The Ninth Day of Kitsune — A Period Playlist

This entry is part 9 of 12 in the series Twelve Days of Kitsune
gagaku dancer
Gagaku dancer

As we come to the Ninth Day of Kitsune, let’s treat one of the senses which has been left so far untouched despite our forays into images, taste, and touch; let’s listen to music, both period and related, from Heian era to today.

Home life in Japan.
Home life in Japan. (Photo credit: New York Public Library)

There are a few kitsune songs, but not many I’ve found, or at least not many readily available to us now. But we have a surprising amount of traditional and authentic Japanese music from different eras, preserved and still performed today.

Kitsune in Song

For a recent folk song featuring kitsune, listen to “Fox Woman” by Kathy Mar, from the album Snow Magic. I found this song by accident years ago, but apparently the album is pretty hard to come by nowadays. You can hear it under this video (with lots of kitsune-related pop art).

A Japanese folkswoman with her shamisen, 1904
A Japanese folkswoman with her shamisen, 1904 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Japanese Music – Traditional

Gagaku is a traditional style of Japanese music from the Heian era and still performed in imperial ceremonies. Naka no Yoritomo’s household would have listened to this music.

I confess, though it’s pretty hard to find music I just don’t like, I kinda don’t like gagaku. I can appreciate its cultural importance — even today, many of the practicing musicians are scions of traditional musical families, almost a hereditary profession — but I won’t play it for recreation as I will other styles and genres.

Still, its presentation is quite impressive. Watch this video and note the extremely polished performance and accompanying dance.

Because of its position and heritage, it’s not too hard to find gagaku music today, and you could download quite a few tracks to your mp3 player at the drop of a hat.

Japanese Music – Traditional & Modern

If you like traditional music or instruments blended with modern influences, check out these next options.

The Yoshida Brothers are a talented duo who play the shamisen. They’ve made quite a name for themselves and have defied the traditional limits of folk music, even appearing on a The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack.

This track, “Kodo,” was featured in Nintendo Wii commercials a few years ago. I find it a great mood-setter when I’m brooding on kitsune action scenes.

And this is “Rising,” a shamisen rock number!

Taiko is traditional drum music, but in a form which appeared only after WW2. So it’s not period by any stretch of the imagination — but I have always been a sucker for percussion. And the style and flair which usually accompany taiko performance don’t hurt, either.

Japanese Music – Modern

Malice Mizer during the Gackt era (from left t...
Malice Mizer during the Gackt era (from left to right: Mana, Gackt, Kami, Közi and Yu~ki). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Modern Japanese music is of course as varied as American, with styles and genres to suit every taste. One standout is “visual kei,” a harder rock style by artists often costumed in signature manner. See the band Malice Mizer at right for a popular example. (Even Lady Gaga could take lessons from Gackt, later a solo artist, in publicity, public image, and pure visual style.)

To come back to topic, one of my favorite contemporary Japanese songs, “Egao no Wake” (performed by Hikita Kaori, written by Kajiura Yuki), happens to be the opening to an anime of appropriate theme for us today. Shounen Onmyouji follows the fictional grandson of Abe no Seimei (remember the legendary onmyouji alleged to be powerful enough to command the Twelve Heavenly Generals?). It’s a fun little period piece with a lot of onmyoudou flavoring and plenty of folklore.

I hope you enjoyed the quick romp through Japanese musical history; maybe some of these will end up on your playlist as they have mine!

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Series Navigation<< The Eighth Day of Kitsune – Where Are They Now? Part 2The Tenth Day of Kitsune — Using Furoshiki to Wrap Gifts >>
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