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Rockabilly Culture in Japan

Page history last edited by David Allen 12 years, 7 months ago

showa 33 and Japanese rockabilly:


                                                                                                                           Masaaki Hirao


primary definitions:  

  • showa 33 = 1958
  • rockabilly = a fusion of black music and country music that was popular in the 1950s; sometimes described as blues with a country beat 
  • rokabiri = Japanese adaptation of rockabilly music to their own language and culture



what Japan was like in 1958:



the roots of rockabilly in Japan:

  • country music was popular with the US forces and Japanese country acts would have shows on the bases
  • the "faster more rhythmic" rockabilly sound began to develop and rokabiri acts began playing at Tokyo coffee shops (jazz kissa) 
    • notable Japanese rokabiri artists: Masaaki Hirao, Keijiro Yamashita, and Mickey Curtis


                                                                                                                           Keijiro Yamashita


                                                                                                       Mickey Curtis

rokabiri's big break:

  •  Misa Watanabe (a promoter, daughter of a talent agent, manager of jazz kissa Tennessee) saw marketable potential
  • rented the Nihon Gekijyo theater in Tokyo (2000+ capacity) to put on a week long Western Carnival show 
  • the sound was huge 
    • caught the attention of the youth and started stirring things up 
      • teens began dropping out of school and forming rokabirizoku (rockabilly gangs)
      • the PTA and the authorities at large began to lay the hammer down and the rokabiri boom was dead by 1960



why did it all happen like this:

  • this new sexually charged music provided an outlet for children of the war
    • Japan was recovering from large scale nuclear devastation and corresponding US occupation, this gave rise to a certain degree of societal rigidity
  • Japan was vulnerable and much of the youth looked up to the American soldiers, inevitably some American culture would be absorbed and integrated
  • the youth was experiencing the initial stages of a DaDaistic break from its heritage--the old ways caused the devastation of the war, new ways are in order
    • they sought something they could possess of their own making 



why did it end so quickly:

  • similarly to DaDa the movement simply couldn't last any longer
    • the authorities stepped in and ended any hope of prolonging the dangerous new power
    • all rokabiri music was banned from airplay



where is rokabiri today:






Showa 33: the year Japan got all shook up 

Japanese Rockabilly 

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