchu Nippon Setagaya and the mind blowing Long Season (which they play in full as the last song in that live album)
 

kap'n krunch

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Love this thread...been getting into Japanese culture for decades now..it all started with watching (Crayon) Shin Chan in Madrid and its irreverent humor (for a 5 year old boy) and extended to good 'ole Jun Makino's "Stillpoint" SACD (OK it's not music but ceramic, metal and glass bowls "aural healing bath") and have been fortunate to have a frienship relationship with him up to now
We also have been watching Amazon Prime's series "Prime Japan", the last one about Zen was just mind blowing... they are another totally different "Alien" race, in both senses of the word...my highest respects to them...
My wife was born in Okinawa(Air Force brat) and had a Mama San who did not speak Spanish nor English so I am sure she has some very subconscious understanding of the language...we were even considering RETIRING there but, alas, the language barrier is way too big...but you never know...
 

Mr. Afternoon

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Sonik Wiz

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Well, for starters, Gackt, Fishmans, Utada Hikaru, Ayumi Hamasaki, Cornelius, and Kuroyume (although I already knew about Cornelius and Fishmans beforehand). It seems like some odd choices starting off, but from my digging I am really digging (get it?) this music!
I've made multiple (but subtle) references to J and K music before but nary a nibble of interest in the forum. Maybe I was too subtle. Starting a thread with the title Music of Japan is about as up front as it can be! I am really gratified seeing the replies. Great list by @PurpleMoustache and others. Half of the names I am familiar with. The others I will be looking into. New music to discover!

I have to say the only name that keeps popping up, Utada Hikaru, is maybe the only one I have some disdain for. I know she's very popular in Japan. I know she was pegged to be the Next Big Thing in Japan music to explode on the Western music scene. But instead K pop happened. I have two of her CD's and really they just fail to capture my attention.

Of course Cornelius is not only relatively new music but in surround as well. I overlooked that one but I do enjoy the two discs I have of his very much.
 

Sonik Wiz

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Kaori Muraji

I really enjoyed that selection, thanks for posting. One of the aspects of this thread is the range of music styles embrace by Japanese artists. Whether it is jazz, metal, mellow, pop, the Japanese have incredibly good versions of each. Again it's just a bit different from Western music to be unique.

The only genre I can think of that the Japanese fail miserably at is ersatz Country & Western. An American friend in Japan says this is called simply Cowboy music over there. The few examples I've heard are just awful. It would be the same if an American musician tried to make Enka style music. It would at best be just a parody. And so it goes for the Japanese trying to emulate popular C&W music.
 
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