Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Traditional Music

The traditional music of Asian Americans ranges from unique instruments to fanciful folk song and dance. Each region of Asia has its own distinct types of traditional music.

China: There is a vast collection of traditional music in China. String and wind instruments are an important part of much of the traditional music compositions. Examples include the pipa, erhu, banhu, suona, and guqin. Many traditional and folk musicians utilize these instruments. The variations of rhythm, beat, tone quality, and embellishments in traditional Chinese music are highly distinctive and unlike their Western counterparts. This is mainly due to the unique sounds and playing styles of traditional Chinese musical instruments. China is also renowned for its Chinese Opera. There are as many types of Chinese opera as there are dialects. The most popular form is Beijing/Peking Opera. Operas contain many aspects of performance, including acrobatics, singing, orchestra band, as well as actors and dialogue.

Notable artists include Gao Hong, Liu Fang and the Twelve Girl Band.

Japan: Japan has very diverse types of traditional music. The oldest is Gagaku. Other types include Biwagaku, Sokyoku, Nogaku, Shakuhachi, Shamisenongaku, and Minyo. All of which revolve around certain types of musical instruments. Notable instruments are the Koto and the Taiko drum. The Koto is used in Sokyoku and is a zither with 13 strings. Today, most players of the koto belong to either the Ikuta or the Yamada School. The playing techniques and sitting techniques are slightly different and certain music pieces belong exclusively to one school or another.

Taiko is the name for the small round stick drum used in Noh and Kabuki and the large stick drum that plays such an important role in Kabuki sound effects. But there are many other traditions of stick drum ranging from the smaller festival drums, to the enormous drums played with great vigor in the newer performances of Japanese percussion well known around the world.

Notable artists include Reverend Shuichi Thomas Kurai, Kazue Sawai and Michiyo Yagi.

South Asia: One major type of traditional music that originated from India is Bhangra. Bhangra is a lively form of folk music and dance that originates from Punjab. There is a wide variety of drums and other musical instruments that accompany Bhangra. Bhangra has also recently enjoyed a surge in popularity worldwide, both in traditional form and as a fusion with genres such as hip-hop, house, and reggae.

Recent artists and producers include Punjabi MC, Malkit Singh, B21 and Bally Sagoo.

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