I thought I’d write about something I – and most people, I’d think – love: music. Every music-listener has their own tastes, of course, but each can appreciate a sweet tune, whatever that may be for them.
So, what do I listen to? Well, let’s go back to the 2000s: Avril Lavigne, Natasha Bedingfield, Jesse McCartney, Green Day, and a bunch of others on the radio. Kelly Clarkson’s debut. I may have owned a Hilary Duff CD. Heck, I’ll still jam to everyone I just mentioned. I was totally into those trendy jams.
And then somewhere in middle school I decided I needed to be different and hate everything mainstream, purposefully seeking out punk and screamo. I was obsessed with the “emo” label and looking back, it kinda makes me want to vomit. Ironically, I ended up genuinely enjoying a number of songs that fit into the pop-punk, punk, and post-hardcore (plus whatever else they call stuff in that range nowadays) genres. Nowadays I find myself into music that’s mostly from Japan and, yes, I attribute that to anime and video games.
Back to the 2000s. I played Kingdom Hearts games. I loved them. The main themes for the games were performed by the Queen of J-pop herself, Hikaru Utada. I listened to some of her music. I was into it. I also watched dubbed anime on Saturday nights, some of which kept their original Japanese opening and ending themes. Thus began my plunge into Japanese music, only to be interrupted by my aforementioned emo phase.
Flash forward to the summer after my first year of college. I have most of Utada’s discography on my iPod and way more All Time Low than I care to admit. I decide I want to hunt for some new music. I open a song – probably a link from my Twitter feed – in Soundcloud and let the suggestions take it from there. And I realize: Wow, I love music.
I listen to cute-sounding synths, soft guitar playing that makes me feel like I’m relaxing in a field of grass without the bugs, heavy bass, wicked violins, mashups and remixes… 2am music surfing is very enlightening.
A bit later I’m on Reddit reading about doujin music and the artcore genre, with a couple of Youtube tabs open playing music from Japanese idol groups. The idol industry is pretty gross, but I do consider myself a fan of several groups whose music I like, plus of course some non-idol groups and individual artists.
So, what is doujin music? What is artcore? Aside from being the bulk of my music purchases lately, they’re categories. Because we can never have enough categories in music. Artcore is a little easier (but not that easy) to explain: it’s a genre that fuses classical instrumental music elements with electronic ones. Here’s the definition from the Artcore subreddit:
Artcore is defined as an electronic music genre that mixes instrumental music with DnB and Electro (music). The genre is most common within Doujin Music Circles and Rhythm Games.
Doujin (also spelled dōjin) music will take a bit longer to explain. If I had to give an English equivalent, I’d say “indie.” I’ll take an explanation from Wikipedia (since most explanations and discussions about the topic are on forums and chatrooms in the corners of the Web, and this sums it up cleanly and concisely):
Dōjin are basically non-official self-published Japanese works which can be based on official products or completely original creations.
Doujin works can include comics, games, music, and more. Doujin music is not a specific genre in and of itself, but it does draw a specific community. While the community is mostly Japan-based for obvious reasons, international fans of doujin music can be found hanging around on Reddit, in Discord servers, and elsewhere on the Internet. In many cases, both Japanese and English speakers will occupy a space with good bi/multilingual Samaritans conveying important info from artists.
From the westerner’s point of view, obtaining doujin music is an expensive but fulfilling hobby. Many artists have physical-only releases, so those outside Japan are left to order CDs online – usually via a proxy site, and sometimes second-hand – or, via a Japanese friend or proxy shopper (these especially come in handy for events like M3 and Comic Market: events held in Japan with plenty of doujin artists and circles selling their music, often at a discounted price). Even then, copies run out. Some things are just hard to get hands on. Luckily, communities of doujin music lovers are typically eager to share resources and point a friend in the direction of what they’re looking for.
So, what does doujin music sound like? Artcore? Actually, there’s a pretty big overlap. Just one example is Sakuzyo, a popular producer among artcore and doujin music fans. Their music spans a variety of different tones and tempos, and, as a fan myself, I just have to say that they’re insanely talented. To finish off this post, I’ll leave a couple of tracks I like: