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Research Seminar: Migration and the Sounds of Continents: Japanese Tango Musicians in China, 1930-45

Wednesday 24 February 2021, 4.00PM

Speaker(s): Yuiko Asaba (University of Huddersfield)

Between 1930 and 1945, many Japanese Tango musicians migrated to work at China’s dancehalls. Economically and artistically driven, the global port cities of China were perceived by many Japanese musicians as musically authentic places to work, to polish skills as performers, and to “make a fortune at a single stroke”. Influenced by the Japanese colonial imaginations surrounding China, Japan’s musical aspiration for China has been discussed not only as aesthetically and financially driven admiration but as a form of Orientalism. This paper, however, considers the Japanese fascination for China at this time that had wider historical meanings. The key contexts here are Japan’s political interests in the two continents, Latin America and China, and the mass Japanese immigration to Latin America that peaked during the first half of the twentieth century. Against this historical backdrop, Tango, among other genres, had come to represent the sound of “Latin America”, creating further fascination of the Japanese migrants. By examining Japanese Tango musicians in China through this lens, this paper considers the ways in which the exchange of musical goods and knowledge, as well as the transnational circulations of Japanese Tango musicians’ personal narratives, fabricated the Japanese migratory imaginations surrounding the two continents at this time. 

Yuiko Asaba

Dr Yuiko Asaba is an EU Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Research Fellow at the University of Huddersfield, and Visiting Researcher at Osaka University. Her research brings together the studies into migration and global history, and she is currently investigating the circulations of the dancehall Tango cultures across Japan, China, and Argentina during the twentieth century. Funded by the European Commission, she convenes a research network, Dancehall Migrations, and has published on Tango, affect and morality, with a forthcoming monograph as well as articles on Tango and aspects of modernity in Japan. She is also a Tango violinist and has previously worked professionally as a member of Tango orchestras in Argentina and Japan.

Location: Meeting ID: 915 8006 2656 Passcode: 840125