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"Sing Me a Song of Araby" and "My Blue Heaven": New Folksong, Hybridization and the Expansion of the Japanese Recording Industry in the Late 1920s

Issue: Vol 1 No. 1 (2004)

Journal: Popular Music History

Subject Areas: Popular Music

DOI: 10.1558/pomh.v1i1.65


This article examines developments within the Japanese music industry in the period between 1927 and 1929. It argues that this was a time of unprecedented change in people’s musical experience not only through the development of sound-reproduction technology and the rapid growth of the media forms of radio and talkies, but also in the type of music that became successful in the Japanese market. The article suggests that the formation of three major Japanese record companies as joint ventures with US and European companies in 1927 marked the start of the gradual adoption of the use of songs composed specifically for the purposes of recording as a major part of their business strategies. The article examines significant hit recordings in the Japanese market in 1928 and 1929. It discusses how these songs were written and produced and examines how the rise of new pentatonicism in Japanese popular music, the mass mediation of orchestral sound and the emergence of new media forms served to produce hybrid forms of popular music that would dominate the market in subsequent decades. It describes how a handful of “new folksong” recordings began to have notable sales in early 1928, with their emphasis on poetical colloquialism and musical pentatonicism. It argues that this paved the way for the success of two cover versions of American songs, “My Blue Heaven” and “Sing Me a Song of Araby” with their pentatonicism mixed with chromatic sentimentality and orchestrated sound. This commercial achievement prompted the recording industry into commissioning more and more original material.

Author: Toru Mitsui

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