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Music in Bunraku and Kabuki - Listening to Japan’s musical story-telling

Alison Tokita, Japan/Australia

  • Travel, Landscape
  • History
  • Arts, Architecture, Design
Music in Bunraku and Kabuki

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Japanese theatre offers a brilliant and extravagant spectacle through its stylized movements and dances, its costumes and exaggerated speech - and its music.

The author explores the origins of story-singing in Japanese theatre, which led to the development of two of Japan’s most famous forms of theatre, Bunraku puppet theatre and live Kabuki theatre. Kabuki originated as a performance by women, as did joruri, tales sung by itinerant women entertainers, and appropriated by visually impaired male minstrels. Sung narratives are an essential part of the theatric and dramaturgical structure of both forms, and at their heart is voice and the three-stringed shamisen.
Story-singing has always been a crucial ingredient for the creation of fully developed performances that have their roots in ritual, dance, and storytelling.