Tomorrow Never Knows

For the future of Japanese Music, and pop music, it is not too known where it will go.

For the actual industry, the record and albums, in the music industry, are still at high sales. The Japanese are very good at keeping their customers, and music group fans, buying, by keeping them supporters of their favorite idols and bands, instead of just fans. Since it is such a lucrative business, I don’t see them changing it anytime new. It’s common for Japanese companies to take what works, and just keep doing that. I’m sure more and more pop groups will continue to come out.

For the music scene, though, Japanese are slowly becoming more international, and modern digital technology, even if is going slow, it is making progress, and digital products are becoming more popular. Also, more and more indie artist are going around the industry to get their music out there and known. Niches in the music are also slowly becoming more blurred, and people are starting to broaden their horizons on musical taste.

I think that there will be point where the music industry and producers will have to adapt to the emerging trends, and start to make money on indie groups, while still promoting their corporate-sponsored pop groups. I don’t see them ever going away, at least anytime soon, after forcefully turning their fans into supporters.

I also see music to take a more predominate role in their entertainment, a lot more than it is now, in order to include and promote the emerging indie bands. They also aren’t going away anytime soon, and, if they are economically smart, will start to include other musically styles and groups into their popular lineup. It’s already starting to happen in Shibuya, with the Shibuya-Kei group. I can see it going that way.

Or it could be all for nay, and will try to keep indie bands as more as a hobby, and will try to keep pop music as the predominate entertainment it is now. I do not know how they will try to turn indie fans into supporters, though. Many of their fans dislike the idea of being a supporter, and being forced to buy. It goes against the whole idea of what indie is. And if the indie groups slowly become part of pop, would that make way for a new, different set of indie groups, or will it be the end of indie, and indie groups being able to make a living on their music.

I will be here in Japan, though, since I am staying here for a while, so I will be definitely looking out to see what happens.

I’ve Got a Feeling

With Japan’s intense interest in Pop music and Boy/Idol groups, much of it is a big turn-off for me. They seem to all sound the same, and be more focused on dancing rather then singing. Also, many groups seem to be carbon clones of each other. My musical appetite has gone more to avoid music, and either listen to podcasts, or make my own music. However, despite that, there are a few groups and singers that I am hooked on.

One such group is one called, “Knock Out Monkey.” Yes, funny name. This group is a very good performance. The sound like a lot of old rock bands during my high school days; having a late 1990’s-early 2000’s, guitar-centric rock sound. They are also a very good stage band, being very good at performances. They have a very nostalgic sound that brings me back to my teenage years.

Another fellow I seemed to go back to, time and time, again, is T.M. Revolution. Sure, this guy is a pop-star, and is a pretty flashy on-stage performer. However, he has a very wide range of music types, featured in many anime. It feels like I listen to him for a while, get tired of him and take a break, then eventually come back to him. The overall positivity I get from him can be inspiring, even if he wears a dress every now and then.

Lastly, I find myself going to a lot of Japanese Jazz bars. It feels like Jazz, yet has elements of R&B/Hip-hop infused in the rhythms. I can’t really pinpoint the artist’s, or group’s, names, but I find myself remembering the locations. Pitt In, in Shinjuku, Kissa Sakaiki, in Yotsuya, and The Hub, in Asakusa, are all good places of Jazz performances. They tend to be mostly up-beat, giving a feeling of excitement, yet, at sometimes, mellow. My favorite one, though, is Blue Note, in Omotesando. It has a great atmosphere, and seems to be made to contribute to the group performances. As for why, I guess, it’s a great break, and an escape, from the massive amount of pop music jammed in my face by the TV and outdoor advertisements.

One thing I noticed about making this list, is that these 3 are all mainly performative in nature, with a focus on the music; not the focusing on dancing and showmanship, as is most J-Pop music today, as well as less directly about solely listening to the music. I think, being a musician myself, I care much about the instruments being played and the enjoyment coming from them. Sometimes, when I only hear the music, or just see people singing without any instruments, I feel like hopping on my drum kit and beat on them, much like Steve Moore, here.

Get Back

Seeking out some Traditional Japanese Music, it wasn’t that strange to me. Already being well-versed and used to some traditional instruments, like the shamisen instrument, from musicians like the Yoshida Brothers, Umekichi, and Takahashi Chikuzen;  singers such as Ikue Asazaki.

I discovered many of these musicians through Japanese anime I watched in my childhood. This kinds of music were nostalgic to me, and thus, I listened to frequently.

However, these musicians and this music are pretty modern. Before and after World War Two, there was a big push in the society to, even though absorbing western influences, to stay, “Traditional Japanese”. I don’t know if they were true traditional Japanese music or not. Asazaki, for example, plays the piano while she sings.

