October 19, 2009
Position papers, please.
Posted by ander025 at October 19, 2009 3:41 PM
The “Group Sounds” entry seemed a bit difficult to follow, not only because of the many band name references for which I have next to no background knowledge of, but also the vacillating definition of exactly what it is. The article starts off with the definition of “a type of band that played electric instruments and sang pop-rock songs with vocal harmony.” (Anderson 177). However, a few lines later it is revealed that surf bands—which, if I’m not mistaken, is in reference to the music of such bands as the Beach Boys—had already normalized the use of electric instruments and band harmony. Furthermore, group sounds is connected to The Beatles (from 1966 onward) and pop rock, eventually evolving into psychedelic rock, but not uniformly so (Anderson 178). So, if group sounds are not quintessentially original or like The Beatles, per se, what exactly was it that set them apart?
In reading the description I have more or less reached the conclusion that group sounds was a transitional category in the exploration and development of various genres of music, including an authentic Japanese rock—if such an oxymoron by critics’ standards is possible. It seems to me that many groups that began in, or at some point fell into, the classification were only there for a short time until some emergent and appealing genre altered their sound into something more defined. Take the two Group Sound pioneer bands, the Spiders and the Blue Comets, for example. They “were both originally rockabilly and country-Western bands.” (Anderson 178). By virtue of one band singing in the Liverpool style and the other using electric instruments, they were re-labeled GS (Anderson 178). Finally, the Blue Comets released a song (in 1968) that apparently lost any resemblance to rock-n-roll and was likened instead to “kayōkyoku, as light enka/pop.” (Anderson 178). Thus group sounds, as weakly defined as it had been before, actually underwent a shift whereby it lost any and all rock authenticity it may have harbored before 1968. A question that comes to mind at this point is, does the category group sounds still exist, or has it fallen entirely under the subheading of kayōkyoku, or enka/pop? This actually reminds me of Tansman’s “Mournful Tears and Sake” article which detailed the continuously changing perceptions of what is enka.
A final observation, one that I found worthy of note, is the complaint posed by Japanese musicians of the era that “Japanese pop and rock was following the lead of the USA and the UK, and that the world of Japanese popular music was behind the times.” (Anderson 178). There is a contradictory facet to such a assertion because it implies that there is a prevailing trend—an existing agreement on what current popular music is or should be—and for such to be true, someone must be leading it. I can only assume, the musicians meant that Japanese musicians should spend their time generating unique and original styles of music for others to follow rather than mimicking or altering the styles of other countries.
The “Group Sounds” reading this week seems to show Japanese music again taking a different turn and straying away from the Western influence that their musical style seemingly owed its heritage to. The focus of the sections on Japanese folk and group sounds music take place around 1966-1973, a period which is just as tumultuous in the West as it is in Japan. In my opinion, the Japanese pop artists weren’t behind the times in imitating a foreign genre, but rather continuing to play a genre from which artists had already transitioned away.
Mark Anderson (you) framed the argument well, writing “One complaint often heard from Japanese musicians of the era is a sense that Japanese pop and rock was following the lead of the USA and the UK, and that the world of Japanese popular music was behind the times” (Anderson 178). I think depending on how a person looks at this it is absolutely correct. In fact, I would even be willing to quantify the lag and say the Japanese are usually roughly three to five years behind their American counterparts in the genre of group sounds.
For example, The Tigers debuted in early 1967. When listening to “Sea, Sea, Sea” specifically, one cannot help but notice the striking (shameless) similarities to The Contours’ “Do you love me”. I can’t say for certain that they were outright stealing Motown music, but what is certain is that in 1967 songs like “Sea, Sea, Sea” and “Seaside Bound” were (to use The Who’s definition) “Maximum R&B.” The phrasing was completely R&B, they used the same call and response, and their sound was more reminiscent of “Hard Day’s Night” era Beatles than the concurrent “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” Beatles.
The significance of this time and this shift is that the predominant R&B bands of the time (The Who, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones) had actually shifted away from the purer standards of R&B with the albums “The Who Sells Out”, “SPLHCB”, and “Between the Buttons” respectively. It seems to me that by the time Japan enters the group sounds era their Western counterparts have already jumped shipped to expand artistically. In the West in the late 60s The Beach Boys have gone a complete new direction (“Pet sounds” 1966) and Jimi Hendrix has released his debut album (“Are You Experienced” 1967). The Beatles are actually being largely ignored critically (“SPLHCB” 1967) because The Who’s album (The Who Sells Out 1967) is that big of a deal. Keith Richards reveals that he was aching to play Blues guitar the whole time (“Let It Bleed” 1969). Creedence Clearwater Revival is simply dismissed as simply a pop act (“CCR” 1968)
To put it simply, in the West the R&B background of group sounds has died out by 1970 and what the Japanese might call “New Rock” has taken over. Happy Endo is releasing songs such as “Spring Come” that are in line with The Beatles “SPLHCB” era, but Led Zeppelin has already released two (written three) blues/hard rock albums. The only Japanese group we’ve looked at in this era that seems to be producing and releasing music that feels contemporary to its Western counterparts is The Folk Crusaders. "Kaette kita yopparai" was original and every bit as creative a composition as other pieces of the time. My only criticism comes from adding Für Elise at the end. I just don’t get it.
In reading the Group Sounds article this sentence really jumped out at me: “Beatlemania was no less extreme in Japan and became a media event that explored the moral decline of Japanese girls and the qualities of the Beatles which may have inspired it” (177). When you say “the moral decline of Japanese girls” I wonder what you mean by that, are you referring to the crazy fanatic hysteria that is often associated with teenybopper fans. Just curious, since using the phrase moral decline makes it sound very serious and that these girls were just giving their entire lives to the Beatles and not caring about anything else. But I guess knowing how huge the Beatles were, there probably were girls like that.
