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JAPANESE FOLK MUSIC

There are four main kinds of Japanese folk songs (min'yō): work songs, religious songs (such as sato kagura, a form of Shintoist music), songs used for gatherings such as weddings, funerals, and festivals (matsuri, especially Obon), and children's songs (warabe uta).

In min'yō, singers are typically accompanied by the 3 stringed lute known as the shamisen, taiko drums, and a bamboo flute called shakuhachi. Other instruments that could accompany are a transverse flute known as the shinobue, a bell known as kane, a hand drum called the tsuzumi, and/or a 13 stringed zither known as the koto. In Okinawa, the main instrument is the sanshin. These are traditional Japanese instruments, but modern instrumentation, such as electric guitars and synthesizers is, also used in this day and age, when enka singers cover traditional min'yō songs (Enka being a Japanese music genre all its own...).

Terms often heard when speaking about min'yō are ondo, bushi, bon uta, and komori uta. An ondo generally describes any folk song with a distinctive swung 2/2 time rhythm. The typical folk song heard at Obon festival dances will most likely be an ondo. A bushi is a song with a distinctive rhythm. In fact, its very name means "rhythm" or "time," and describes the ostinato pattern played throughout the song. Bon uta, as the name describes, are songs for Obon, the lantern festival of the dead. Komori uta are children's lullabies.

Many of these songs include extra stress on certain syllables, as well as pitched shouts (kakegoe). Kakegoe are generally shouts of cheer, but in min'yō they are often included as parts of choruses. There are many kakegoe, though they vary from region to region. In Okinawa Min'yō, for example, one will hear the common "ha iya sasa!" In mainland Japan, however, one will be more likely to hear "a yoisho!," "sate!," or "a sore!" Others are "a donto koi!," and "dokoisho!"

A guild-based system exists for min'yō; it is called iemoto. Education is passed on in a family, and long apprenticeships are common.

(Article based on Wikipedia article and used under the GNU Free Documentation License)

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