Month: October 2015

Focus on Rekion: The Ainu Storytelling – Yukar (ユーカラ)

The Ainu are the indigenous people of Japan, who now reside primarily on the island of Hokkaido. Ainu culture can be traced back hundreds of years. During their long history they developed their own unique music, singing styles, and musical instruments.

Photo of yukar performed around a fireside from "Songs of Gods, Songs of Humans" by Donald L. Philippi

Yukar performed around a fireside from “Songs of Gods, Songs of Humans” by Donald L. Philippi

Yukar (ユーカラ) represent a form of Ainu storytelling. They are epic poems performed using a distinctive chant-like voice, and are generally performed without musical accompaniment. Yukar can be further divided into yukar of human heroes (英雄叙事詩) and kamui yukar ( カムイ・ユカラ) which are tales of gods and spirits.

Imekanu (イメカヌ also know by her Japanese name 金成 マツ) is a well-known yukar performer and transcribed yukar poems along with her niece Yukie Chiri  (知里幸恵).  Recording of Imekanu’s yukar performance are available through Rekion by using 金成イメカヌ as the search term. Below are a few examples : Continue reading

Focus on Rekion: Jazz Music in Japan

There is some uncertainty about the beginnings of jazz music in Japan, but some believe it started with an increase in luxury liners between Japan and the western coast of the United States. These liners were equipped with orchestras and bands that played for the passengers, and often this included jazz music. Passengers whose interest had been sparked would purchase records and sheet music at various ports of call during their travels. Continue reading