Anyway, after reading this article I have a sense of what GS bands are to be defined as, but at the same time within the article it talks about it kept on changing. Like someone else said in their post as well, it’s like first they had this association (“Liverpool style, electric instruments, they kind of resembled the Beatles, but then they were linked to “pop” and didn’t have anymore “authenticity” as rock.) I guess it just shows how categorizing music can be different over time and how it’s maybe not as simple as one would think. Once again in this article the issue about authenticity comes up and the issue of Japan “following in the lead of the US and the UK” by writing and performing songs in English. I almost feel that for Japanese musicians, to be so compelled to write and sing in English isn’t that authentic at all. They feel that English makes their music sound more genuine, but they’re basing that off of the fact that that type of style of music (rock or whatever other model) is coming from the US or the UK. So really, their actually just trying to imitate instead of making their authentically theirs by using Japanese, in other words, if you want to have authentic Japanese rock shouldn’t it be in Japanese? Otherwise, couldn’t it just be seen as Japanese musicians trying to be like American or British ones?
-Note- For some reason I could ‘download’ the music files to my computer but then when I tried opening them with both itunes and windows media player…nothing would happen.
Week 7: Group Sounds
Japanese “group sounds” is something that I have no previous knowledge of before this week. In saying so I am not an authority, but merely a spectator. In the article group sounds (Anderson) stated that One of the main problems that the Japanese musicians had at the time was sounding a bit too much like the United States and Great Brittan (in terms of guitar sounds).
“One complaint often heard from Japanese musicians of the era is a sense that Japanese pop and rock was following the lead of the USA and the UK, and that the world of Japanese popular music was behind the times (Anderson 178)”
Apparently some Japanese bands said they felt the same way as well, so instead of making music in their native language (Japanese) they made it in English. To me this poses one of the earlier questions that we tried to answer before, “Who has authenticity, and who is to tell us what type of music must be done in certain ways?” I think that if these “groups” wanted to make music for their audience/people/country then they should have sang it in Japanese (instead of trying to authentic an English rock sound). They shouldn’t be worrying about doing it right (much similar to the Jazz sounds). But then again (to counter the point I just made), some of the Japanese artist and listeners said that the music (more so the singing aspect) always ended up sounding like enka. So they are trying to authenticate that “English” group/ electric sound with the singing and at the same time the guitar. In listening to “What We Want” it sounds (to me) like they have the musical aspect down, but as far as the singing goes, I would not be able to say much on that topic because I don’t know much about American “group/ rock” sounds and Japanese “group/ rock” sounds to make an educated decision. However what I think is that it should be more about the enthusiasm or emotion put in to the song itself rather than worrying if you sound like another person/group’s music. If we try to copy exactly how somebody else before me made music then we would have one genre of music with one sound. In my book, not sounding like somebody else is GOOD. In my honest opinion this just reminds me of the whole authentic jazz music situation over again.
Also in class you (Anderson) mentioned that American bands like Van Helen, or Led Zeppelin? Said, “rock has to be done in English to make it sound like rock”. True. If a Japanese person were to sing a song in the Japanese (language), then wouldn’t it be Japanese rock, and no longer rock? That is just something to ponder.
I think it would have been really interesting to witness the popularity of folk singers and songs firsthand. During this time, it seemed like there were a lot of innovations being made in the music scene. The Folk Crusaders, for instance, came out with new sounds through special effects in the studio. Music was also becoming more politicized in their lyrics without adhering to the enka style. Another point that I thought was interesting in the reading as well as in listening to the songs in class was the wide range of songs that were considered “folk songs.” Some songs were mellow while others were abrasive, some were driven by politics and yet others contained lyrics more akin to a lullaby. This led me to wonder what exactly makes something “folk music.” In reading, I found that what defines folk isn’t so much what it is, but what it isn’t. Folk music is not the music of established institutions and it wasn’t as popular as previous genres. It wasn’t a commodity from which to make a profit. This point is further emphasized as music moved toward a more commercial, rock sound. It was during this time that folk began to decline in popularity.
In regard to the “Group Sounds” entry of Thursday’s reading, I think it’s interesting how these types of bands started and progressed. With the popularity of Western bands, such as the Beatles, Japanese bands started adopting similar sounds. I don’t think I have heard many Japanese bands from this period, so I think it would be interesting to hear their take on those sounds and that style. I also think it’s interesting that similar to previous musical ages, during the time of group sounds, the issue of authenticity cropped up again. The fact that their music was based on American and British pop and rock, made people question whether their sound was authentic or a copy of Western sounds. However, as mentioned in the article, not all bands imitated Western bands such as the Beatles. Some used a different style, which I think led the group sounds age to progress in a different path. The band, the Blue Comets, for instance, diverged from the Beatles mold and eventually from rock as a whole. As Western bands moved toward New Rock, “GS bands came to be identified with kayōkyoku, as light enka/pop that had surrendered any claim to rock authenticity” (178). So while group sounds may have had its beginnings in adopting foreign sounds, it didn’t end that way.
Upon reading this encyclopedia entry “group sounds” by Mark Anderson, I once again noticed the impact that the US and European countries had on Japanese music. In previous readings, we saw how the record companies of abroad countries and jazz affected the Japanese music industry and even reproduced the jazz genre in Japan. However, we saw that these changes weren't limited to these fields, but it was thought to provoke a decline of traditional Japanese morals. We see the same thing appear with group sounds.
The Japanese group sounds seems to be greatly influenced by the Beatles. After the Beatles came to Japan in 1966, many bands with electric instruments switched over to this group sounds, using the Beatles as a model. Again, the Japanese music used an element from abroad and incorporated that into their own music to catch up with the rest of the world. Even in the entry, it reads “One complaint often heard from Japanese musicians of the era is a sense that Japanese pop and rock was following the lead of the USA and the UK, and that the world of Japanese popular music was behind the times.” So, the Japanese also knew what was going on. But even knowing this, nothing stopped the Japanese bands from switching into another mode, progressive rock which they called New Rock, when it swept the nation soon afterwards.
However, the tour of the Beatles didn't just change the music in Japan. It was also thought to bring some social change in the behavior of Japanese girls. The media hyped up a story of a connection between the Beatles and the breakdown of moral in girls. In my experience, the media exaggerates often when there is no real news available at the time, or it is connected in any way with celebrities. However, since all my experience is in regards to American media, I wouldn't know if it would apply to Japanese media, but I would think it would. So since this revelation involved the popular Beatles, it was most likely a bit hyped up, but could have an inkling of truth. In this way, the coming of group sounds did also affect not only the music but the social environment, much like jazz which came before it.
