Rediscovering the Magic of Japanese Folk Songs

Joji Hirota

Japanese Folk Songs (ARC Music, 2007)

With the down-to-earth title of Japanese Folk Songs, Joji Hirota has recorded a charming recording. This gem combines Japanese folk music as well as new compositions by Hirota (except one song), blending folk sounds with European chamber music. The songs, many of which were nearly forgotten, include lullabies, fishermen’s songs from Hokkaido, the songs of children playing games in Tokyo and the working songs of farmers planting rice on Honshu and delicate cherry blossoms in spring.

Hirota plays taiko drums, shakuhachi flute and is also the lead singer. He is accompanied by the Czech Philharmonic Collegium and a small Japanese children’s choir.

"Since ancient times, people believed that songs had spiritual powers," says Hirota in the liner notes. "Japanese folk song became established over centuries, and all the songs on this CD will be familiar to Japanese ears. They can be classified as working songs, celebration songs, dance songs, religious songs and lullabies. When the shamisen (3-string lute) became popular in the 16th century, people began to sing folk music accompanied by the instrument. Performers became popular with their own arrangements of folk songs from various regions and this helped establish local folk songs. However, around the Meiji period (1868-) folk music declined because of the influence of Western classical music. In the 1970s the Agency of Cultural Affairs researched lost songs and the culture they represented and made people realize the cultural importance and value of folk song."


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