Saturday, July 18, 2009
Festival Music in Japan
Yesterday in Kyoto was the Yamaboko Junko parade of the Gion Matsuri, which is one of Japan’s three most famous festivals. The origins of the Gion Matsuri are traceable to 869 AD, and the highlight of its parade is the nine hoko, or enormous floats, each of which is pulled by a team of around 30 to 40 men. Each hoko contains several musicians playing the distinctive gion-bayashi (祇園囃子) festival music, which features the shimmering sounds of gongs, taiko drums and flutes playing semi-dissonant motifs. Attached is a photograph I took of one of them while I attended the event with Helena Capkova and others. Interestingly, women are not permitted to participate in any aspect of the parade, and this 1,100-year old festival also has strong religious connotations, both of which are factors that have hindered the wide adaptation of such festival music traditions into schools.