Popular music before the Meiji period

Authored by: Gerald Groemer

The Ashgate Research Companion to Japanese Music

Print publication date:  October  2008
Online publication date:  February  2017

Print ISBN: 9780754656999
eBook ISBN: 9781315172354
Adobe ISBN: 9781351697613


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Hayaru, so the dictionary tells us, means to be popular, fashionable, in vogue. Often written with the ideographs ‘to flow’ and ‘to go’, this verb, properly conjugated and coupled to the noun uta (song), results in the expression hayari-uta: songs that ‘go with the flow’, in short, ‘popular song’. 1 From around the seventeenth century, when the term came into common parlance, most Japanese differentiated hayari-uta from songs that seemed more resistant to change. Traditional, anonymously composed songs from the hinterland, today known as min’yō (folk song), represented one sort of permanence; aristocratic genres, especially those based on ancient, seemingly eternal Indian or Chinese tradition exemplified another. Between the peasant’s timeless ditty and the courtier’s time-honoured chant lay hayari-uta: ephemeral strains and verses often identified with professions or sectors of society that the country bumpkin could not and the samurai would not fully know.

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