So once again, we see how much of an impact the American and European music had on the Japanese music industry.
It started with the Beatles with their tour of Japan in the summer of '66. Beatlemania hits Japan too; I guess this was the beginning moment of transition from folk songs style to group sounds style with electric instruments. Although the GS bands used the Beatles as a model they didn't consistently follow it. The two pioneering GS bands had their own way of making music; the Spiders made live music in the form of liverpool musical style and the Blue Comets sang melancholic songs (Anderson 178). But nonetheless the new music was popular among the amateur bands as 100 bands made debut records within the year, 1967-68 (Anderson 178). Although there was a major complaint among the bands; although the music was popular they were leaning towards the USA and UK in terms of music, thus making them "behind the times" in popular music. It's a genre you sound one way or another, they might make similar music but there is a unique blend in how the musicians make music, or at least that is what I think. Anyways, the introduction of rock music changes the way GS bands played. Moving from pop-rock to psychedelic and heavy metal (Anderson). A new genre starts as the bands fall into rock-n-roll or stick with the GS later becoming known as kayokyoku, a light enka pop band (Anderson). There was also the issue of making rock music, as rock was done in English, and the Japanese language did not have the authentic feel to it when singing rock songs. Some bands wrote songs and sung it in English to retain the authentic rock feel. I guess they wanted to move away from the enka style as even when covering a rock song they feel they have an enka feel rather than that of a rock-n-roll song. But thanks to Happy Endo, they can sing rock in Japanese. Some want to sing rock so they sing in English, others want to make their own music so they sing in Japanese and make Japanese rock. You must also keep in mind that they had a pretty big complaint that they were following too closely into the Western style of music.
This article was kind of interesting because I was surprised to find out that Japanese folk music was popular in Japan during the 1960s and 1970s. To me, Japanese folk music seems that it wouldn’t really be the type of music to be that popular especially during those time periods. It was also interesting because once again, music was used as a form of protest in Japan. Again, Japan seemed to be influenced by the U.S. because it was during the same time when the music in the U.S. was also being used as a form of protest. This was probably expected because it was also during this time when there were many wars going on in the world. I thought it was interesting to find out that that many of the folk singers went on to do rock kind of music in the future. I thought it was really interesting that Okabayashi Nobuyasu had songs that were not allowed to be published because of the topic that was being sung about. I mean one of the lyrics talked about the emperor and god but not in a good way which is surprising because Japanese people are usually always viewed as being kind and respectful to either elders or people of higher status then themselves. I would have easily believed it if it were an American singer but for a Japanese singer to write and sing about things like that makes it difficult to believe. But I guess that could have been the American influence that was working its way over to Japan during that time. Another thing that I found interesting was that group sounds seemed to have started to become popular after the Beatles had gone and visited Japan in 1966. I guess the influence and popularity of the Beatles were not only in Europe and Japan but had made its way over to Asia and was able to influence the Japanese music culture. Although, Japan wasn’t able to fully copy the U.S. and European styles of rock because it was thought that rock songs didn’t sound rock unless they were sung in English. Many of the group sounds bands would try to write their songs in English so that they would sound more like rock songs. I find that interesting because I think music that is sung by Japanese singers in English has an interesting sound to them.
It seems that folk music became popular in 1960s because it was the symbol of student protest for anti-war and anti-establishment. And after 1973, people’s attention of politics transformed to urban pop music, thus the political content folk disappeared and folk singers transformed to pop singers.
What interest me the most is the different types of folk songs.
From Okabayashi Nobuyasu’s “What we want”, I can somewhat understand the folk for politics. In the beginning, he was singing. However, since the middle of the song, he began to shout with all the strength, even in a hoarse voice. He was like to shout for all the people who had the same wish with him and shout to the world to let everyone hear their voices. The burst of his internal power was really amazing and was able to give a shock to the listeners.
However, the Folk Crusader was another style. By listening to the “Reincarnated Drunk” and “Dracula’s love” , I can certainly create images of students with long hair and unwashed jeans. These two songs did remind me of the Beat Generation, who appreciated carnalism and wanted to experience depravity. The Beat Generation was based on the background of post world war 2, they were the generation with everything destroyed, they didn’t want to give any idealistic speech, but get personal experience of body’s feeling and sensation. In the “Reincarnatd Durnk”, the person who died and went to heaven didn’t take anything serious; he ignored the god, ignored everything, but only enjoyed drinking. In the end, he was kicked out of the heaven and thus reborn. This image is kind of consistent to image of beat generation, and represented a new life reborn from the fallen and chaotic life. It maybe new ways for college students to find out the meaning of life and look for the true liberty of both body and spirit. The “Deacula’s love” created an image of a vampire searching for love. The setting of vampire is interesting. It is an image full of wild and bloody. But the author associated it with the beautiful love, which presented a striking contrast. It was expressed a conflict between those students or singers’ thoughts and morality. The singers used extremely fallen voice to sing “Ah, I want your love” to demonstrated his deep desire of love. Although they may flight against morality, and were not accepted by the society, they were determined to pursue what they want.
Throughout class, we have been studying different musical movements that have influenced Japan, most of which started out from American movements. Early Jazz and blues took the place of traditional Enka before the war. After the war, we start to see a trend toward rock and folk music, a movement against social norms and establishment. Underground festivals are the gathering places, with "long-haired, unwashed teens" as the symbol of youth, (pg. 251)just like the United States. Even the advent and popularity of the Beatles was mirrored between the US and Japan. The older generation had the same objections in Japan, "Beatlemania was no less extreme in Japan and became a media event that explored the moral decline of Japanese girls and the qualities of the Beatles which may have inspired it" (pg. 219) This is but one of the many examples that we have been presented so far that reflect the changes in music and the similarities between the Japanese and American views of the same music.
One of the most iconic members of this new musical age was Okabayashi Nobuyasu, who was considered the Bob Dylan of Japan. Okabayashi wrote songs such as "Tomoyo", and "Kusokuraebushi", works that gained him not only popularity, but also condemnation. "Kusokuraebushi",for example was banned for the lyric, "The EMperor also depends on kami in the toilet" (pg. 217). Despite his popularity, Okabayashi stopped singing for a breif time, returning in 1985 with "Tsuki no yoru", but explored other forms of music aswell. What I found interesting about Okabayashi was that he seems to have taken the same route as Cat Stevens. Although Stevens was never condemned for his work, he was a great, influential singer, who abrubtly stopped his work. His conversion to Islam and silence from music could be compared to "moving to the country". In later interviews, Stevens explains that he had used his lyrics to explain that he needed to find himself, such as from his song, "Father and Son" the chorus ends with "I have to go away". other works such as "Peace Train" "Tuesday's Dead" and "Wind" all reflect his longing for a truth that he was searching for. His return to music was a long time coming, but somehow, it isn't quite the same.
Even so, there was a reason for his retirement and eventual return. However, as far as I have read, Okabayashi did not give a reason for retireing or coming back.
To start off, I want to say I feel really dumb right now. The words in the article made perfect sense, and the argument was sound, (Good job teach ^_^), but my lack of knowledge in this area is leaving me as blank as a sheet of paper. So I went and educated myself. Youtube is a wonderful invention. Especially since they had some of the groups listed in the article.
At first I thought Group Sounds was the name of a group, not a bad assumption when you think about the other group names of that time. Then kept reading and found out it was a genre title. Is the fact I feel like an idiot coming across yet? One thing I can say I know about, (thank you mom), is that at least Japan had some groups come from their shores like The Golden Cups, The Spiders, The Ox, (my zodiac) etc. (Anderson 178).
The US had the British invasion, and not much else. We had a few good groups, but if you look, you’ll notice most of our music at that time came from Britain. So if Japan is behind the times, we were obsolete, and I’m not referring to our technology. And now I have but one request, can somebody loan me their muse? Mine flew the coop for the winter.
Best quote from the articles; “It has been said that, by the time of the Tokyo Olympics (1964), performing a folk song had enough cultural cache to improve a male student’s appeal to the opposite sex. (Anderson [YOU!] p.151)
Interesting to note that the pattern continues; adoption of English music, adapted to Japanese lyrics remains the rule in the history of folk music and of group sound. It’s too narrow minded, however, to continually look at Japanese music through the colonialist’s lens, constantly evaluating the effects of “our music” on “their music” and labeling it as nothing more than a copy. I’m trying instead to look at the music based on its primal relation to the human being, and what appeals to a culture beyond its relations to other nations. Why were folk and group song popular in the times they were? Was it only because of international relation that Japanese latched on to these genre, liking what was supposedly popular in America? Or was there something baser that called them to the music; something perhaps more universal in which the language of music speaks to a generation? Anderson notes the social change of the 1960’s, the evolution (de-evolution, depending on how you look at it) of the college student was a hallmark of the day (p.151) as the cut and dry Ivy league look gave way to t-shirts and acid wash jeans. The times were changing, and music along with it (or were the times changing BECAUSE of the music? Hmmmm). Folk music had become a tool for anti-war and anti-establishment purposes and protests; demonstrated in the large scale political demonstrations with the music at its base, just as it had been in the U.S. I suppose I should be careful about labeling this as a “change” in music, as this was happening independent of the big record labels, as Anderson points out, who were careful to distance themselves on business grounds. It’s interesting to note then, that this music, which so endeavored to fight the establishment, had lost its significance by late 1970; just “Enka in Jeans” and so much began to move toward Pop (though, if we must draw parallels to American culture, we cannot say this is so different than Bob Dylan’s involvment in the music industry, for example). More importantly however, we see the “overshadowing” of pop by the creation of indigenous sound; undoubtedly the best direction for a culture so conflicted by finding in voice in a blend of western and eastern influence in music.
On the flip side, there is the group sounds influence; popular music echoing popular music. Though I’m attempting to focus more on the experience of the Japanese to their own artists, it is impossible to look at GS music without seeing its heavy influence from the western world, particularly the UK. I followed the link to the Nippop website and did a little research on bands like The Spiders and found far too many inspirations from UK sources to ignore. First off, they, like the other GS groups like the Tempters and the Tigers follow do closely resemble the sounds we hear from American and UK bands that had a much wider influence at the time; Blue Oyster Cult, the Rolling Stones, The Animals, and of the course the Beatles. Considering the Spider’s experience in other genres, such as their beginnings to country accompaniment, one would think we would hear an influence of those other styles, but instead are presented with music that sounds like it is almost entirely inspired by UK/US rock. The uniforms, stage presence, and even song-themed films all evoke western influences (again, particularly of the Beatles) though it would be fairer to note that the Japanese had cross marketing perfected long before the Beatles came around. Perhaps the western music industry is copying a few things from the Japanese model...
To become a bit more familiar with the Folk Crusaders I decided to sample some of their music on the course blog and the first song of theirs that I chose to listen to was “Second Millennium”. I was taken aback when I was greeted with a bluegrass sort of music but I was also delighted. I was not expecting to hear that at all. I wondered if perhaps much of the Folk Crusaders’ music had that sort of feel to it, but then I listened to “Reincarnated Drunk” and “The Camel without a Hump” and those were two completely different sounds! The former is odd and comical and also a little eerie, while the latter has an Arabian flavor to it. And then there is “Dracula’s Love”. Needless to say, their music is very unique and I am astonished at the eclectic nature of their music. I also have to wonder about the various musical sources in “Reincarnated Drunk”, such as the little bit of Beethoven at the end of the song. Why were they added to the song? What role do they play in the music? What did the artists mean to communicate?
Apart from the fact that one of the members, Katou Kazuhiro, later formed Sadistic Mika Band, I wonder if the Folk Crusaders had a sort of lasting impact on Japanese music. I really like the music of theirs that I have heard, and the impression I get is that these are some very talented artists. I have to imagine that they would have made an impact on other artists or future artists with their unique brand of music and their pioneering ways. Even though they apparently only released a few albums, they were obviously a big hit.
What also interests me is the fact that the emergence of Folk music took place during the student movement of the 60’s. I find it fascinating that these student and New Left movements took place all around the world, in Europe, Asia and the United States. The students in different countries each had their own issues they were moving against but there were also causes which they had in common, such as fighting the establishment. And even though some of the groups and movements failed completely in achieving their immediate goals, they still laid the ground work for later movements and societal changes. One example would be the women’s movement that took place afterwards in the 70’s. I think it would be interesting to further explore folk music’s place in this period of history in Japan.
The Folk Crusaders officially rock my socks. The song reincarnated drunk is so amusing that friend that I have forced to listen to it have agreed that even though they know no Japanese and my translations suck the song is funny. Same goes for Dracula's Love, interesting and fun, even when its story is nonsense. I love their ability to create something that sounds cool and conveys comedy to so many people without using culturally relevant material. That is not to say that they don't, they do, such as the funeral chant at the end of Reincarnated Drunk. But even this sounds funny because of how out of place it seems even if you don't know they exact meaning. I was glad to hear in class that they enjoyed some pretty notable success with these tracks and I for one would like to listen to more of there music and seem if they are really any good or if they did just get lucky.
As for the rest of the music from this section I have to say I was less then impressed. I am not a big fan of folk to begin with but I do like Bob Dylan and was excited to hear Okabayashi and instantly disappointed when I did. I found his song 'what we want' to be boring and melodramatic when I understood the words and annoying when I didn't, plus he jams for like ever and a year at the end of that song and its not very interesting jamming. Endo Kenji on the other hand had a nice voice that reminded me of Cat Stevens songs. But his song lyrics were terrible. Curry Rice is just plain stupid, I don't care what you feed your cat or if you have a weird fetish were you talk about your cat and your girlfriend in the same way. It really was just plain stupid, even if it did sound real nice. The other groups were meh at best. I think that like Folk here in the US there is usually one folk band you like, even if you detest the genera. I like Bob Dylan, I like Cat Stevens who I think is Folk, and now I like the Folk Crusaders, as for the genera I could take it or leave it.
I found it interesting when the article explained that, “one complaint often heard form Japanese musicians of the era is a sense that Japanese pep and rock was following the lead of the USA and the UK, and that the world of Japanese popular music was behind the time.” We just read several articles on how jazz was borrowed from the West when if first arrived in Japan and how they copied already established Western artists a lot, remaking songs as well as using the technology that the West was using. I think the reason for copying both jazz and, in this article, rock and pop, is that Japan was so head over heals for anything Western at the time when the music industry was making progress at a rapid rate with new technology aiding the spread of music among not only elite, but among middle class as well.
And since Japan was so eager to import anything Western, it makes sense that they would also follow the trends of the West as well. I can understand why some artists of the time might get upset over their country's tendency to copy others; everyone wants to feel as if what they do is original and creative. However, Japan's habit of adopting fads and styles from others isn't limited to just music, nor is it limited to that time only. Even today, many people see Japan as the stereotypical copycat who produces very little original material. But in today's society, who does, really? By now everything has been done and redone many, many times.
But I do find it interesting that Japanese artists were conscious of this habit and more than a little self conscious about it, if their complaints and reactions are anything to go by. The article also mentioned a band, the Flower Travelin' Band, that was an advocate of English lyrics, claiming that rock couldn't be authentically produced in Japanese because the language sounded different. I can see why they might think that if English rock is all they've ever heard, but I'm sure English speakers don't have a monopoly on producing rock music either. It's this kind of thinking that spurs the copycat syndrome, I think, because they want to be authentic in a way that means 'being Western', which is conflicting with their identity as Japanese.
The first article involved the Folk Crusaders and their unique (at the time) style of music. When I first heard their smash hit ‘Kaettekita yopparai,’ I didn’t completely like it but some of the parts were funny such as the death cry of the drunk when he “died” in the song. Although drunk driving should be taken more seriously, I can see why this song was popular with the children as well. I think it’s comparable to the voice acting in cartoons such as Bugs Bunny. Their voices are high and sound funny so I think that’s why kids were attracted to it. I do have to agree with you (Anderson) that they were quite creative in writing songs because the music sounds out of the ordinary. I actually looked up the album cover and I really liked it, it featured the band with mafia like attire and weaponry.
The second article talks about the Japanese group sounds and their emergence to popularity. So from what I read, the Beatles had a heavy influence on the beginnings of group sound. Group sounds were identified as bands that used electric instruments and sang pop-rock. It also seemed like group sounds went from rock and pop to just pop and then the article goes to say that group sounds bands actually became “identified with light enka/pop.” The Blue comets were one of these group sounds band, they were well known for their enka like music. Well I couldn’t find the Blue Comet’s ‘After Goodbye’ so I listened to ‘Blue Eyes.’ I was really impressed with the band on sight because they were suited up and they enjoyed themselves throughout the whole performance. I hope I don’t have the wrong band though, because it said Blue Stars on the banner in the video…My favorite part would have to be the lines “Ore wa kokoro ni ch something ai no kotoba…” The singers were synched really well and it just sounded good to my ears. I guess this did sound more like pop than rock.
The part about Japanese musicians complaining about how Japanese rock and pop were “following the United States and the United Kingdom” and that the Japanese pop music was behind in terms of advancement was interesting. I guess it is true that Japanese rock and pop were following other countries. For example, in the article, it is stated that the Beatles had a heavy influence on group sound bands. It was only the Blue Comets that didn’t take after the Beatles at that time. They were known as the “band with the electric instruments that sang melancholy songs.”
I was quite sad when I couldn’t find the reading for this week, but I found it ^___^. Although many people listen to music everyday, I for one do not. I am probably the last person on earth for you to ask about an artist or the singer of a particular song. It’s ironic that I love listening to music but I rarely pay attention to the lyrics sometimes. So my knowledge in this week’s reading will lack quite a bit.
Group sounds is another genre of Japanese music – hence the electric instruments and rock music – that evolved roughly around the mid 1960s. They are referred as a “type of band that played electric instruments and sand pop-rock songs with vocal harmony” (Anderson 177). It’s quite amazing how the inspiration of Japanese GS came from the Beatles when they made a trip to Japan in summer 1966. The Japanese started to create their own rock bands and adopted some similar sounds. Within one year, (1967-1968), in the wake of the Spiders and the Blue Comets, over a hundred bands made their own recording debut (Anderson 178). However, there is the argument stated, “One complaint often heard from Japanese musicians of the era is a sense that Japanese pop and rock was following the lead of USA and the UK, and that the world of Japanese popular music was behind in times” (Anderson 178). From the beginning, Japan had already started borrowing Western musical sounds that were already made in the US. In this sense, many of the Japanese GS bands evoked in writing lyrics in English and then singing them in English-language to present more of an authentic rock feeling – thus, “they felt Japanese language lyrics lacked an authentic rock feeling” (Anderson 178). What really struck me while reading this were the names of the Japanese GS. For instance, there were the Spiders, Blue Comets, Flowers, Jaguars, Jack, the Dynamites. All these band names sound so energetic and lively. I took the time to look up the bands online, and nearly all of them were male bands. So I wonder if there were any female Japanese GS bands during this rock era. In regards to the other readings that we’ve read, it’s easy to notice the influence of Western and European had on Japanese music industry. I think it is interesting to see how the different genres of Japanese music started and change throughout the years.
It is interesting that the Folk Crusaders became popular with style of singing. I'm interested in knowing what they sang about. It's funny how the vocals are sung however it just shows that they're having fun with music while at the same time it is attracting others.
I think many people may not be too fond of folk music. I don't think it's the kind I would listen on on a regualy daily basis however it does have a distinct tune to it. It is interesting because when I think of folk music I think it would be used for entertainment purposes. But folk music was also used to express political feelings. And what is even more intriguing is how it was not rejected and continued to be used as a same form for later practices.
Group sounds tends to become more free spirited. Here it's not all about your singing but the way you strum an instrument. Listening to some of the examples in class I recalled horrible singing with no talent whatsoever but yet it seems to be a popular thing. I do agree that japanese sung lyric expressions and meanings are too deep that it doesn't seem the type to flow well with this type of music genre. I guess English just sounds cooler eh?
It is interesting to see how one genre is created and then to see one being branched off and recreating a similar but totally different style or genre.
I have to take particular exception with the sentiment, expressed in the grumbles voiced by the Japanese musician who was concerned about national identity when he said, “Japanese pop and rock was following the lead of the USA and the UK, and that the world of Japanese popular music was behind the times.” (Anderson 178). This statement is shortsighted and does not take in two major concepts that influence popular music, of the last century, Constant cultural change, and necessity to sell records for profit.
Music is a cultural product. Individuals and groups of people, as expressions of emotions and identity, produce cultural products like music. So it east to see how music that is produced or founded in one area becomes associated with it, to the point even where it is hard to tell if a particular type of music was produced as product of a culture, or if it that music is changing or reinforcing social ideals and domestic culture. But Human culture is ever changing along with all of the constantly changing people whose interactions, thoughts, and actions create culture. Popular Rock in the 1960’s music preformed by white performers grew out of Rhythm and Blues and Gospel Tradition that were strongly associated with Black culture. These Black musicians would not have produced this music if it were not for the forced cultural transformation that was forced on to them by slavery, but in any case Gospel and Rhythm and Blues were a product native African musical traditions mixed with Secular and Christian musical influence from colonial Europe and slave owners. So Rock music is about as authentically owned by any one group, as sunshine, and air are by the plants, plants get different amounts of these and produce very different products. Every person puts their own unique perspective on every piece of music they listen to or create, which at the same time is an amalgam of their varied experiential exposure.
But more realistic, the global economy has been inter connected for hundred of years but the visibility, relevance, and strength of these inter continental connections and exchanges has grown exponentially with improvement in transportation and global communication. These technological gains have been brought on by capitalism. The music industry has operated just like all other industries. As new markets emerge products, music, is introduced. In this system the ability of a song to sell lots of copies says to record companies that if they want to make money they should produce music like successful song X. Which transmits a message to musician that if they want to make money too they should also produce similar music. When that business model is taken into account with the overly romantic and admirable feelings/ideas that people in emerging economies may have for more globally dominate/wealthy cultures.
I understand the pain of music that lacks originality. But music is inherently changed every time some one plays it, so no music can be explicitly owned by any culture. And at the same time market saturation of a particular type of music makes it difficult for new and novel music to develop because it is financially risky.
Week 7 position paper
By Eric Michelson
Japanese music once again takes a new turn we this music. The Japanese music seems to be very effected by what is going on in America, everytime we get something new Japanese also gets it and it upsets any type of order they have. It is almost like the rest of the world has a reactionary musical culture and America just sets the standard, in most cases. The advent of the electric guitar is intresting in its connection to why the centures were so popular in japan. Because they had an electric guitar and the Japanese could imitate them and sound just like them. That is intresting that a band that anyone could sone like came into such opularity in japan when in America they were no as wel known.
This moves shows that japan was behind the times when it came to music, even the enka movement was supposed to be enchanced by old styles of music was very popular when just a little while before Japanese was using the new music to secure its place in the world. Now we see the trent of Japanese msuci in this isn’t to make sure people know that japan is a modernnation but it is just to keep with the America and the UK. There is a steady change in the msuci from the imperal era japan and the music that is popular in japan durning the time of the rock movement. Authentic Japanese rock seems to be kind of a joke when you see that they are just takeing things that come from America and imitateing them. We see a little of the old mixing of the styles in this new rock movement, but the mergeing of the stles is no where near as prevalent as it had been in the past.
The bob Dylanesaque singer endo kenji is very intresting because he really sounds like Dylan. It is good to see a singer that sings about his cat. This is my own personal opnion of the singer, I think that anyone that sings about a cat is good in my book.
The first few articles reminded me exactly of the American music trends in the 1960s and 1970s. The "Ivy League" students now became underground hippie movement and all I can think of Bob Dylan. Although he didn't really become very popular until later in his career. "Japanese language folk songs with a political and social message were written in the context of this developing situation." the current situation being the war in Vietnam. As in the U.S the anti-war movement produced Okabayashi Nobuyasu style music in political protest.
Group songs seem to be identical to the band style in America. It is interesting as another person wrote above, “one complaint often heard form Japanese musicians of the era is a sense that Japanese pep and rock was following the lead of the USA and the UK, and that the world of Japanese popular music was behind the time.” The japanese music scene parallels the American music scene in so many ways in so much that jazz,pop,GS,enka,and early enka, all have many American technology involved as well as American themes and styles. Again, we see the rave about The Beatles in Japan as we did in America and the UK. "Beatlemania was no less extreme i Japan and became a media event that explored the moral decline of Japanese girls and the qualities of the Beatles which may have inspired it." This same phenomenon was seen in America households and the counter culture movement symbolized with the Beatles long wavy hair.
