Imported others: American influences and exoticism in Japanese interwar popular music
Edgar W. POPE
Abstract The first great wave of American influence on Japanese popular music came before the Second World War, and coincided with the rapid expansion of Japan’s record industry that began in the late 1920s. Imports of American records, sheet music, and movies, together with Japanese performances and recordings of American songs, brought a wide range of American music into the complex emerging mixture of Japanese popular music. Among these American imports were numerous songs and musical elements that referred to places or cultures considered exotic from the standpoint of mainstream America. I focus on three songs and the roles they played in the development of Japanese popular music exoticism. American-made exoticisms were not simply imposed upon Japan, however. Japanese culture producers actively initiated and carried out the process by selecting American songs, adapting them to the needs of their audience and drawing selected elements from them to be recombined with material from other sources, both Japanese and foreign.
Keywords: exoticism, interwar, Japan, jazz, popular music, rumba
Edgar W. Pope is a Professor in the Department of International and Cultural Studies at Aichi Prefectural University in Aichi, Japan. He holds a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from the University of Washington in Seattle, and a Master’s degree in Music Education from Kanazawa University in Japan. His doctoral dissertation, “Songs of the Empire: Continental Asia in Japanese Wartime Popular Music,” is an analysis of tairiku merodei (“continental melodies”), a genre of Japanese popular songs depicting continental Asia that flourished during the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945. His current research interests are in exploring and analyzing the various manifestations of exoticism in music, and in tracing the connections between Japanese and American popular songs of the 1920s and 1930s.