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Title: The Last Biwa Singer: A blind musician in history, imagination and performance
Contributor(s): de Ferranti, Hugh  (author)
Publication Date: 2009
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Abstract: Popular culture in late-twentieth-century Japan repeatedly fixed upon images that valorise the older values and ways of life - "traditional Japan." This was specially so in representations of the country's peripheral rural areas of the far north and south, whose people were framed again and again by the nostalgic gaze of Tokyo-based journalists, film directors and television producers. Elderly musicians and practitioners of regional performing arts traditions who had made their living as performers since before the Second World War and Occupation were of strong interest to the creators of this romantic imagery for consumption in the metropolises of central Japan. Their songs, tales, dances and lives were interpreted in terms of ideas about folk culture, tradition, and regional and national identity that had been in circulation since Japanese modernity gained impetus in the 1920s, but also in accordance with values reflective of folk heritage preservation movements that emerged from North America and Britain in the post-war era. Inevitably, a group of blind men who played an ancient string instrument while singing tales or chanting invocations to local gods in remote parts of Kyushu became caught up in this evocation of a dreamlike past. The Kyushu blind musicians were also the subject of my own work during most of the 1990s, but this book is centred on just one of them, Yamashika Yoshiyuki (1901-1996). He was a man almost unknown beyond the vicinity of his village in Kumamoto Prefecture, Kyushu, until his late sixties, when he began to acquire renown and eventual fame as "the last" of the biwa hōshi, blind biwa (lute)-playing bards who performed ritual placations for the angry ghosts of warriors killed in battle, and who first popularised the medieval 'Tale of the Heike', which became Japan's "national epic" in modern times (Bialock 2000).
Publication Type: Book
Publisher: Cornell University East Asia Program
Place of Publication: Ithaca, United States of America
ISBN: 9781933947433
Field of Research (FOR): 190409 Musicology and Ethnomusicology
200202 Asian Cultural Studies
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO): 950101 Music
HERDC Category Description: A1 Authored Book - Scholarly
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Extent of Pages: 320
Series Name: Cornell East Asia Series
Series Number : 143
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Appears in Collections:Book
School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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