So, I decided to seek out some of the oldest known classical Japanese music, Gagaku, the oldest known ancient Japanese royal court music played mainly for major  banquets, in the ancient capital, Kyoto. It was difficult to find a lot of this type of music; most of it was too old to be recorded. I did, however, find some, from the Music Department of the Imperial Household. There were some instruments used that I was not familiar with, like the ryoteki, haisho, yamatogoto, biwa, and the shoko. I did recognize some instruments, like the Da-Daiko.

It wasn’t too weird or strange. It reminded me of several classical composers from the 20th century, like Alen Hovhannes and Monte Young. Seems like these guys received a little inspiration from some Japanese court music. Overall, Gakaku seems upbeat and high-energetic. I’d imagine there would of been a lot of dancing and performances during Gagaku. Listening to it for quite a while, it was quite mellow and I had an enjoyable time.

Moving on, I decided to dip a little bit into Kabuki and Noh. The music from these plays were easily found on Youtube. This music, however, was completely different from the Gagaku, as it was slower and more depressing. While there were some familiar instruments, they were used in a different manner and style. I feel like Noi and Kubuki is set up in a way to slowly build up anticipation, but for me, the anticipation for the climax comes too slowly, which has a side-effect, for me, of making it depressing, and at many times, boring.

Maybe this part of the traditional Japanese music I am not used to; the very slow pace, the exaggeration of the musical climax, the lengthy silences within the music.

A Little Help from my Friends

Confusious say “Music is pleasure, brain cannot live without.” I think that’s true.

 

Growing up, I was interested in music from a very early age. In high school, I played the banjo. My senior year, I started to  dabble around on the guitar. But, more so, I’m mainly a percussionist… a drummer. Here was my first drumming lesson… pretty young, I’d say!

 

 

 

Anyway, before starting this blog, I’m going to make the first topic about music. It’s ones of those things that is subjective. People tend to gravitate towards those songs and music they have grew up listening to, or have great memories experienced during listening to certain songs. This school assignment, for my Exploring Japanese Popular Music, concerns my Desert Island Disks list. I never really thought about it too much. This was actually the first time I heard of this term.

At first, I just listed down all my most liked and most listened to albums. When I was done, I had about 35 listed. So, I had to think about them further, and I finally narrowed it down to 10.

1) Tool – Lateralus
I first came to know of Tool in 2004, through their album Undertow. I immediately fell in love with this band. I liked about half the album. Same with Aenima, and even Opiate. Lateralus was the first Tool album where I enjoyed every track and could listen to the entire album multiple times. Also, Danny Carey is one sick drummer. Too bad I have to wait 4-to-5 years before they release a new album.

2) Caravan Palace – Panic
Caravan Palace is a French Electric Swing band. A pretty weird combination, right? But, it’s addictive. I first came on to these guys after hearing their song, “Crash”. I must of listened to the same one song all day long. Upon finding out more about this band, I grew to really like them. My favorite song they have preformed is actually, “Lone Digger.” However, “Panic” is my favorite overall album, despite not having “Long Digger” on it. Note: this band also follows the cliche trope of an all male band and a lone female lead vocals.

 

3)John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
This album, when it first came out, long before I was even born, was a masterpiece. Today, this album is a great inspiration source. Each and every song on this album seems to musically illustrate a different mood or emotion: Love, Sorrow, Anger, Joy, etc. I’ve turned this album on, and hit a random song whenever I need a good source of inspiration.

 

4) Dead by April – Dead by April
This screaming, hard rock, Polish band is here cause it’s attached to a special memory. Back in my World of Warcraft days, I would always played this album whenever I was running my battlegrounds. (Which was about 80% of my playing time). Needless to say, I don’t really play anymore, but this album will always hold those fun memories. Horde for Life!

 

 

5) Black Eyed Peas – Elephunk
This is a great album from modern times, probably their best album… by a long shot. I never really liked any of their other albums, but Elephunk seems to have a lot of great songs that I naturally liked: Let’s Get Retarded, The Apl Song, Where’s the love?, Anxiety. It is one of the very few albums produced fairly new, that has more than one or two decent songs. I don’t like they will make another album as great as this one.

 

6) The Roots – Phrenology
Growing up in Philadelphia, I heard these guys all the time. At first, it was the song, “The Seed 2.0.” I was one of my favorite songs in High School. After a couple months, I finally decided to find out who sang it, and it was, the Roots; and the song came from this album. I like almost all of their music, but this was the album that started it all.

 

 

7) Masaharu Iwata, Hitoshi Sakimoto, Yukiko Mitsui, and Yuko Miura – Final Fantasy Tactics Soundtrack
Ah, the best final fantasy game ever made… that no one has ever played. This was an amazing game, and it has an unforgettable soundtrack to go with it. I must of played this game so many times, that I know the melodies of almost every single song on this album.

