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Move to the beat

Move to the beat
Momoiro Clover Z is a popular J-pop group.

Japanese music takes centre stage



By Natalia Ahmed

Published: Mon 21 Oct 2019, 5:28 PM

Last updated: Mon 21 Oct 2019, 7:35 PM

Music has played an important role in Japanese culture, from live artists and anime music to café music, and so much more. This has also affected the karaoke industry, leading to a spike in popularity since the 1970s till today.
Anime and game music in particular have made a global impact, with iconic tunes like the Mario theme song standing the test of time. J-pop in particular has taken the Asian market by storm, and continues to be one of the largest music markets in the world.
Japanese music has managed to make waves in a global space, and many Japanese bands have performed in far-flung spaces, and have travelled outside the country. Thanks to the Internet, Japanese music has been able to cross geographical boundaries to gain a global fan following. Apart from music alone, these idols also have TV shows, films, commercials, and merchandise from their performances and shows, along with a steady stream of album records every year.
In the contemporary world, there are a few genres that Japanese music can be sorted into; J-pop is fast-paced, high-pitched, and often features energetic music videos; J-metal refers to Japanese metal and rock; and contemporary music, which has more Western influences.
Apart from this, K-pop has made a big effect in Japan and Western pop music is also extremely popular amongst the locals. Western music and instruments have affected Japanese music since the late 19th century, with blues and jazz becoming popular in the region.
After the war, Western music regained popularity and brought new styles to Japan, resulting in Japanese artists adapting Western music to their own medium. Covers were produced of popular English songs, and Western instruments began to be featured by Japanese artists.
The history of J-pop can be marked by distinct periods, where key influences can be seen to affect the resulting music. J-pop can trace its roots to jazz music that got popular during the early 1920s.
By the early 1950s, jazz had re-entered the scene, along with blues, mambo, and country music. The 1950s and 1960s were dominated by rokabiri (rockabilly) and eleki (electric) music, thanks to Western influences; Japan, too, went through a 'Beatlemania' phase in the 1970s, inspiring 'Group Sounds', featuring home-grown beat combinations.
During this time, the instrumental music shifted from simple guitar strums to more complex musical arrangements, and this was known as 'New Music'. The 80's have been dominated by the rise of idols and idol groups, only to be marketed and managed by producers, which continue to dominate the music industry today.
In the contemporary setting, music of all types has become popular in Japan, with dedicated fan groups and followings for different genres, from rock and roll to heavy metal, to the more abstract notion of 'pop' music. R&B and hip hop, too, have made their mark on Japanese music, with bands like Orange Range creating hip-hop music. 
Within the last decade, there has been a large increase in the number of Japanese idol groups, with many successful groups performing to crowds of thousands from across the region. J-pop has become popular in other Asian countries, with many other singers performing covers of J-pop songs.
Some popular groups include BABYMETAL, AKB48, Momoiro Clover Z, Morning Musume, and many others. Current charts are dominated by bands, both male and female, with a few male solo singers as well.
The idol movement has continued to dominate the contemporary music industry, with pop stars working as trendsetters, brand ambassadors, and actors, alongside producing music, showing just how enmeshed the music industry is with other entertainment and art forms in Japan.  

Ai Otsuka is a popular Japanese solo singer.
Ai Otsuka is a popular Japanese solo singer.

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