Toyo ongaku kenkyu : the journal of the Society for the Research of Asiatic Music
Online ISSN : 1884-0272
Print ISSN : 0039-3851
ISSN-L : 0039-3851
Music culture in village communities of Shimokita
concerning the nomai of Ori
Rie Kochi
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1989 Volume 1989 Issue 54 Pages 1-45,L4


The purpose of this paper is to examine the social function of music transmitted in the village communities in the Shimokita region of Aomori Prefecture, in particular from the perspective of enculturation. The learning of a music within a community involves not only that music, but also the learning of various matters that are concomitant with it. This paper will therefore clarify the social structure of the communities in an attempt to understand the state of their music culture. It will then present an interpretation of how music has functioned within communal society, taking as an example the nomai of Ori in Higashidori-mura.
A variety of types of folk music are transmitted in the Shimokita region. Almost all of them take the style of geino, that is performing arts, in which music, dance, and theatre come together. These include shishi-kagura (nomai and kagura), kabuki, matsuribayashi, nenbutsu (a type of wasan, colloquial Buddhist music), and several teodori. It is in the latter that the tendencies of the folk music of Shimokita are most clearly reflected. In the neighbouring regions of Tsugaru and Nanbu, folksongs developed as solo vocal pieces into what may be called a stage vocal art. In contrast, in Shimokita, folksongs are sung as an accompaniment to teodori, generally by a number of people together. Percussion instruments, taiko (drums) and kane (a type of small cymbal), are always used as well.
The inclination of the music of Shimokita towards geino style is connected closely to the characteristic social structure of the communities of the region.
Firstly, the primary industries of Shimokita were restricted by its cool climate and, up to the Second World War, did not produce adequately. For that reason, differences in economic well-being did not develop to the extent of dividing the society into classes. Within the community, the principle of not producing bunke (branch families) was observed, so that the division of property should not result in further poverty. Since the community is made up only of honke (head families), the status within the communities of each ie (family) is equal.
One force that brings together these equal ie as a single community is that of the system of communal economy. (For instance, in a fishing community, the catch is sold through the community's fishing cooperative, and the profit is distributed equally between each ie, or used for communal purposes.)
Another force is the existence of the ‘age group’. In Shimokita, a type of age grade system can be observed. The members of each ie participate in an appropriate group in accordance with their position in the ie. By doing this, they perform their roles as members of the community. Functions essential to communal life are traditionally distributed between the age groups. Those in festivals and ceremonies are especially well-defined.
We may construe here that strong communal relationships of this type are reflected in the music culture of the communities, and further that the people living in them learn of ‘community’ (and, in turn, culture) by means of learning the music. Strong communal relationships between members of equal status were indispensable in the daily life of the Shimokita communities. The people play their part in this ‘community’ by participating in their appropriate age group, where they perform the music of festivals and ceremonies. This music, furthermore, takes the geino style. It is, in other words, music performed not alone but with others of the same age group. What is important in this case is not whether an individual is more skilled than his fellows, but rather whether he can participate in the realization of a geino by adjusting to them. The sense of collectivity or community that can be discerned in the style of the music

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