Introductory Guides to Historical Recordings

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#Note: Recordings introduced in this guide are available for listening at the NDL and the Rekion partner libraries.

Japanese Traditional Music in Modern Times: Focusing on Gidayu-bushi

Hidenori ONISHI

Kyoto City University of Arts
Research Centre for Japanese Traditional Music

It is generally assumed that traditional Japanese music has been passed on immutably for many hundreds of years up to the present day. Yet, when one listens to recordings from the Meiji Era, one is not infrequently taken aback by the fact that there are great differences in the tempo of the vocals and performances from those of the present. These kinds of transformations did not happen overnight, but arrived at their present form through traditions passed down to generation after generation along the temporal axis of history. In the modern era in which social structure, lifestyle, and ways of thinking have changed significantly, might one not also say that the traditional music and performance styles have changed a great deal, too?

Voice recordings inform modern day listeners of the changes in performance styles that cannot be gleaned from mere bibliographies like this one. Unfortunately, one cannot name the recording company and the time of recording with accurately for the source recordings housed in the "Historical Recordings" within The National Diet Library Digital Collections, so it is difficult to trace their transformation along a time-line. Here, however, I would like to select representative performers, focusing on the gidayu-bushi that one could say composes the framework of joruri puppet theater and the nagauta music that developed into the music for kabuki drama, and take a look at their performance styles.

Images provided by Hidenori ONISHI.
English version released on January 21, 2015.

1 Gidayu: Tsubosaka-dera (Tsubosaka Temple)/TAKEMOTO Osumidayu III (joruri), TOYOZAWA Danpei III (shamisen), TOYOZAWA Sennosuke (tsure): Nippon Columbia Co., Ltd. (Postwar), August 1950 (First release: May 1910), Product number (Record Number) A1002-A1003

the record label of Gidayu: Tsubosaka-dera

This is a recording of Meiji era master TAKEMOTO Osumidayu III (1859-1913). Osumidayu III excelled in realistic expression with feeling, and moreover was known for matchless ardor for his performing art. This Tsubosaka Reigenki (The Miracle of the Tsubosaka Temple Kannon) became a successful performance for Osumidayu III and thereafter became one of the most popular gidayu-bushi chants. Even though Danpei III, not the celebrated master Danpei II, was at the shamisen, it is still a solid performance. In particular, the dangiri musical accompaniment to the manzai dance in the final act brims with euphoria. This Tsubosaka-dera (Tsubosaka Temple) and Horikawa Sarumawashi (The Monkey Dance at Horikawa) left by Osumidayu III is a record that is seen relatively often today, and has been re-released a number of times on the Columbia label since the dawn of the Showa era.

→ Listen to the gidayu, "Tsubosaka-dera"

2 Gidayu: Sankatsu Hanshichi -Sakaya no dan (Sankatsu and Hanshichi -The Sake Shop Scene) / TAKEMOTO Tosatayu VI (joruri), NOZAWA Kichibee VII (shamisen): King (Postwar), September 1936, Product number (Record Number) 12009-12010

the record label of Gidayu: Sankatsu Hanshichi -Sakaya no dan

TAKEMOTO Tosatayu VI (1863-1941) is known for reciting tsuyamono *1, and was proclaimed one of the three giants of the Yotsubashi Bunrakuza in the early Showa era along with TAKEMOTO Tsudayu III and TOYOTAKE Koutsubodayu II. Recorded just before his retirement, this disc does not necessarily convey its worth, however, there is no deterioration in the good quality of his recitation of the extremely popular "Sake Shop" scene climax to the Hadesugata Onna Maiginu (The Women Dancing in Brilliant Silk Robes) gidayu-bushi. As recordings of TAKEMOTO Tosatayu VI are scarce, it is a shame that there are no wholly complete recorded acts for him as there are for TAKEMOTO Tsudayu III and TOYOTAKE Koutsubodayu II.

*1: Tsuyamono: In gidayu-bushi usage, a sewamono (a drama depicting the lives of ordinary people) joruri with the love affair of an elegant male and female as the subject. This is a suitable piece for listening to the melodious throat in gidayu.

