Japan is an ancient nation, and as such, their music (original music) is quite different than what you’d expect.
Maybe the biggest difference between the western world and Japan, when it comes to music, is that the intervals in Japan are mostly based on breathing, rather than mathematical timing.
Unlike some cultures, most of the popular songs are actually instrumental, or they contain just a bit of vocals.
Japan Music Origins
Two forms of music have been recognized as the oldest forms of music in Japan. These are shomyo (also known as Buddhist chanting) and gagaku (or court music).
Gagaku has been used mostly for the elite as it was played at the imperial court.
Honkyoku (or ”original pieces”) came to be as early as 13th century. It was performed by Zen Buddhists as means for enlightenment. This form of music has also been used by the samurai while they were trying to understand the deeper meaning of life.
Honkyoku is still present today, and it can be heard at some concerts or performance setting.
Japanese Traditional Music Instruments
Traditional Japanese music instruments were mostly comprised of wind, strings and percussion instruments. This means that they had a lot of different flutes, drum-like instruments, and also a huge variation of string instruments featuring everything from one string to more than twenty.
Some of the most popular traditional music instruments are the following:
Hyoshigi, Shoko, Koto, Kugo, Shinobue, Ryuteki, and more.
Japanese music today
Japanese music industry is one of the leading music industries in the world. It is currently the largest physical market in the world, but also a second largest music market with a value of 2.6 billion dollars.
Despite being heavily influenced by the western music culture, Japanese people remained true to their own origins, and they have combined the elements of both sides and created a spectacular sound.
The leading artists in the Japanese music market are mostly Japanese where 37 out of 50 top album and 49 out of 50 top singles have been made by Japanese people.