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Seventies Music Enjoying a Revival

August 1, 2000
Three decades since its heyday in Japan, the folk music of the 1970s, as well as the groups that led the boom, are coming back to life. The driving force behind the genre's current popularity is the generation of middle-aged people for whom folk music is synonymous with their youth. Although those of this generation rarely attend live concerts these days, many of them will go to any length to secure tickets to performances by groups that have recently come back together. Critics call this revival music "G-pop," with the "G" standing for the "good times" that such music recalls to the minds of its fans.

Singing the Heart of Baby Boomers
Japan in the 1970s was marching steadfastly on a high-growth track, despite the two oil shocks that hit in 1973 and 1979. This decade represents the prime of young adulthood for the baby boomers born in the early years following World War II, as well as the height of the popularity of folk music in Japan. Folk music, with its rhythms and melodies unlike any of the popular Japanese music that preceded it, struck a chord with many members of this generation. To them it was, perhaps, the perfect music for the generation in the vanguard of Japan's move away from prewar culture and toward modernization.

The popularity of folk music groups in the 1970s was incredible. Concert tickets were sure to sell out, every record in the genre became a hit (these were the days before the advent of compact discs), and many groups were running on a full schedule, appearing on one television show after another. By the middle of the 1980s, however, most of these groups had broken up.

Born Again as "G-Pop"
The last two or three years have seen the reappearance in concerts and on TV of groups that had dissolved many years ago, with the same name and same members as in the past. In April 2000, when Itsutsu no Akai Fusen (Five Red Balloons) gave its first concert in 20 years, the 1,100 seats were more or less filled; the audience consisted mainly of men and women in their late forties. As for Kaguyahime, also resurrected after a long hiatus, the 7,200 tickets for its May concert sold out in just half an hour after going on sale in April. And Alice, another group popular in the 1970s, is scheduled to re-form in January 2001.

One organizer of G-pop concerts observes that the audiences at these concerts differ in makeup from those of regular pop concerts: "Many of the tickets are purchased the old way--by queuing up at ticket agencies. And all in all, there are amazingly few cancellations."

In addition, a number of satellite TV channels and radio programs have recently been launched featuring the folk singers who led the original boom. Some operators of karaoke music transmission services, moreover, have begun offering a wider variety of folk songs.

Some attribute this revival to the central roles that baby boomers have come to play in their respective areas in society. They are now able to freely express themselves without having to mind those of the earlier and later generations. It will be interesting to see whether this rekindled popularity for the folk tunes of the 1970s will remain just a fad among middle-aged Japanese, or whether it will spark new interest in the genre among younger music fans as well.

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Trends in JapanCopyright (c) 2000 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.