SOAS University of London

Japan Research Centre

"The World of Maki Asakawa" - Songs from the Japanese Post-War Counterculture

Seminar - Alan Cummings
Dr Alan Cummings (SOAS University of London) & Yukiji Teramoto

Date: 23 May 2017Time: 6:00 PM

Finishes: 23 May 2017Time: 8:30 PM

Venue: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House) Room: SALT (Alumni Lecture Theatre)

Type of Event: Film


For four decades Asakawa Maki (1942-2010) was one of the most distinctive voices of the Japanese urban counterculture. She first came to prominence in the late sixties and early seventies, when her music was strongly associated with radical angura figures such as playwright, poet, film director and provocateur Terayama Shūji.

For her entire career, Maki resisted the commercial imperatives of the Japanese entertainment industry, and would continue to be sustained mainly by student and countercultural venues and audiences. Both as a singer and as a songwriter, she drew a strong line between herself and indigenous forms of popular song like enka and minyō, focusing instead on singing Japanese-language translations of the work of black American singers and poets including Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, and Langston Hughes. She also wrote her own songs that drew upon the idioms of American blues, jazz and gospel.

Her work reflects many of the tensions and contradictions of post-war Japanese avant-garde cultures, and raises fascinating questions around the creation and maintenance of post-war Japanese identity, and the relationship between Japan and the United States.


  • Introductory talk by Dr Alan Cummings, entitled "Translations in Black"
  • Showing of short film "The World of Maki Asakawa", directed by Yamazaki Mikio
  • Q&A with Asakawa's first producer, Teramoto Yukiji

Speaker Biographies

Dr. Alan Cummings is Senior Teaching Fellow at SOAS University of London. His research interests include kabuki dramaturgy and post-war theatrical and musical performance. Recent publications include Haiku: Love (British Museum Press, 2013), and "Benten the Thief" in Jones & Watanabe (eds.), An Edo Anthology: Literature from Japan's Mega-City, 1750-1850 (University of Hawai'i Press, 2013).

Teramoto Yukiji is a Japanese music producer, publisher, novelist and essayist. Since the late 1960s he has overseen the careers of many Japanese singers including Asakawa Maki, Kuwana Masahiro, Iruka, Minami Masato and Shimoda Itsurō.

Organiser: SOAS Japan Research Centre & The Japan Foundation

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