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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Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for TelevisiĆ³n EspaƱola (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.