Friday Music of the Day: Wao, by Asakusa Jinta

March 16, 2012

Regular visitors to this blog may have noticed that I recently started ‘Music of the Day’ posts featuring lesser-known Japanese performers from a range of genres.  My hope is to make this a regular feature on Tuesdays and Fridays, and I’ve been digging around for new sources of music to share in the future. My purpose in this is twofold: to share the work of Japanese performers that have faded from memory or who have only reached a limited audience, and to prod myself into posting updates on a more regular basis, doing brief posts during the week and longer articles on the weekends. How long each post is will most likely depend on how busy I am at work. [November 2012 Edit: didn’t work apparently, judging by the summer-long gap in my posts. Oh well.]

Asakusa Jinta’s 2005 album, Asakusa Ondo

That said, today’s Music of the Day is Wao(和ヲ), a new song from Asakusa Jinta (浅草ジンタ). Their early albums were put on the ska shelves of the stores, but the band’s Wikipedia page describe their music as purified, new-era rock, and on the band’s own page they describe themselves as “Asianican Hard Marching Band.”

As the name suggests, their roots are in Asakusa, Tokyo’s famous shitamachi (old neighborhood) in the northeast. In its heyday, Asakusa was Tokyo’s prime entertainment district, filled with restaurants, taverns and theaters, and serving as the gateway to the more infamous Yoshiwara red-light district. They still exist today, but there is a definite sense of yesteryear throughout the neighborhood, especially when compared alongside Shinjuku, Shibuya and the rest of Tokyo’s districts of glass towers. This is a neighborhood that was never quite part of the bubble.

This prewar music-hall style has strongly influenced the band  (indeed, their first performances were in Asakusa’s rakugo theaters), as can be seen in their instrument choice and theatrical performing style, but their sound is also heavily influenced by early 60’s-era American rock and jazz (Asakusa has also been home to many jazz clubs from the 50s and 60s onward). It makes for a unique blend that’s steadily evolving as the band moves forward.

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