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Identity, roles and practice in ritual music

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This paper explores the role of music in creating and negotiating identity through community, within the context of an annual Shinto shrine ritual called miko mai shinji. It is based on three years of fieldwork with a ritual community in the u area of Itako City in Ibaraki Prefecture, located in eastern Japan. Within this ritual tradition, the creation of music does not solely depend on the musicians, but on the entire community. The action by which music is transmitted and produced, and the community's participation in this process yields not only music itself, but also a shared space wherein the community's identity is created. In other words, by sharing negotiated knowledge and experience through musical activity, a community creates its group identity or a sense of belonging among the community members. This negotiated knowledge or experience is accumulated through action or practice including learning and playing music, exchange and discussion, and ritual performance. In this article, I illustrate how one community creates its identity by continuing its ritual tradition of music and dance; thus, this dynamic action serves as an important driving force of the ritual each year that it is performed.

Keywords: Japan; community; identity; practice theory; ritual

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Limerick.

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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