Thursday, September 16, 2004

Polite Japanese Rock Musicians

Drummer from Osaka. Posted by Hello

For players of the rebel’s music that is rock ‘n’ roll, Japanese musicians are usually surprisingly polite people. They don’t put you off with their Attitude. Rather, they speak in polite Japanese and bow a lot.

Part of the reason for that, I think, is that Japanese rockers by and large look at their bands as businesses and themselves as entrepreneurs (though they get into and continue with the music for loftier reasons than money).

Being polite keeps the customer happy, happy customers lead to good business, and therefore it’s a good idea to be polite with fans.

But another reason is that, when you tell rock musicians you like their music, they are honestly happy that out of the thousands of bands out there you found their music enjoyable. (Unless the band is already very popular and its musicians stuck up.)

Musicians outside of Japan might act similarly, but it’s very pronounced in Japan.

A singer. Posted by Hello

A rock musician of one band is also polite with other bands’ members because networks are crucial in Japan’s music scene.

One evening’s show at a Japanese rock club usually features several bands, with one band organizing the event and inviting the other bands. The organizing band would be more prone to inviting a band that they found pleasant in the past, instead of one they felt was a major pain.

Being Japanese, Japan’s rockers also have a weakness for doing things in a formal way.

For example, when one band organizes a show (and plays last), almost always the other bands that were invited to the event acknowledge the organizing band and thank that band during their sets.

These other bands sometimes sound as polite and formal as a mini-speech you’d listen to at a wedding. Which is funny and ironic considering that many of these guys probably got into rock because they wanted to escape Japanese society’s conventions, and yet by making little speeches like they do, they are acting the way good Japanese are supposed to act.

Organizing a show is a somewhat big deal for a band. An even bigger deal is to hold what’s called a ‘reko hatsu live’, or a show to celebrate the release of a new album. The other bands pile on the felicitations at reko hatsu shows.

The biggest deal for an indies band is to have a ‘one-man live’, that is, a show featuring just their own band. Successfully completing such a show for the first time is a rite of passage for a band, like getting a driver’s license or graduating from school.

Fans understand the importance of the one-man show, and come out in droves to see it.

That’s why when, for example, Aiko of advantage Lucy said at a performance that her band is planning a one-band show for the first time in years, audience members cheered in approval.

And when Burger Nuds did their first (and last) one-band show at the Shinjuku Liquid Room, at the end of the performance the singer broke out in tears because he was moved they’d pulled it off. (Sadly, that ended up being the one of their few one-man shows, because they split up soon afterwards.)

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