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What the Hell is Japanese Fusion & Why You Should Drop Everything to Listen To It Now


Written By Ilya Kurilyak (he/him) | @kurilyaak | Contributing Writer

If you’re a fan of vaporwave, future-funk, lo-fi, video game soundtracks, or just looking for funky beats to add to your “dancing in the kitchen” playlist - you came to the right place, In this article I’m going to enlighten you on the bizarre yet beautiful world of Japanese jazz fusion, the kind of music that sends you dancing deliriously after only hearing the first 5 seconds of the song. I’ll briefly tell you all you need to know about its historical background, where you might’ve heard it before and why you should care about it.

So, you know 70s? When disco, funk, soul, R&B and jazz were still popular? Well, some awesome guys like Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Chick Corea and others decided to mix it all into one genre and it turned out to sound pretty banging.

As you can probably tell from its name - jazz fusion is a subgenre of jazz fused with, well, literally anything.

Rock, funk, disco, electronic, psychedelia, Mongolian throat singing - you name it. Okay, maybe not Mongolian throat singing, but anyways.

When a huge wave of Western music hit Japan, some Japanese jazz artists heard American fusion and thought: “Hey, this stuff is pretty awesome!!! Maybe we should try doing it too??!” and what they did was so cool that fusion became popular all over Japan, mainly among teens and young adults. Jazz fusion suddenly became a big thing in Japanese television, fashion, culture and even video games. Talking of video games, did you know that the soundtrack for the first and second Gran Turismo games was composed by a pioneer fusion band T-Square? Or that Nintendo’s legendary composer, Koji Kondo, still samples fusion songs in his soundtracks? Even the Super Mario Bros. theme is very, very, very heavily influenced by T-Square’s song “Sister Mariyan”. So, yeah, say thanks to jazz fusion that old video game OSTs are so catchy and funky.

Although Japanese fusion artists were extremely popular in their motherland, they were hardly ever distributed overseas, so their music wasn’t really known abroad. Only in the late 90s when the internet entered our world, people outside Japan started paying attention to Japanese fusion music. The genre remained widely known in the indie circles, as it was a great material for sampling, but never got as popular again after its peak in the 80s.

Lots of famous artists sampled Japanese fusion compositions, like Grimes, Mac Demarco, Nujabes, including tons of other artists of various genres like lo-fi, future-vunk, hip hop, rap, electronic, etc.

You think that would be it for Japanese fusion, until in 2017 YouTube algorithms randomly started recommending people 70s Japanese pop in their feeds.

This is when the majority of people outside Japan learned about Japanese jazz fusion, including myself! Very random, I know, but it was probably the best thing that ever happened to Japanese fusion, as the interest around it got so big, that whole lost albums were rediscovered thanks to the effort of people online. Now you can sometimes hear fusion songs on TikTok and Instagram, which makes me quite happy.

Okay! Let’s say you got to this part of the piece and are thinking “That’s cool and all, but how do I actually get into Japanese jazz fusion?” Luckily for you, fusion library is now as acceptable as ever on Spotify and other music services, and I have great recommendations for you, too:

All of Me - Masayoshi Takanaka

Flying Beagle - Himiko Kikuchi

Casiopea - Casiopea

Funky Stuff - Jiro Inagaki & Soul Media

Scenery - Ryo Fukui

These are my absolute favourites, but I’d recommend you embark on your own fusion journey, listen to anything you think you might like on Spotify and YouTube, and most importantly, not be afraid of checking out anything bizarre or weird. Sometimes weird things are the best.


Apr 29

Wow, what an interesting article! I'll surely give jazz fusion a listen now!!!

Apr 29
Replying to

-NOT Ilya Kurilyak

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