A Look at Traditional Japanese Music

Japan, an island nation in East Asia roots back to 1st century CE as first cited in Chinese History. Over years, Japan has faced transformations in technology, leadership and culture. These changes have been influenced by neighboring countries in Asia, Europe and North America. As a result, Japan is well known for arts like crafts, traditional music, martial arts among others. In this article we will look at the Traditional Japanese music and how it plays a great role in the Japanese culture.

Japanese music has a rich and varied history that has over years evolved greatly. In fact, most musical forms in Japan were borrowed from China early in the 9th Century. These forms were later modified into what we now call Japanese style of music. Musical instruments such as Shamisen and Koto were re-created to suit to the Japanese style of music. With the introduction of theatrical forms of drama such as the Noh in the 14th Century and Geza that is accompanied by the Shamisen, Japanese music has grown to be eclectic and diverse. So what entails Traditional Japanese music?

Traditional Japanese music in other words simply refers to traditional songs, instruments and composers of the early Japan. To break it further, Japanese music is divided into three types namely: – Theatrical, Instrumental and Court Music (also referred to as Gagaku). We will focus on these three types in order to get a deeper understanding of Traditional Japanese music.

Types of Traditional Japanese Music


Japan has a few theatrical types of dramatization in which music assumes a key role. The main ones are Kabuki and Noh.

· Noh-This is music played by hayashikata-an instrumental ensemble. The instruments utilized are the taiko stick drum, a major hour-glass molded drum called the ōtsuzumi , a littler hour-glass formed drum called the kotsuzumi and a bamboo woodwind called the nohkan. The hayashi outfit is performed alongside yokyoku, vocal music.

· Kabuki-Kabuki is known for its exceedingly adapted moving and singing and also the involved make up worn by the predominately all male cast. The principal cases of kabuki utilized the hayashi from Noh . Later on, kabuki started fusing different instruments like the shamisen. The music of kabuki can be separated into : Tsuke, Shosa-ongaku,and Geza

2.Court Music (Gagaku)

Gagaku is an old court music from China and Korea. It is the most seasoned kind of Japanese, conventional music. Gagaku music incorporates tunes, moves, and a blend of other Asian-music. Gagaku has two styles; these are instrumental-music kigaku and vocal-music seigaku. Instrumental Music incorporates Kangen – fundamentally, a Chinese type of music and Bugaku – impacted by Tang Dynasty China and Balhae. Then again Vocal Music incorporates: – Kumeuta, Kagurauta, Azumaasobi, Saibara and Rōei

3.Traditional musical instruments

Most of these instruments have their origin in China but were modified and re-created to suit the Japanese culture, and the most essential of these were the shamisen, shakuhachi, and koto.

· The shamisen takes after a guitar; it has a long, thin neck and a little, rectangular body secured with skin. The shamisen is as often as possible used as a backup to Shamisenongaku, Kabuki and Bunraku exhibitions.

· The shakuhachi is a woodwind made of bamboo that is played by blowing toward one side. There are four openings in the front and one in the back, as it’s occasionally called a “five-holed bamboo woodwind” in English. The name of the flute is its length communicated in shaku an old Japanese unit of length.

· The koto, in the mean time, is a huge, wooden instrument with thirteen strings.It has a bended face, and the pitch is balanced with portable extensions put under every string. It’s played with picks worn on the fingers, like those utilized as a part of playing the guitar. Koto accompanies Sokyoku music. Currently it is used together with the Shamisen and Shakuhachi. Of the traditional instruments, the koto is likely the most well known and prominent.

Traditional music in the Modern Japan

As we conclude, lets focus on the influence Western music has on Traditional Japanese music. Western music, presented in the late nineteenth century, now frames an indispensable piece of Japanese society. Traditional Japanese performers now and then work together with advanced Western artists. Additionally, performers make new styles of Japanese music affected by the West yet utilizing traditional musical instruments. Outstanding established composers from Japan incorporate Toru Takemitsu and Rentarō Taki. Pop music in post-war Japan has been intensely affected by American and European patterns, which has prompted the advancement of J-pop(Japanese popular songs).




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