During the 1960s-70s folk music almost became one of the most popular forms of music at the time. The article by mark Anderson engages the idea that folk music was a way of presenting social and political struggle of the underdog. As folk music has its origins in the USA, the political activism that was prominent in the United States at this time was exported to Japan in the form of folk music. The Japanese then took this aspect to create the “college folk” movement; where usually the songs were covers or translated into Japanese from English. The way of using folk as an expression of social struggle was associated with “long haired, unwashed teens in jeans” which became the identifying marker for student protest much like that in the United States. This export of social and political expression soon gained ground internationally. Large public demonstrations became more common as they were a way for the underdog to express his/her social opinions in hopes of making change. Folk music then became identified with political expression and the music in turn reflected that.
I view this as an easy way for people to express their social struggles to the mass market in hopes that their voices would be heard and gather more support. Because of the subject matter major record labels were cautious about producing folk music which gave rise to the creation of the independent record label. This was a way of encouraging the underdog and have each individuals opinion heard. Which for the time of great social unrest was an outlet for expression and defined the heavily intertwined mixture of political activism and artistic expression.
Folk’s most notable performer was Okabayashi Nobuyasu, who was the representative icon for student protest and political movement. He kept very much in touch with the “support of the underdog” theme in folk with album names like “leap before you look” and “Condemn me”. These titles issued a message of independence and expressing individuality; which was the main goal of the music at the time. Another prominent artist was Endo Kenji whose “…work records the quiet desperation of everyday life…” this was a very identifiable theme for people striving for independence and these were the “everyday” people that the work of folk music was trying to apply to.
Encyclopedia of Contemporary Japanese Culture
The folk crusaders started in 1965 then split up in 1967. In order to commemorate their past work, they made an album with a new song “Kaettekita yopparai.” It was so well received they got back together for a year which I think is very funny. They were some of the first to use the studio as an important tool in the creative process.
From late 1960 to 1970 folk music become very popular. During this time there was an opposition movement to the existing power structure. The folk music along with the messy look of college students was a symbol of the struggle. Originally the folk acts were in English or were Japanese translation of English songs, but during extension of the U.S. Japan security treaty, Japanese language folk songs were written with political and social messages. And they have some weird concerts and performers during this time, they became known as Kansai Folk acts because they are centered around Kansai. The soon there was this underground folk came out and underground record club. URC( the underground record club) released the political folks song because the major record labels were scared to record for the revolutionary songs.
The single most identifiable icon from the 1960s Japanese political folk music is Okabayashi. He debuted at the underground music festival in March of 1968. His record was banned from sale because his lyrics were kind of making fun of the political situation. In 1971 he suddenly quit music but returned in 1985 to perform live again.
Endo Kenji is everyone’s favorite singer and songwriter. He sings about everyday life during a time when every body else was singing about antiestablishment and stuff. He release quality work throughout the 1970s and 80s :Þ
New kind of music called group sounds refers to bands that play electric instruments and sing pop-rock songs with vocal harmony. It probably stared with the arrival of the Beatles in Japan. And they are struck with Beatlemania. Many Japanese musicians of that time felt that Japanese pop and rock where behind the USA and UK. “The most important new bands, the Tigers, made their debut in February 1967.” Following the Tigers, a band call the Blue Comets started to separated from GS and became Anglo-American New Rock. After that came jazz-blue music, psychedelic, heavy metal, and art rock sounds. English-language lyrics also became more poplar.
The Beatles summer tour in Japan initiated a change that would change the music industry. The change started to shift in a direction that brought singers together to form “group sounds” rather than solo singers. It was the transition from the style of folk songs to group sounds with the introduction of electric instruments. As expected of imitations, it’s not all the time that exact replicas are created. Of course, this is the beauty of interpretation – taking a newly introduced idea and adopting features to create something else.
The two Group Sound bands that jump started this had a unique way of music production. The liverpool musical style was what the Spiders created music with as melancholic songs dominated the style of the Blue Comets. Nonetheless, it wasn’t how but rather the aesthetic behind Group Sound that created a wave of amateur bands as the idea became rather popular among Japan. From 1967 to 1968, a record of a hundred bands debuted under this design (Anderson 178). As the Japanese were imitating ways of the United States and the United Kingdom, technically they were behind in the realm of popular music at the time. Anderson does that, “One complaint often heard from Japanese musicians of the era is a sense that Japanese pop and rock was following the lead of USA and the UK, and that the world of Japanese popular music was behind in times” (Anderson 178).They were imitating music that had already been released and popular among other nations before they caught on to do the same and follow this popular road.
With the introduction of rock, it changed the way Group Sounds played from pop-rock to a more heavy psychedelic metal type of rock. A new genre gets kicked off which eventually becomes known as kayokyoku, which embodies a rather light enka pop band aura. In Japan, in order to keep and preserve the kind of atmosphere that heavy metal gave off, many times, some bands created songs and sang them in English as other continued the genre in their native tongue. Thus, almost creating their own kind of rock, or Japanese rock, would you rather prefer calling it.
I think it’s interesting that the moral dilemmas Japan seems to have faced around music closely reflect ones the U.S. has also confronted. I think conservative Japanese citizens were more concerned that jazz was a source of culture erosion whereas the west considered it more of a moral issue, but it seems both Japan and America saw the Beatles as a source of moral corruption, especially amongst women, for similar reasons. The article even cites long hair as a symbol of anti-culture, which I thought was a funny correlation American culture shares, if only by coincidence.
I know the Beatles are considered an important moment in both American and Japanese rock music, but I’ve never really understood why they were a huge hit in America to begin with. If anything, I can understand how they would be more important to Japan, since they were a western band that became popular with Japanese culture and then went on tour there, but from my perspective the British Invasion doesn’t seem like it really would have been that invasive. Basically, I can more easily understand how the Beatles would be considered important to Japan than I could understand why they affected America so greatly.
