Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere (INDONESIA)
March 4, 2011, 12:50 pm
Filed under: Indonesia, Sunda

This post is a bit of an update to my earlier post from Inner Mongolia.

Hisao Tanabe, a Japanese musicologist, supervised the release of three collections of Asian music on 78 rpm record. The first was called Toa no ongaku (Music of East Asia) released in 1941 Nippon Columbia.

The second set, Nanpo no Ongaku (Music of the South) was relased in 1942 also by Nippon Columbia. It was a set of six 78s that included music from around Southeast Asia. I’ve never seen any copies of either of these two collections. Give a shout if you have them!

In the same month, another Tanabe collection was released by Nippon Victor called Daitoa Ongaku Shusei (A Greater East Asian Music Compilation.) This was an epic set of thirty-six 78 rpm records, divided by region into twelve albums of three records each.

I have not managed to determine all the regions that are represented in this set, so far I have found two different albums from China, one from India and one from Indonesia, plus one of the three records from the Inner Mongolia album. The cover of the Indonesian album, below, shows more than 12 regions, so it’s not clear if all these places are represented on the set.

Advertisements for the set included the excellent line “An anthology of the musics of Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere prepared under the supervision of the most authoritative scholarly society.”

Tanabe theorized that all Asian musics had a common basis and that somehow Japan represented the purist expression, or culmination of “Asian music.” This philosophy meshed nicely with Japan’s imperialistic intentions. The sets he compiled were a kind of response to the famous Music of the Orient by pioneering ethnomusicologist Erich von Hornbostel, a set of twenty-four 78s released in 1931. Tanabe felt that Music of the Orient was too steeped in exoticism, yet his own theories are rife with racial stereotypes and musings about some intangible ancient “Asianess.” What makes matters stranger is that Tanabe went on to lift selections from Hornbostel’s collection and reissue them in his own! All the records on Tanabe’s sets were from previous releases.

Hornbostel’s collection was really the first compilation of world music 78s, the prototype for Secret Museum of Mankind, Excavated Shellac, Haji Maji and others. It’s popularity is evidenced by the fact that it was re-issued by Decca and again by the English Parlophone label. Tanabe’s collections have never been fully reissued and his notes have yet to be translated into english. At least one side, from Inner Mongolia, was included on the Secret Museum of Mankind Central Asia cd.

I don’t think anyone has determined where all the Tanabe records were originally issued. I suspect this one was from Beka. It features the Sundanese zither called kacapi, performing the epic poetry known as Tembang Sunda.

>Victor VK 3528a


7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Thanks for this overview. Incredibly interesting information and now of course one wishes one could hear the set in its entirety. Not all the early world musicologists had “pure” motives for their interests as you point out lucidly. Thanks for sharing!
Grego E

Comment by Grego Edwards

I’ll revisit this set from time to time, especially if new info emerges. I don’t even have half of it, and of course NONE of the first two sets. But there are some interesting recordings that are worth sharing.


Comment by HAJI MAJI

Absolutely brilliant music! Already looking forward to the coming revisits ;-)

Thank you very much!


Comment by bolingo

On a positive note about Tanabe, the theorist who i archive Erv Wilson met with him after the war and because of him inspired quite a bit of innovative scale work that is now included in this paper which has a sectioned called the Tanabe cycle.

Click to access mos.PDF

Tanabe also wrote two different books on Japanese music with the same title which confuses the lib. of congress.
They are both worth while and can’t say i noticed what you mention above. Being head of the music dept in prewar and wartime japan , there might have been pressure to play things out that way.
Wilson found none of this when he visited

Comment by kraig grady

Thanks for your interesting comment Kraig.
I think you’re right, we must remember that we don’t fully understand the context in which he developed those ideas, and my sense is that they were coming from a sincere place.


Comment by HAJI MAJI

One of the most interesting comment Tanabe makes is that he traces Gagaku back to a civilization in Afganistan area. only the music has survived. Which shows the importance of music:)

Comment by kraig grady

[…] 19More information about “Daitoa Ongaku Shusei” and examples can be found on Haji Maji, here. […]

Pingback by The Yiwangjik A-Ak Society of Chosun – Ritual Music Botaepyeong (Orchestral) Heemun « Excavated Shellac

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: