History of J-Rock

Beside the traditional Enka music, Schlager ballades, popular since the late Meiji period (late 19th century), the modern Japanese music Kayōkyoku developed under the influence of western music groups. This term serves as a symbol for today’s musical genres in Japan.

The development of Japanese rock music goes back to American influences such as Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, mainly due to the introduction of the psychedelic rock in the 1960s by American and British bands in Japan. There he was picked up and further developed in another direction, as Japanese musicians such as Kosugi Takehisa, Keiji Haino or Nanjo Asahito wanted to be drug-free, in contrast to the frequent drug consumption of the Western performers.

At the beginning of Japanese music was the imitation of the music of its western models. There were groups like The Golden Cups, The Tempters, The Mops, The Dynamites and Jacks, whose songs Karappo No Sekai and Marianne were the first releases of the psychedelic rock in Japan. Just as in the US and UK, the music was associated with student movements, leading the band with Les Rallizes Denudés and Taj Mahal Travelers and Lost Aaraaff.

In the 1970s the music scene became more and more differentiated. Magical Power Mako was the most famous interpreter of folk rock, famous for songwriters Tomokawa Kazuki and Mikami Kan. Even more radical musical directions such as progressive rock were on the rise with the bands After Dinner, YB02, Kenso and Koenji Hyakkei.

Since the beginning of the 1980s, Japan has gradually developed other musical genres, such as Japanoise, with projects such as Merzbow and Hijokaidan or Gothic Rock, with groups such as Phaidia, Gara and Nubile, as well as Japanese alternative rock.

Parallel to the growing rock scene, a separate Japanese style emerged in the 1980s, later called Visual Kei, following the motto Psychedelic Violence – Crime of Visual Shock by the band X (later X Japan), which made this style popular. Visual Kei does not refer to its own music style, but to the integration of music in an aesthetic overall concept, which is mainly reflected in optics and stage shows, but also in the texts, posters and covers, etc. This term is used to summarize bands of many musical genres, but the main part is the hard and alternative styles. Characteristic of the Visual Kei Bands is that they are very experimental as well as musically very experimental, mix many musical genres and often involve traditional Japanese influences. This style has been subject to constant change since its inception. If the first bands like X or Luna Sea were still very hardrocked in their early days, later bands like Malice Mizer, Due Lequartz, Psycho le Cému, Lareine or Madeth gray’ll created a wealth of new sounds. However, they were denied international attention, only the newer bands like Dir en gray, D’espairsRay, The Gazette, MUCC or artists like Miyavi made it to Europe and America.

The native Japanese music production has always been in close competition with international stars, which are also very popular in Japan. Nevertheless, the Japanese rock scene has grown unstoppably and there is an abundance of singers, singers and bands, which is hardly manageable. One of the most successful ones is, for example, An Cafe, D = OUT, L’Arc ~ en ~ Ciel, LM.C, Pierrot, Vidoll and Girugamesh. In addition, various directions such as Oshare Kei or Angura Kei emerged in the Visual Kei.

With the possibilities of the Internet and the increasing worldwide marketing of Japanese articles of popular culture such as manga (Japanese comics) and anime in the 1990s, Japanese stars have managed to make a name for themselves in Europe and America, especially since the turn of the century. Firstly, as an insider’s tip among manga and anime fans, bands of the Visual Kei style came up at fan meetings. The band Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra was the first Japanese band to appear in Europe in August 2004. The indie band Blood made its debut in September 2004 in Germany. There followed concerts by the successful Japanese Visual Kei and rock bands D’espairsRay and The Gazette. Since then, Europe has been constantly being visited by bands from Asia, which is increasingly attracting media attention. The USA is also an increasingly open market, where famous bands such as Dir en gray and L’Arc ~ en ~ Ciel played.