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Japan Music: The Roots Boom



In the late 1980s, roots bands like Shang Shang Typhoon and The Boom became popular. Okinawan roots bands like Nenes and Kina were also commercially and critically successful. This led to the second wave of Okinawan music, led by the sudden success of Rinkenband. A new wave of bands followed, including the comebacks of Champluse and Kina, as led by Kikusuimaru Kawachiya; very similar to kawachi ondo is Tadamaru Sakuragawa's goshu ondo.

The Japanese genius for assimilating foreign sounds into a new form is well known, and the invasion of World Music has had a significant effect. Reggae, for example, was considered "underground" for years, but the rise of Japanese outfits like Jamaican-style toaster Rankin' Taxi and ska band Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, playing at events like the annual reggae fest Japansplash, has given the genre a mainstream profile. Visits by Africans like Papa Wemba (whose global management is located in Japan) have created local lingala (soukous) bands. Latin music has also had a big effect, propelling the talented Orquesta de la Luz to the top of the Billboard Latin chart in the early 1990s.

The second coming of the Okinawans was heralded by frenetic sell-out gigs of the Rinkenband in 1990, and a short time later by the ecstatic comeback of Kina and Champluse (sometimes spelt Champloose). Okinawan traditional music blended with bright pop caught everyone's attention. Okinawans' relationship to mainstream Japanese culture could be compared to the "Celtic" movement in Europe: they have a keen sense of their own identity and, in an increasingly homogenized Japan, a lively folk culture.

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