Gagaku is the name of a type of Japanese music that was developed in the Imperial Court during the Heian Period (794-1185). This music features classical wind, wood and string instruments originally imported from China and Korea. Even if you don’t know much about East Asian music traditions, I think you’ll agree this one is recognizably Japanese. Since we’re getting close to o-shōgatsu (Japanese New Year), I’m getting in the mood for traditional music. So today I’m going to post 3 YouTube links to some very famous gagaku compositions.
But first, lets look at the kanji!
The word “gagaku” is composed of 2 characters:
(literally “at ease/relaxed,” but in compound words means “music”)
Now, for the videos!
This is probably the most famous gagaku composition. All Japanese people can recognize it immediately. It’s often played at weddings or Buddhist temples during the New Year season.
Another well-known gagaku composition. I don’t know if there’s a connection or not, but the first 2 kanji of this title can also be read as BANZAI.
SENSH ÛRAKU （千秋楽）
I’m not an expert in gagaku or anything, but the name of this song is interesting. The 3 kanji mean 1000, autumn, and music. So it can mean the Thousand Autumns Song. Senshū as a word by itself means “1000 years” and the full word Senshūraku by itself can mean “closing ceremony” – and in particular, the last day of a sumō tournament. Anyways, enjoy!