Japanese Modern Music

tokyo nightHow often does Asian pop music come to mind? From what I can tell, most fans around the planet identify with modern, contemporary, pop and rock from the Western world. “Most” is subjective though, since I say that based on what I surround myself with. Biased? Must be. As it goes, I’m setting off to learn more about J-pop. I leave for Tokyo in a week. I have friends just outside the city on a little farm where I will stay while I crawl the Tokyo music scene. For those of you who would like to learn along with me, I’ll let you know what I find out…

I’m one of those who likes to start from the beginning. Not to get drenched in boring detail, I’ll cut to the chase. Today’s sounds coming out of modern Japanese music leaves the listener with no doubt that its roots are found in their tradition and culture. The contemporary expressive style is undeniably happening in Japan, but it took a while for the music’s true nature to make the merger.

Japan offers a world sound that continues morphing monthly, and has brought Japan into the eye of a very hip audience. A common denominator with the human race is music, and like the rest of the world, musicians were influenced by the Beatles and the American bands of the 60’s like the Beach Boys. New Wave weaved its way in, along with Latin & a splash of Salsa. On the Asian front, Japanese music dominates in rock, pop, hip-hop and jazz. Imagine 3D-scanning early music in Japan, and then print that out to overlay what’s going on now – it’s a wild ride.

I am stoked about the Tokyo concert schedule for the summer. With artists like J Soul Brothers from Exile Tribe, Ghost, Sigh – all names that are hot on Honshu. The J Soul Brothers concert has to be good. These guys are the third generation unit formed by Hiro. Known officially as Sandaime J Soul Brothers as a part of the super group Exile. This J-pop, vocal and dance group is said to put on a concert that rivals any of the best.

J Soul BrothersI’m told to be prepared to get some soul stirring, heart beating, feet moving action. Velvet Eden is another group that is a must see. An edgy rock band who is performing a limited engagement as a come- back group. They hit a peak in 2001, but have started jamming again together and their audience is apparently calling for more. Fortunately for me the ladies are consenting to a two week/ six performance engagement while I’ll be in the city.

Osaka is definitely on my radar for catching a few great performances from some local artists. I have a backstage pass for pop singer and songwriter, Aiko, courtesy of my yũjin (buddy), Kenji of the Port Authority pulling some strings for me. Aiko was a DJ and radio host for Osaka FM for a while after college and she’s like the home town girl fans call their own Adele.

There is so much going on with modern music in Japan, and the truth is it’s not all for me. I’m not a big fan of cutesy. I don’t want to be surrounded by syrup and high pitched girl singers. It’s just not what does it for me. I’ll be with people who know their way around the Japanese music scene and I’ve done my research, listened to some albums and have a selective ear. As I get more in depth study who knows, I might find an artist that becomes a regular on my playlist.

There’s some good stuff coming out of Japan. What have you heard? Leave a comment below with recommendations – maybe I’ll get to see them live when I’m in their hood.