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Representing Japan: ‘national’ style among Japanese hip-hop DJs

  • Noriko Manabe (a1)

Based on ethnographic interviews, this paper examines how Japanese hip-hop DJs distinguish themselves in the global marketplace in ways that reflect on Japan's two self-images: its impenetrable uniqueness and its adeptness at assimilating other cultures (cf. Ivy, Iwabuchi). Following the autoexoticist strategies of Takemitsu and Akiyoshi, DJ Krush and Shing02 draw on Japanese uniqueness by integrating Japanese instruments (e.g. shakuhachi, shamisen, taiko), genres (biwa narrative), and aesthetics (ma, imperfection) into their works; Evis Beats takes a more parodic approach. At the DMC World Championships, Japanese DJs including DJ Kentarō have competed on the basis of eclecticism and originality in assimilating multiple sound sources. While countering the stereotype of the Japanese as imitators, this emphasis on originality may place some contestants too far from prevailing trends, putting them at a disadvantage. Both strategies imply that Japanese artists experience anxieties regarding their authenticity, necessitating strategies to differentiate themselves.

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E.T. Atkins 2001. Blue Nippon: Authenticating Jazz in Japan (Durham, Duke University)

I. Condry 2006. Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization (Durham, Duke University)

M. Ivy 1995. Discourses of the Vanishing: Modernity, Phantasm, Japan (Chicago, University of Chicago)

M. Stokes 2004. ‘Music and the global order’, Annual Review of Anthropology, 33, pp. 4772

M. Yasuda 2000. ‘Whose united future? How Japanese DJs cut across market boundaries’, Perfect Beat: The Pacific Journal of Research into Contemporary Music and Popular Culture, 4, pp. 4560

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Popular Music
  • ISSN: 0261-1430
  • EISSN: 1474-0095
  • URL: /core/journals/popular-music
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