→Listen to the gidayu, "Sankatsu Hanshichi - Sakaya no dan"

3 Gidayu: Igagoe Dochu Sugoroku (The Vendetta at Iga) - Numazu no Sato Azumaji no dan, Heisaku Uchi no dan, Heisaku Harakiri no dan (The Town of Numazu, Heisaku's House, Heisaku's Seppuku)/ TAKEMOTO Tsudayu III (joruri), TSURUZAWA Tomojiro (shamisen), TSURUZAWA Tomonosuke (tsure), TSURUZAWA Tomokoma (kokyu) : Columbia (Prewar), May 1930, Product Number (Record Number) 35087-35098

the record label of Gidayu: Igagoe Dochu Sugoroku - Numazu Sato Higashimichi no dan, Heisaku Uchi no dan, Heisaku Seppuku no dan

Known for his dynamic, large-scale recitation style, TAKEMOTO Tsudayu III (1869-1941) worked as the monshita (under the crest)*2 at the Goryo Bunrakuza the beginning in 1924. Many records still exist, however, combined with TSURUZAWA Tomojiro's (1874-1951) shamisen and the quality of the recording, Igagoe Dochu Sugoroku - Numazu no Sato Azumaji no dan is often raised as one of the most famous gidayu-bushi recordings. Though becoming familiar with joruri is indispensable to understanding ningyo joruri and bunraku, this record is also suitable as a teaching material for sewamono joruri.

*2: The principal chanter, also known as a yagurashita (under the drum tower). A ningyo-joruri or "puppet theater" (a forerunner of bunraku) term. Arising from the name written on the playbill below the crest of the theater, he became the head of the whole joruri puppet show troupe and had the authority and duty lead it. This position no longer exists in modern bunraku.

→Listen to the gidayu, "Igagoe Dochu Sugoroku"

4 Gidayu: Adachigahara san-dan-me (Sodehagi's Petition to the Gods, Act III) / TOYOTAKE Koutsubodayu II (joruri), TSURUZAWA Seiroku III (shamisen): Nipponophone, May 1917, Product Number (Record Number) 838-843

the record label of Gidayu: Adachigahara san-dan-me

TOYOTAKE Koutsubodayu II (1878-1967, posthumously, TOYOTAKE Yamashirono Shojo) was an exemplary tayu (joruri reciter) of the Showa era, recognized for accurate joruri from his skillful change in tone and intellectual recitation delivery. If the performance styles of TOYOZAWA Danpei III, TAKEMOTO Tosatayu VI, and TAKEMOTO Tsudayu III recall the Edo-Early Modern era, TOYOTAKE Koutsubodayu II can said to show the modern joruri style. The influence that it has had on today's bunraku and its spectators is inestimable. While a number of Victor Records discs of TSURUZAWA Seiroku IV (1889-1960) are included in the "Historical Recordings Collection", we present the heralded master, TSURUZAWA Seiroku III (1868-1922), and his recording (unreleased) here. In contrast to Victor Records discs of the leading tayu, I would like to draw your attention to the firmly joined shamisen of TSURUZAWA Seiroku III and the joruri of the young TOYOTAKE Koutsubodayu II.

→ Listen to the gidayu, "Adachigahara san-dan-me"

5 Gidayu Oshu Adachigahara/ TOYOTAKE Tsubamedayu II (joruri), NOZAWA Katsuichi (shamisen): Victor Records (Prewar), January 1929, Product Number (Record Number) 50906-51039

the record label of Gidayu Oshu Adachigahara

TOYOTAKE Tsubamedayu II (1904-1969) was the leading disciple of TOYOTAKE Koutsubodayu II, and later, as TAKEMOTO Tsunatayu VIII, was the preeminent tayu supporting bunraku in the Postwar era.Acknowledged for his meticulous interpretation of works and his intellectual and modern recitation, he poured his enthusiasm into reviving rare works as well as those of Chikamatsu. TOYOTAKE Tsubamedayu II is 25 years old at the time of this recording and his high degree of perfection has the power to astonish all over againThough there are still a large number of LPs in existence from the TOYOTAKE Tsubamedayu II era, almost none of them are being re-released. Luckily, many of these have been stored in the "Historical Recordings Collection", so be sure to check out recordings other than this one.

→ Listen to the gidayu, "Oshu Adachigahara"

6 nagauta Kanjincho (The Subscription List) / Yoshimura Ijuro VI (vocal), Kineya Eizo III and Kineya Eiji (shamisen), Nipponophone, July 1925, Product Number (Record Number) 15709-15013

the record label of nagauta Kanjincho

Up to this point, we have only taken up gidayu-bushi, but what can be called the typical performance style of nagauta has also undergone great changes in the modern era. YOSHIMURA Ijuro VI (1859-1935) took an active part in the world of nagauta from the Meiji to the Showa eras, and in days gone by also worked as the lead singer for Danjuro IX. He is a master who transmitted the early modern Edo nagauta to the modern era. One may never hear this kind of powerful nagauta ever again. YOSHIMURA Ijuro VI recorded "Kanjincho" with many companies, but this recording was released in 1925.

