Japanese Traditional Music: Shamisen and Songs - Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai 1941

WA 2013CD WA 2013CD

2017 repress. This is the fourth volume in World Arbiter's Japanese Traditional Music series. The World Arbiter label presents 1941 recordings of the Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai -- masters of the shamisen. An extensive anthology of traditional Japanese music was created sometime around 1941-1942 by the Kokusai Bunka Shinkôkai (KBS), International Organization for the Promotion of Culture. KBS was established under the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1934 for cultural exchange between Japan and foreign countries, representing genres such as gagaku (court music), shômyô (Buddhist chants), (Noh medieval theater play), heikyoku (biwa-lute narratives of battles), shakuhachi (bamboo flute music), koto (long zither music), shamisen (three-stringed lute music), sairei bayashi (instrumental music for folk festivals), komori-uta (cradle songs, lullabies), warabe-uta (children songs), and riyou (min'you) (folk songs). Considering that 1941-1942 was a most daunting time for Japan's economy and international relationships with Asian and Western countries, it is remarkable that this excellent anthology of Japanese music was ever completed and published, as it contains judiciously selected pieces from various genres performed by top-level artists at that time. The KBS' recording project is of unique historical importance and culturally valuable as a document of musical practices in traditional Japanese genres during the wartime. Few copies of this collection exist in Japan. This CD restoration is taken from a set originally belonging to Donald Richie, a writer and scholar on Japanese culture (particularly on Japanese cinema), who had given it to Ms. Beate Sirota Gordon, known for her great contribution to the establishment of Japan's Constitution during the period of U.S. occupation after WWII. Gordon's father, Leo Sirota, a piano pupil of Busoni's, fostered many excellent Japanese pianists at the Tokyo Ongaku Gakko (Academy of Music, forerunner of present-day Music Department of Tokyo National University of The Arts) during 1928-1945. Shamisen, a three stringed lute, is said to have been imported from China through Okinawa into mainland Japan (Sakai, Osaka) in the latter half of the 16th century. It began to accompany popular songs and contributed in bringing about a variety of genres of shamisen music in the early 17th century. In the late Edo period (early 19th century), small-scale shamisen vocal genres such as ogie-bushi, hauta, utazawa, and kouta were performed by geisha in ozashiki chambers. This disc includes the shamisen music enjoyed in ozashiki. Jiuta music is mainly performed in houses or ozashiki chamber in the Kansai area and said to be the oldest shamisen music genre, born soon after the instrument's arrival in Japan. Kumiuta (combined pre-existent songs) music is also heard on this disc. Full descriptions are included in a 36-page booklet in English and Japanese.