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Localizing Protest Songs: American Folk and Topical Songs in Japan in the 1960s and the 1970s

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Abstract:

My paper examines the ways in which Japanese folk singers and activists localized American topical songs and folk songs of protest in the 1960s and the 1970s. Songs that were “topical” in the U.S. and those that protested against U.S. domestic and foreign issues were reinterpreted and remade into songs that addressed the issues in Japan. Drawing sources from testimonies and memoirs of Japanese folk singers and fans and activists, recordings, song lyrics, and newspaper and magazine articles on the issues and the music, this paper reveals the process by which Japanese folk singers and activists made meanings of American folk songs and used them in their social movements.
American folk songs were imported to Japan in the early 1960s, and they soon became popular mostly among middle-class young men and women. During the early period of the importation, American folk songs were primarily commercial, depoliticized music that were consumed as part of American popular culture; newly emerged Japanese folk singers copied and imitated American “originals.” Toward the late 1960s, however, Japanese folk singers began to focus on political songs and started making songs in Japanese; folk songs were both politicized and localized by the end of the 1960s and the early 1970s.
The paper is directed by two major questions. First, how did Japanese folk singers and fans make American topical songs “topical” and relevant to them? For example, among the songs that were translated into Japanese and widely appreciated in Japan were “Little Boxes,” “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” and “Masters of War.” Testimonies and memoirs will reveal how Japanese folk singers and audiences understood the American topical songs that had initially emerged from U.S. issues, and adapted them to fit their ideas of the Japanese situations. Japanese’ memories of World War II will also be discussed particularly in regard anti-Vietnam War songs.
Second, why did the Japanese activists pick American folk music as opposed to other genre in expressing their dissent? In particular, the role of the image of “protesting American folk singers” as exemplified by widespread image of Joan Baez attending a demonstration will be discussed in relation to the Japanese activists’ ways of borrowing American idioms in their struggle for the anti-nuclear, anti-military, and student movements (especially concerning the ratification of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security). Altogether, this study not only clarifies the localization process of American folk music in Japan but also serves as a case study to underscore the flexibility of the meanings of cultural products as they cross borders.
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Name: American Studies Association
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http://www.theasa.net


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p114438_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Tachi, Mikiko. "Localizing Protest Songs: American Folk and Topical Songs in Japan in the 1960s and the 1970s" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association, Oct 12, 2006 <Not Available>. 2013-12-16 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p114438_index.html>

APA Citation:

Tachi, M. , 2006-10-12 "Localizing Protest Songs: American Folk and Topical Songs in Japan in the 1960s and the 1970s" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association <Not Available>. 2013-12-16 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p114438_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: My paper examines the ways in which Japanese folk singers and activists localized American topical songs and folk songs of protest in the 1960s and the 1970s. Songs that were “topical” in the U.S. and those that protested against U.S. domestic and foreign issues were reinterpreted and remade into songs that addressed the issues in Japan. Drawing sources from testimonies and memoirs of Japanese folk singers and fans and activists, recordings, song lyrics, and newspaper and magazine articles on the issues and the music, this paper reveals the process by which Japanese folk singers and activists made meanings of American folk songs and used them in their social movements.
American folk songs were imported to Japan in the early 1960s, and they soon became popular mostly among middle-class young men and women. During the early period of the importation, American folk songs were primarily commercial, depoliticized music that were consumed as part of American popular culture; newly emerged Japanese folk singers copied and imitated American “originals.” Toward the late 1960s, however, Japanese folk singers began to focus on political songs and started making songs in Japanese; folk songs were both politicized and localized by the end of the 1960s and the early 1970s.
The paper is directed by two major questions. First, how did Japanese folk singers and fans make American topical songs “topical” and relevant to them? For example, among the songs that were translated into Japanese and widely appreciated in Japan were “Little Boxes,” “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” and “Masters of War.” Testimonies and memoirs will reveal how Japanese folk singers and audiences understood the American topical songs that had initially emerged from U.S. issues, and adapted them to fit their ideas of the Japanese situations. Japanese’ memories of World War II will also be discussed particularly in regard anti-Vietnam War songs.
Second, why did the Japanese activists pick American folk music as opposed to other genre in expressing their dissent? In particular, the role of the image of “protesting American folk singers” as exemplified by widespread image of Joan Baez attending a demonstration will be discussed in relation to the Japanese activists’ ways of borrowing American idioms in their struggle for the anti-nuclear, anti-military, and student movements (especially concerning the ratification of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security). Altogether, this study not only clarifies the localization process of American folk music in Japan but also serves as a case study to underscore the flexibility of the meanings of cultural products as they cross borders.

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