I’d be curious to see an argument on whether the greatest changes in Japanese music during beginning GS bands were stylistic, with electric instruments becoming more popular and surf rock changing, or if the greater influence was how bands were usually composed. By this point it seems solo acts were not as popular, but the group dynamic seems to be a tighter construction than it was during the folk music era.
Another question I had was why garage bands…are called garage bands. When I hear that term the first specific band I think of is Nirvana, which obviously came much later than the ones in the article. Either way, was this genre name borrowed from western terminology? Random, I know.
Reading these first series of short articles evoked lots of random short thoughts, most along the lines of “I never thought/realized this was folk..” The Folk Crusaders, definitely, when I heard the twangy almost country tune, I thought, “Yeah this is folk.” But the others--Peter, Paul and Mary, the Kingston Trio and Joan Baez--I would never have classified as folk. I thought their sound was mostly pop-y. One of the most surprising things I found was that the short entries classified Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary both as folk groups?! They don’t sound anything alike!! Also I thought it was interesting that the ‘folk music’ entry described folk music as the contraband in opposition to kayokyoku and enka where I pictured folk music more as 1960’s enka in the way that they both were used as political protest.
Among the three artists described in the ‘folk music’ entry, I thought Okabayashi had the most enka sound, being a little less upbeat than Bob Dylan. [Okabayashi’s] songs had more of that melancholy, ballad-ish sound to it. I thought Bob Dylan’s songs were more upbeat and poppy compared to Okabayashi’s. I guess most of the similarities between Okabayashi and Dylan is the fact that they both sang protest songs (a friend joked to me that perhaps another similarity was that they both sounded bad, as far as singing voices go). I really liked Endo Kenji’s sound a lot though. I thought his sound was more Dylan-like but what I liked most about him was his range--he could pull off the ballads (Curry Rice) as well as the rock sound (Can we be Satisfied?). I liked his voice a lot better than Okabayashi’s too.
As far as groups sounds bands go, I listened to some of the mentioned bands’ music and for the most part I agree that they follow the Beatles sound. The one song that deviated was the Spiders’ FuriFuri66. I hit play on that track and the first thing that came to mind was the Beach Boys. However, their Once Again track was very Beatles-y. I tried to listen and see which ones of the bands sounded most like the Beatles, but I could pinpoint which one. They all sounded pretty much the same to me~
The most interesting thing to me this week was not written in the article, it was actually the music itself. When first looking at the schedule the term “group sounds” was brand new to me. I was expecting to hear very folksy songs about rainbows and butterflies. Needless to say my expectations were wrong. The article was the first point in helping decode the term “group sounds”, by telling me the instrumentation I was better able to picture bands and the type of music they might play. Then I listened to some of the music, most of it is pretty good or at least tolerable although Beatles covers have never really been my thing.
The music is part of a major shift in the Japanese music scene. The style of guitar playing for instance was taken from what was called the British invasion in America. Elements of this were in earlier Jazz songs but the group sounds genre was much more widely accepted. The biggest change though is that many of the songs were sung in English. The lyrics in the songs I heard were much like those of England and America at the same time too. This is as we learned in class because rock was only considered valid or good by people if it was in English. To me this was just odd, much of music is about personal experience and it doesn’t seem real if the person is singing in a language they don’t even know. Many of the singers couldn’t even speak conversational English. I think their feelings might have been better conveyed or maybe just their songs might have been more popular if their lyrics had been in Japanese.
Another interesting thing was all that group sounds covered. In the western world there were about 3 separate music movements that all fell under the group sounds umbrella in Japan. Psychedelic and Surf music for example are distinctly different yet both are “group sounds” in Japan. From what the article it seems that the music being grouped together had more to do with the audience and perception of the audience than anything else. Or possibly because some groups transcended genres people wanted to be able to keep them under one term. That isn’t to say the genres had nothing in common it just seems like a kind of big stretch.
I really liked the music for this week, it was familiar but at the same time different. I’m really excited to find more music I like.
The group sounds article brought up some interesting points for me. It seems that along with the initial introduction of Group Sounds to Japan came a closer link to the U.S. Being that "instrumental surf bands" had already begun to surface, when the concept of group bands came onto the scene, the instrumental surf bands playing electric instruments was no longer strange as stated in the article. In the summer of 1996, the Beatles traveled to Japan and held a concert, at this time I believe the GS era was truly born. In the article it says that Japanese GS bands are comparable to contemporary US garage bands because of their amateur-like sound. However it was interesting to me to read that The two GS pioneers, the Spiders and the Blue Comets started as rockabilly, and country-western bands. It also said that the Blue Comets have been referred to as "'a band with electric instruments that sang melancholy songs'." To me this does not sound like the typical US garage band that Japanese GS bands were compared to. When I think of US garage bands I typically think of loud grunge, suffering and death metal, Metallica esque sounding music. I definitely do not think of melancholy, country-western sounding music. I think that this point stood out to me the most because while reading the article I envisioned what I think of when I hear garage band, and its relation and comparison to the Japanese GS bands.
From enka to gunka to folk music, it seems to me that a pattern exists in Japanese music. Most of the forms reflect a time of drastic change in public sentiments. Enka is derived from political rallies; the foundation of gunka lies in Japanese expeditions into Korea and Manchuria; and Japanese folk music now seems to be rooted as "symbolic of this social and political struggle" of the 1960s.
Does this same idea hold true for other countries? I say no. While several new genres came into existence throughout the West during this same time as well, I think that these new instruments were put to political use only after their influence hit a more mainstream audience.
There are only two cases where I think this idea runs false, and that is with jazz and the more contemporary adaptation of rap/hip-hop. Jazz was accepted during the 1920s in Japan unlike anywhere else outside of America, as we have read. I think part of the reason for this is because it was really the first foreign music to hit Japan post-industrialization. Jazz music came around as a way for more classically-trained singers to change themselves to a new environment, and thus received a massive influx of singers that helped to establish itself within Japanese borders. While it is true that much of what the Japanese entertainment industry is today exists as a copy of other societies, I agree with people above who note that in the world today who exactly is original? Besides, isn't America trying to push other countries to copy its own system of government? It seems somewhat hypocritical to me when Japan is criticized for being a copycat when that is exactly the kind of methodology that the people in charge around the world wish for other (read: global south) nations to adopt.
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