Hear 45 Minutes of Funky Old Soundtracks from 1960s-70s Japanese Films & TV Shows

The life of a Japan­ese film com­pos­er in the 1960s and 70s was very dif­fer­ent from their Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts. “For Hol­ly­wood movies, there is a three-month peri­od to write the music after the film has been fin­ished,” says leg­endary film and tele­vi­sion com­pos­er Chumei Watan­abe. When Watan­abe first began work­ing for Shin­to­ho stu­dios, “at first, they gave us five days. Of course, it would usu­al­ly be short­ened…. One time, there was a Toei movie being filmed in Kyoto. The next day was the record­ing day for the music…. I had less than 24 hours to write the music!”

Despite the immense pres­sures on com­posers for films and TV shows, even those pri­mar­i­ly for chil­dren, “I kept in mind that I would not com­pose child­ish music,” says Watan­abe, who worked well into his 90s com­pos­ing for TV. “That’s why peo­ple in their 40s and 50s still lis­ten to my songs and sing them at karaoke.” His music is as wide­ly beloved as that of his pro­lif­ic con­tem­po­rary, Drag­on Ball Z com­pos­er Shun­suke Kikuchi, who passed away this year at 89.

“Over the course of his career,” writes Okay Play­er, “Kikuchi wrote the music for a num­ber of pop­u­lar ani­me series and live-action tele­vi­sion shows, includ­ing Abaren­bo Shogun (800 episodes over 30 years,) Dorae­mon (26 years on the air,) and Kamen Rid­er, Key Hunter, and G‑Men ’75.” So icon­ic was Kikuchi’s music that his “Ura­mi Bushi” — the theme for 1972 Japan­ese exploita­tion film Female Pris­on­er 701: Scor­pi­on — was giv­en pride of place in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 2.

If you aren’t famil­iar with the music of late-20th cen­tu­ry Japan­ese genre film and tele­vi­sion, you’ll be for­giv­en for think­ing the mix at the top of the post comes from Taran­ti­no’s films. Described by its YouTube poster Trip­mas­ter­monk as “45 min­utes of var­i­ous funky old japan­ese sound­track, sam­ples, breaks, and beats. (all killer, no filler),” it includes clas­sic com­po­si­tions from Watan­abe, Kikuchi, and many oth­er com­posers from the peri­od who worked as hard on ani­me series as they did on so-called “pink films” like the “Female Pris­on­er” series, a vehi­cle for Japan­ese star Meiko Kaji (of Lady Snow­blood fame), who sang “Ura­mi Bushi” and turned the song into a major hit.

Dig the funky music of Japan­ese action films from the 60s and 70s in the mix, full name: “Trip­mas­ter­monk — Knock­steady Zen­cast Vol. 2: Nin­ja Funk & Gang­ster Bal­lads: Ode to the Broth­er­land.” And find more of Tripmastermonk’s musi­cal con­coc­tions on Sound­cloud.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Dis­cov­er the Ambi­ent Music of Hiroshi Yoshimu­ra, the Pio­neer­ing Japan­ese Com­pos­er

Hear Enchant­i­ng Mix­es of Japan­ese Pop, Jazz, Funk, Dis­co, Soul, and R&B from the 70s and 80s

Son­ic Explo­rations of Japan­ese Jazz: Stream 8 Mix­es of Japan’s Jazz Tra­di­tion Free Online

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

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