Music of Jamaica and Japan Neveatias Smith

The two musical cultures I will be linking today will be between Caribbean music and Japanese music. Although these two cultures don't share many similarities, they do have some type of musical link. From ska jazz, ska, dub music, dancehall, reggae fusion, soca, reggae, caribbean mento, and calypso with American Jazz and rhythm and blues to just Traditional and/or Folk . For this musical link investigation these will be compared and contrasted to find the similarities between these different styles of music .

Music Of Japan

Japan is the largest physical music market in the world which includes a wide array of performers in distinct styles both traditional and modern. The word for music in Japanese is read 音楽 (ongaku). The traditional music of Japan or folk music have three different styles. These styles are classified as either Buddhist Chanting (Shomoyo), court music (Gagaku), or orchestral court(also known as Gagaku). These styles date back to the Nara and Heian period.

Nara period 710-794 \Heian Period 795-1185

The Nara period demonstrated ideas of new music in the newly established Nara capital. As Japan absorbed more and more music of the outside world, mostly from Chinese influences, increased their variety of style by 702 A.D. Those styles were organized under a music Bureau, and by early 9th century an additional imperial poetry bureau had been created for handling Japanese composed additions to the repertoire.

The Heian period is when the empire changed into a new system of governments. The terms “left” and “right” were derived from the Confucian-based administration system of the new capital, which divided the entire government into such categories.

The so-called music of the left was called tōgaku and contained the Chinese- and Indian-derived pieces(Heian period). The music of the right was called komagaku and contained all Korean and Manchurian examples (Nara period).

Japanese Traditional defining characteristics:

  • Sparse Rhythmn,
  • Regular chords absent,
  • Rhythms are “ma”- based,
  • Silence is very important,
  • The focus in the creation of Japanese composition is to “mirror” the behavior of nature, and
  • The compositions normally start slow then increases in tempo and then decreases in a long drawn out ending.

There are three different styles of Traditional music…

Theatrical (kabuki): sub-divided into three categories

The first is Gidayubushi, which is similar to joruri music. Joruri is a type of narrative music that uses shamisen and has four styles.

The second type of kabuki music is Shimoza ongaku and is played for kuromisu (lower seats) below the theater stage.

Another form of theatrical music is called Noh. The hayashi-kata play Noh music. They use taiko, kotsuzumi, fue, and otsuzumi instruments to make the sounds.

The oldest style of Japanese traditional music is Gagaku which means elegant and refined music. Gagaku is a form of court music that includes dances, songs, and a blend of other genres of Asian music. There are two styles of Gagaku.

Kigaku, which is the third style of instrumental music, and Seigaku, which is a form of vocal music.

Music of the Islands

The sounds of Caribbean vary along the islands. Music has always played an important role in providing the islanders with meaningful art forms but also a method of escape and entertainment. While this choice is very broad I'll narrow it down to Jamaica only. The first form of music would be Ska music which originated in Jamaica late 1950’s. Ska music mixed elements of calypso and Caribbean mento with African American music, Blues and Jazz. Most songs under the Ska category would be characterized with a walking bass line accented with rhythms on the offbeat. Eventually this would lead into the creation of rocksteady and reggae in the late 1960’s. It was the political unrest of Jamaica in the 1960s that created reggae. The island's youth needed an outlet to vent their frustrations, and found it in music. These young ‘Rastafarians’ created music rooted in the soul genre, but the focus here was on unaccented beats and meaningful lyrics.

Characteristic traits of Caribbean music

  • syncopations (offbeat accents),
  • cross-rhythms use of percussion,
  • call and response,
  • singing styles,
  • tonal (based in a key) harmonies and melodies,
  • instrument guitars one-drop rhythm, largely conscious and spiritual lyrics,

Common instruments used in Jamaican music

  • Steel pan
  • Marimba
  • Banjo
  • Acoustic guitar Similarities


Both Japanese and Caribbean music share a sense of cultural, spiritual, and natural connection. Most of the Caribbean population are descendants of West African slaves and settlers from Europe, India and China. The music of the Caribbean differs from island to island, but each kind has its origins in a mixture of African and European influences. Whereas in Japan the musical culture derives from Indian and Chinese influences.

Musical compositions being linked

The two compositions I'll be linking will be: "Kimigayo” Hiromori Hayashi (1831-1896) but arranged by Kozo Yoshimoto /Noaya Wada 1862-1907

“Jamaica, Land we love” Robert Lightbourne (adopted July 1962)

Both compositions show is homophonic texture only using a simple rhythm and accompaniment of any instrument to create a slow steady marching tempo beat. It's very noble sounding with the instrumentation of clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, and flutes. The meaning of “Kimigayo” literally means “The Imperial reign”. The music shows no complexity and is easy to follow and if wished to play in another key it would be played a third higher than tonic key C or a third lower. There are two sets of instruments playing the harmonic part and melodic part which creates dissonance.

The same goes for “Jamaica, Land we love” the homophonic texture is quite simple and easy to follow. With the instrumentation of clarinets, piano,and trumpets parts it sounds just as noble as “Kimigayo”. The instruments showcase a series of High and low notes to create tone color. Instead of a slow steady beat like “Kimigayo”, “Jamaica, Land we love” is a bit faster than “Kimigayo” but the instrumentation shows no complexity and is quite easy to follow with any instrument played a note higher or lower in a standard treble/bass clef.

Kimigayo analysis

Kimigayo is written in 4/4 times and is homophonic . The instruments have one beat to follow and they all play the same notes. There are tie notes in measures 1,2,3,10, and 11 they create suspension also creating dissonance within the measures. The music descends and ascends to create steps that make it sound simple and not to complicated. The notes in the last two measure tied notes resolve on E and the first note begins on E. There is sparse rhythm and is only 11 measures long. Kimigayo is the shortest national anthem among all national anthems.

Jamaica, Land we love Analysis

“Jamaica, land we love” is written in cut time which is equivalent to 2/2 making the beat feel more rushed. This score features the piano, symbols, trombone,and saxophones. The music is polyphonic and has more than one part to create simultaneous notes. The piano part is more homophonic and is primary. In measures 11-21 syncopation is present and symbols on the offbeat.

Cite work

William P. Malm,Japanese music, Encyclopædia Britannica,Encyclopædia Britannica, inc.

September 17, 2015,, March 02, 2017

Created By
Neveatia Smith

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