→ Listen to the nagauta, "Kanjincho"

7 nagauta: Toba no Koizuka (Toba Lovers' Tomb) / YOSHIZUMI Kosaburo IV (vocal), KINEYA Jokan II (shamisen): Columbia Records (Prewar), May 1942, Product Number (Record Number) 4622-4625

YOSHIZUMI Kosaburo IV (1876-1972) and KINEYA Jokan II (1874-1956) founded the Nagauta Kenseikai in 1905 and worked tirelessly to spread the nagauta from the theaters to the home. Their performances influenced the performers of conventional kabuki, and undoubtedly resulted in orienting the performance styles of not merely early and modern nagauta, but also the entire range of utamono including hauta, kouta, and zokkyoku.

→ Listen to the nagauta, "Toba no Koizuka"





8 Shin-hogaku: Jinei no tsuki (The Moon Over Camp)/ Hogaku Kenkyukai, YAMADA Shotaro (shamisen solo), MIURA Chieko (vocal solo): Victor Records (Prewar), December 1937, Product Number (Record Number) J-54186 - J-54187

the record label of Shin-hogaku: Jinei no tsuki

This is the work of YAMADA Shotaro (1899-1970) in his younger days after he broke away from the nagauta Kenseikai and came to work under his own name. Though it is a shamisen ensemble that relies on multiple uses of the tremolo technique of Western music, it sounds like a mandolin ensemble with the addition of a female voice to the modern ear. At the time, however, it was performance that pushed the boundaries of the nagauta and no doubt was quite a novel work. Around that time, YAMADA released "Aikoku Koshin Kyoku (Victor Records-A5) (Patriotic March)" and "Aiba Shingunka (Victor Records J-54534) (Cherished Horse March)" with a similar technique.

→ Listen to the shin-hogaku, "Jinei no tsuki"

9 Ishinkinno Yamagunitaigungaku (Loyal Imperialist Yamaguni Military Band)/ Kyoto YamagunitaiGakushi (Kyoto Yamaguni Military Band), FUJINO Takuya (conductor), MIZOGUCHI Koji (Commander): Victor Records (Prewar), December 1928, Product Number (Record Number) 50450

the record label of Ishinkino Yamaguni Taigungaku

Though this is neither a gidayu-bushi nor a nagauta, I introduce this because it is a rare recording. I am sure that many of you have heard Ishin Maachi (Restoration March) and Miyasan, Miyasan (My Crown Prince, My Crown Prince) performed by the government army drum and fife band in dramas depicting the Bakumatsu and Meiji Restoration era, however, these pieces were recorded in commemoration of the Emperor Hirohito's enthronement ceremony. The Yamagunitai (Yamaguni Corps) was an armed force of farmers organized in the Bakumatsu era in the village of Yamaguni in Tanba Province, Kyoto, and the drum and fife band also served in the Boshin War (1868-1869). Later, after the Meiji Restoration, the drummers who returned home passed on their performance techniques to the locals and they continue to be passed on today by the Yamagunitaigungaku Hozonkai (the Yamaguni Marching Band Preservation Society).

→ Listen to Ishinkino Yamagunitaigungaku

Reference Materials

  • OKUNAKA, Yasuto. Bakumatsu kotekitai: Dochakuka suru seiyou ongaku (Bakumatsu Era Drum and Fife Bands: Indigenizing Western Music). Osaka Daigaku Shuppankai (Osaka University Press). 2012. 254 p.
  • ONISHI Hidenori. "SP rekoodo reeberu ni miru nicchiku-nippon korambia no rekishi" (A History of Nipponophone-Nippon Columbia as Seen on 78rpm Record Labels). Kyotoshiritsu Geijutsu Daigaku Nihon Dento Ongaku Kenkyu Sentaa (Kyoto City University of Arts Research Centre for Japanese Traditional Music). June 2011-216., (Accessed 02/20/2013)
  • Kokuritsu Gekijo (Japan Arts Council). "Butai Geijutsu Kyouzai de Manabu - Bunraku" (Learning from Performing Arts Materials - Bunraku), Bunka Dijitaru Raiburarii (Digital Library of Culture)., (Accessed 03/06/2013).

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