Through the 20th century, the globalization of jazz and hip-hop has luckily reached Japan, where musicians offer fun and interesting takes on the genres. They have made something old into something new using perspectives only they can offer, influencing western music. That is to say, Asian musicians continue to be fundamental to the development and love of music worldwide. Ever since the overlapping of American and Asian music sparked up in the early 1900s, jazz has become a cornerstone of Japanese culture. 

Ocean liners between the Western and Eastern worlds carried orchestras with musicians to learn material for many different audiences to enjoy. Japanese musicians found themselves in San Francisco record stores learning the popular music of the United States, and they brought it home. Osaka and Tokyo became the centres of jazz in Japan, sharing a portion of 20th-century20th century modernity with the culture of the east. It was the popular music of the young and excited, and it stuck. Now, we can see the genre’s influence in the media produced by the country. Games and shows like Mario Kart and Cowboy Bebop feature casts of Japanese musicians playing jazz at an insane level, finding listeners across the globe. However, this advancement is not just limited to jazz music.

A similar excitement carried through for hip-hop in Japan as prominent producers and rappers like Nujabes and Shing02 took the medium to new heights. Nujabes is fascinating to me, and I doubt this is the last time I’ll mention him. He was exceptional at repurposing his favourite jazz records for his own music, collaborating with lyricists to create new stories out of old material. Sadly, he passed away in 2010, but not before crossing mediums to create art that would truly reach audiences worldwide. Nujabes worked on the soundtrack to a hit show called Samurai Champloo alongside Tokyo music production duo FORCE OF NATURE and American producer Fat Jon. Together, they created an entirely new world of beats inspired by Japanese culture. This work helped pioneer the low fidelity “chillhop” genre that has gone viral in the past decade, inspiring future shows like Yasuke. On this recent Netflix release, American record producer Flying Lotus put together a similarly hip-hop-based soundtrack, though with a more futuristic twist. 

Thanks to the contributions of these artists and many others, the world of music have simply been made better. For Asian Heritage Month, I want to share a corner of music that fascinates me. There’s a playlist as well as some youtube videos – feel free to leave the tab open in the background and relax!



Scenery – Ryo Fukui

Japanese Jazz when driving on a warm night

Samurai Champloo



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