One time there was an issue in the news about what to call children born between a Japanese and foreign national. We had never answered, and those children in question also have different opinions about how they want to be called. When the word, “Konketsu”, mixed blood, changed to “haafu” (half), there was a warm discussion. We’ve come to a conclusion this time. The meaning of “mixture” may have sounded negative, so now we commonly use “haafu”. It may simply be a matter of sound; words in katakana sound more cool.
I said Katakana sounds cool. We Japanese use three writing forms, namely: Chinese characters, Hiragana, and Katakana. Japanese is a peculiar kind of language in the world. Languages used in the world are divided into a few categories and they all use one form of writing letters: alphabets; Cyrillic characters used in Russia, Bulgaria and Mongol, etc.; Greek letters. As I mentioned above, we Japanese have negative images regarding “mixing.” The Japanese language is made from a mixture of languages to enable us to express complicated and colorful matters to begin with.
For example, I used, for the same meaning, different forms of the word: “giron”, discussion, and “disukasshon”; “sabetsuteki”, negative, and “negatibu”, etc. I intended to do this because I want this column to look cool and sophisticated. Apart from success, I can play with it because of the selection of words called Katakana.
The practice of mixture to produce something better has been done in the agricultural world for a long time. The variety of apples, for example, called “Sekaiichi”, is a crossbreed of “Delicious” and “Golden Delicious.” The size is equal to a human baby’s head. It was introduced in 1974, the year I was born, and is now very popular in China, I hear. The orchard view of these apples looks like a fantasy world with a number of huge apples hanging from branches. And the other yellow apple variety called “Hoshino Kinka”, Stellar Gold Coin, has a dreamy name and is a crossbreed of “Fuji” and “Aori No.3.” This rather new mixed variety was introduced in 2004. Those good looking apples you find in the supermarket are mostly a result of a mixture of varieties.
Nonetheless, in agricultural selective breeding, including apples, farm produce must taste good; newness only doesn’t count. To create a new attractive and delicious product through breeding, specialized knowledge and skills are needed from a research institution. It takes a tremendously long period of experiments and it must outlive others with a rare success rate. It is amazing that we find apples in our ordinary lives considering that they are the fruit of researchers’ hard labor.
Now let us remember the words of Maurice Ravel, a French composer. He said, “Everything must look as if it was done by miracle.” Even though things look natural to you, they were produced with piles of honest effort. It is nothing short of a miracle.
Music incorporating a wide range of genres is called “Mixture” in the contemporary music scene. We used to use words such as “Fusion” or “Crossover”, but they were used for rather jazzy music. The fullness of mixture music has been remarkable these years. In particular Hiatus Kaiyote, an Australian band, incorporates elements of Neo-Soul, Hip-hop and Club-Music as a base, adding senses of Post-Rock and Jazz to make a thrilling and danceable sound. Their music is a must for the young who love music. The female leader of the band has her own performance style, with a striking look similar to Cindy Lauper at one time. Nai Palm, a guitarist and vocalist, has a distinctive aura to tow the age. The critics and performers together are paying close attention to their method of making grooves which are complicated but danceable. The band first visited Japan to perform at the Blue Note Jazz Festival in Yokohama in September with their second album, “Choose Your Weapon.” This recent mixture music is different from conventional fusion music in terms of sales. The band actually won first prize on the iTunes Chart.
I said that recent mixture music has started to make big sales. I wonder if this is equivalent to the process of producing new varieties of apples. The genres such as pop, jazz and soul to be used for mixture music are youngsters in the long history of music. Even the oldest one is a little over 100 years old. The present age of mixture music, creating interesting sounds, represents the completion of the “tremendously long period of experiments” in the process of selective breeding. Baby Metal is a new breed resulting from the fully ripened culture of Idol and Heavy Metal music. Robert Glasper, an American jazz pianist who won the Grammy Award for R&B, is another example of an artist who represents the contemporary music scene.
Trial and error is essential to progress in both music and agriculture, and we expect to see new and delicious products on the market, one after another. Consecutive failure and efforts to succeed are beyond our imagination, and we would never understand what it’s like unless we actually practice it. Accordingly, we can taste a good flavor “gained by a miracle.” And any kind of “ mixture” will decorate our age more colorfully.
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