Culture Music

Music Mondays: Asians in Jazz

Happy Monday everyone!

Today’s Music Monday will be not follow the regular format. While we spend a lot of time covering popular music ranging from indie rock to hip-hop, there is a genre of music that we have yet to address. Asians and jazz music are rarely discussed together. Although jazz did not originate in Asia, there is a definite relationship between them. (As an example, jazz bars remain popular in Tokyo and Shanghai.)

I should have picked upon the phenomenon as a kid, flipping through my parent’s vast collection of jazz CDs, and as a teenager reading through Haruki Murakami’s novels, noticing his repeated references to jazz musicians. (Murakami was such a jazz nut that he operated a jazz cafe for many years in Tokyo, named Peter Cat.) However, I mistakenly associated this preferred music taste to their general age, or to put a finer point on it, their entire generation.

It was not until a few years later that I understood a little more. I became exposed to artists such as Nujabes and Fumio Nanri, who took something as American as jazz music – and made it their own. I found an anime show, Kids on the Slope (Sakamichi no Apollon), which is about Japanese school students discovering jazz music, as well as the joy and friendship that it brings. Jazz does not appeal to Asians only because of its American qualities; it appeals to us because of why it appeals to all – its unconventionality and inventiveness. Although people of my Murakami’s generation may love jazz for different reasons today, jazz remains a genre that is able to capture our hearts in our youth, then accompany us through each chapter of life until we are as old as our parents. Other types of music we may eventually outgrow (dubstep, anyone?). However, I truly believe that an education in jazz can last a lifetime, and beyond.

Everyone is able to manifest their love for music in different ways. The most direct way is to become a musician ourselves. This may lead to internal conflict for the musician – since it is not “theirs,” they may try to make it theirs, and seek out others that have done so. Or we can disembark that train of thought and recognize that jazz was made for all to enjoy.

(Even if you think jazz is “not for you,” you might just end up surprising yourself!)

Have a great week, and do I hope I piqued your interest.

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