 

 

8) Yoshida Brothers – Tsugaru Shamisen

This pair of brothers are amazing  shamisen players. They managed to incorporate styles of rock, blues, and funk into the traditional Japanese style. For me, many of their songs are hit or miss. However, this is their “greatest hits album”. All of their hits are on this one album, so it’s the only one I really listen to. For those who live in Japan, if you ever heard of Shamisen background music on prime-time TV shows, I’ll bet you money that it came from this album.

 

 

9) Blockhead – Music by Cavelight
Tony Simon, also known as Blockhead, is and underground DJ in the New York area. I first came across Blockhead from listening to Aesop Rock, another New Yorker that’s an amazing rapper. Tony does all of the beats for Aesop Rock. Every now and then, Tony puts out his own, instrumental albums. Music by Cavelight has so many beats and melodies, and overall, great songs, including my favorite off of this album, “Insomniac Olympics.”

 

10) Blue Man Group – The Complex
This one may seem a little off, compared to the rest of this list. Most of my grooves that I have developed were inspired by the songs off of this album. I may not listen to this a lot, but this album continues to be an inspiration for me when trying to develop new grooves and/or chops.
So, those are my top 10 musical albums that I need to have in order to survive. making this list got me thinking about my favorite song. For me, there’s none other than…

George Harrison’s, “While my Guitar Gently Weeps”
I didn’t really like the Beatles, and I don’t like most of their music. I wish I could hear their early days, from Hamburg, Germany. But, there are a couple. I really started to enjoy George’s. This song is amazing, and hits on so many different levels. I absolutely love the performance Harrison and Clapton did together on this song. Now, I can’t really sit and listen to this one song all day, but when this song does play, it becomes the best song played all day.

If I have a favorite English song, then I should also have a favorite Japanese song; hence me living in Japan. Narrowing down all the Japanese music I listen to, this song comes from more of a utility purpose.

Fukuyama Masaharu – Red x Blue
When I started taking Japanese classes, one of the requirements was doing karaoke songs. My teacher assigned me this song. Eventually, this became my go-to karaoke song whenever I’m on a date. And, it has yet to let me down. It’s also a fairly fun song to sign along to.

The Pokeman’s Go hits Japan.

Japan already has had a problem with it’s citizens, walking while glued to their cell phone. Since 2013, the number of cell-phone accidents has gone up, majorly. (link)(link)

I remember, last year, there were rumors of government-sponsored posters around the city, to remind people of the dangers of being on the cell while walking. Sorry to say, but I don’t think that will make any difference.

Now, It has been just recently that the new, hit App, “Pokemon Go”, has finally come to Japan,

There has been a new surge in cell-phone accidents since the app’s release. (link)(link)

I wonder how this will play out, and eventually, maybe feed into this cell-phone zombie phenomenon. Or maybe, this will help people to realize and help avoid accidents in the future. Only time will tell.

My Japanese Language Quest: Dating

As a result of using the App, Happn, I began dating some girls, being the strapping young lad I am. Some of the women I talk to on it doesn’t understand any English. It’s just my luck.

Anyway, last night, I went out on a date with a beautiful young woman, who doesn’t know any English. It was pretty refreshing to not hear any English being spoken to me…

until we got to the restaurant. I told her about the problem of many of the locals here only  speak to me in English. At first, she didn’t believe me. She knew some of the waitresses, and soon realized they automatically believed I only knew English.  Now, she will purposefully speak to me in Japanese very loud, when we go out to our future dates.

Again, it seemed that those whom I talk to, will only speak to me in Japanese once they hear me speaking Japanese.

Maybe the trick is, for me to speak in Japanese, and turn off my understanding of English completely. However, as of now, I do have a partner who’s more than willing to help.

The Paradox of Female Happiness, pt.4

(pt. 3 here)

There’s really a lot to be said about overall female happiness, from both sides: in the traditional sense and the liberal sense. There are many factors to it; it;s not just black and white. More and more women entering the workforce, and delaying having a relationship or marriage, not to mention the feminist ideology about men and women being equal in every way. However, due to Japan’s aging population, women can and will be shunned in Japan if they opt out of having kids in their future. (link) The growing number of the herbivore men and staying away from women. Not to  mention that Japan’s love industry helps greatly to keep men and women apart. Vice.com did an excellent documentary on the love industry, (here). (I probably should of included this before.)

