World Tour 2nd Stop: Japan

By Tarek Tiba

This week’s musical world tour takes us to the country of Japan. Japan is like a big melting pot when it comes to music. All genres of music seem to flourish and crossover between one another, creating music that is very unique.

Classical and contemporary music are very popular in Japan, and the country is one of the biggest markets for preserving and keeping this music alive. Japan has produced many famous composers, such as Ryuichi Sakamoto, who has gained worldwide recognition for his film scoring, and Joe Hisaishi, who has also gained popularity for his soundtrack work, composing scores for every Studio Ghibli film except one, The Castle Of Cagliostro. To hear compositions from these artists, listen to Forbidden Colours by Ryuichi Sakamoto or The Legend of Ashitaka by Joe Hisaishi.

Another very popular genre of music in Japan is jazz, which was first introduced to the island sometime in the 1930’s. Like classical music, Japan provides a huge market for jazz music with many recordings by jazz artists are sometimes released exclusively in Japan. Like jazz from other parts of the world, jazz music from Japan can be very diverse in sound and style, sometimes sounding more straightforward, like the bebop or hard bop jazz of the 50’s and 60’s, or more avant garde or experimental sounding. To hear an example of the more straight ahead jazz of Japan, listen to "Edge" by Takuya Kuroda, and to hear an example of more experimental jazz, listen to "Taiko" by Uyama Hiroto.

Also on the playlist are some examples of traditional Japanese music, specifically taiko drum music. Taiko drumming involves the use of huge drums, and was traditionally in the past played mainly at religious ceremonies or during battles to communicate commands across a battlefield. In the 20th century, taiko drum music witnessed a revival in Japan, becoming very popular; with the help of the Japanese government allocating funds for the preservation of Japanese culture, many taiko drum groups were formed. This style of music did not remain exclusive to Japan, and has since become popular in many other parts of the world, such as North America and Europe. To hear the immense sound of the taiko drummers, listen to "The Hunted" by Kodo.

This week's playlist will feature many of the artists above and more. Just like the last playlist, this playlist should be seen as a glimpse into the music of Japan, and a guide for further exploration. Playlists can be found on our WCBN Spotify or Soundcloud account.