How Japanese Music Has Changed Over the Centuries

June 23, 2018 | By

Japan has influenced art trends all over various places and continues to be one of the main trend setters of the world. When it comes to music, people tend to think that the main music of Japan is the old instrumental one. They couldn’t be more wrong. Japan experienced most of the music trends that circulated in the world and adapted them to its own culture. The Japanese music influenced the neighboring countries ever since the Middle Ages. While many people heard at least once in their lifetime traditional Japanese music, not many know how it transformed over the centuries. What it originally sounded like has drastically sifted to what it is now a day. Let’s take a closer look at how the traditional music of Japan has sifted over the centuries to what it is today.

The Sounds of Nature

The story of the traditional Japanese music starts with a flute and a drum. The artists were very influenced by the sounds of nature and they tried to reproduce them using instruments. That is one of the reasons why traditional Japanese music is very relaxing. It is taking sounds from the nature and transforms them into something amazing. The traditional shamisen came in the late 17th century and soon it became a staple music instrument for Japan. It was also used during ceremonials and it was mandatory for Geishas to know how to play it.

The Initiation of Vocals

Min’yo folk music came a bit later and it was a music genre that incorporated the voice too. The songs were designed to be singed at different occasions like weddings or funerals but there were also many that were played at parties. This is the time when most of the folk children’s songs were born. This style was much less formal and allowed anyone to play it, no matter the skills or talent. Secluded areas like Okinawa had their own music styles that can be still heard. The music instruments were basically the same and the genres differed mostly in style.

Newer Sounds

The 20th century brought the jazz and pop in Japan. There were countless new bars opening to fulfill the wish for live American music. The art liberation of music stopped for a few years during the Second World War but the 50’s definitely rocked Japan. The rock roll found the perfect ground here and there were new bands forming in all the Japanese cities. During the 80’s the pop craze hit Japan and there were also many fashion trends developing from the pop music. This was perhaps one of the most successful times in the music history of Japan.

The 2000’s meant total music and art liberation but also a look back in the past. There are many popular pop bands that incorporate traditional music instruments to pay tribute for the long history of the Japanese music. Even the trendy electronic music is taking inspiration from the shamisen and the resulting combination is purely mesmerizing.

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