There’s something hopeful about the the idea that all people are equal, and in a perfect world, that would be the case. But, we have to remember reality, that we are social animals, and we are prone to our biological evolution. Both masculinity, the territorial desire to protect and provide, and femininity, to nurture and support, are perfect for each other, and they evolved to be that way for the survival of the human race. Men and women are not equal, they are suited for different things; but that, in no way, means they don’t have equal value. Both are equally valuable for a healthy society to function, and for the overall happiness in it’s population.

There’s a lot going on in this, the modern, liberal age, that drives both sexes apart. I think that, especially in Tokyo, if something doesn’t change from it’s current state, more women will become more unhappy, with the delusions that women who want to be liberal and “independent”, will make them happy. It does, only for the first decade or so. Being free and independent is fun. But, like all things, it will come to an end. Then, their biology will most-likely kick in, in their early-to-mid 30’s. But, by that time, the life they built in their 20’s actually works against what they desire in their 30’s. Instead, they use substitutes; i.e, host clubs and pets.

The natural cycle of life, in the past, went like this. A man and women get together, at least by their mid twenties. Their children grow up, and eventually become functioning members of society. After they move out, the husband’s and wife’s parents become elderly, and thus are taken care of by the couple, until they are lowered 6-feet under. Their children starts families. So later, when the couple gets old, their children will be there to comfort and take care of them. It’s an ongoing cycle. But, now, there’s a interruption in the cycle, which coincides with this growing  epidemic of unhappiness.  More and more people, especially in Tokyo, are not getting married or having children. After this generation buries their elderly parents, they will grow old. When they are old, and have no children for support, who will be there for them? Who will take care of them, and be by their side on their deathbeds? No matter how much they advanced in their career or how much money they made; it will be very lonely for a woman in their aging years. Can you imaging how heartbreaking that might feel, to be alone, when it’s your time to die?

The paradox of female happiness, pt.3

(pt. 2 here)

Let’s look at some biological facts and common historical knowledge. First; Generally speaking, women tend to be physically weaker than men. Women are also generally disabled through a lot of their life, from menstrual cycles, pregnancy, childbearing, and so on. Also, generally being weaker then their male counterparts, a woman’s feeling of danger was a lot more than that of a man’s. For these stats, women can’t really fight that well, so they have to resort to words, and humiliation. Second, women need other women, evolutionary speaking. When the males were out hunting, women needed the cooperation of other women to watch their children when they couldn’t. If they didn’t have the solidarity of other women, it was most likely their children wouldn’t survive. They would not want to offend other women. Thus, women are most subject to harm through words. This is also why many women believe EQ and emotions to be more important than IQ and intellect.

Growing up, me and my other male friends frequently insulted each other. It may of been “mean”, but as a result, it helps build up immunity from attacking words. However, it’s generally not the case with women. With the political ascendancy and working class of women, we not have these things like “hate speech,” the preferred desire to not offend others, and conflict avoidance. It’s really hard for me to imagine just how exhausting it must of been, being a woman in the past.

In order to form functional societies in the west, and in order to find security from their anxiety, women found a good man to provide and protect them. Thus, this was the forming of the “traditional family”. This was where the idea of the women in the house, and  men outside; the division of labor to best where they were suited. Women took care of the house, children, finances, shopping, tended the garden, etc. Being a good housewife was some pretty backbreaking and grueling work. However, this freed up the man to devote all his time to work and making money. It was the most economically efficient in the long run. This idea was the basis for Japan’s “Salaryman Family”, since that provided the most wealth in the long run.(link) (link)The business world does this, too. There is no successful company where all the employees do a part of all the job roles needed.

Now-a-days, women are becoming more liberated, and able to normally take over traditionally male-considered roles. More and more women are going to universities and entering the workforce, focusing on their career.(link) Women out number men in universities, but they don’t major in stem fields or computer science, but instead other majors that usually pay lower, such as health, administration, and education.(link) The notion of the Nuclear family, as well as marriage itself, is seen as pointless, and is soon to be forgotten.(link) Women now, in the work force, are expected to work like the men did, which consumes most of their time.

There’s two problems with this, I see.

1) Women are not being, “women” anymore. They are preforming, what is still believed to be, male roles. A feminine man would be perfect for these women, but they are few and far-in-between. And, a feminine male doesn’t exactly promote security for women. This is what causing a rift between the sexes. And by separating women from men, “Liberated” women will generally always vote for socialism and welfare, for their loveless security.(link)(link) I can see why there are so many, “Herbivore Men” in Tokyo.

2) There’s no love. Love is in place in our biology, for women, to feel relief from their “danger anxiety”. It used to be that, what appeared to be a good man provided a relief for women. Having a stable career or social welfare benefits, provides temporary security, but without the love from it. It’s kind of hard for a man to get love from a hooker. Without the love, the anxiety will continue.

(pt. 4 here)