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Japan: Semiclasssical and Folk Music

Various Artists
Japan: Semiclasssical and Folk Music

The traditional music of Japan comprises a rich variety of styles developed over the course of more than a millennium. Among them are ancient imperial court music (Gagaku), the 14th-century form of musical drama patronized by feudal lords (Noh), and “semiclassical music.” Despite its name, this last category, created between the 16th and 19th centuries, consists of various genres that are closer to what we would think of as “popular.”

This 1974 recording features three traditional Japanese semiclassical and five regional folk music compositions, also from the late feudal period. The semiclassical performances feature the shamisen (lute), koto (zither), and shakuhachi (flute). Folk songs come from the mountains, the coast, Okinawa, and Tokyo. The liner notes refer to contributions from other cultures—India, China, Korea, Indonesia—that were assimilated to Japan’s highly original civilization, and also describe the performance traditions.

This album is part of the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music. More than 125 albums are being released by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings to make the series publicly available again, including more than a dozen never-released albums of musical traditions from around the globe.

Track Listing

Naga-Uta "Kanjincho" - Shamisen Music Toshimura Goroji 7:04
Koto Duet "Godan-Kinuta" Matsuo Keiko, Ueno Kazuko 6:02
Shakuhachi Duet "Shika-No-Tone" Notomi Judo, Notomi Haruhiko 10:26
Tsugaru Yama-Uta - Moutaineer's Song Amada Kiichi, Hoshi Tenshin 2:53
Awa-Odori - Bon Dance Irimura Yuki and the Aoi-ren Groun 3:26
Tairyo Utaikomi - Fishermen's Song Akama Shinsui 4:57
Hatoma-Bushi - Okinawa Islands Yamairi Tsuru 2:28
Edo Matsuri Bayashi - Festival Ensemble of Tokyo Edobayashi Hozonkai 9:59