Organized Panel Session
Studies of musical globalization (e.g., Regev) have tended to focus on Western music being localized elsewhere. But what happens when Asian musicians of Western genres work in the West? This paper considers this question through the case study of Japanese techno DJs. With its minimal, wordless beats, techno has been hailed as transnational music (e.g., Connell and Gibson; D’Andrea). Yet like any other music, techno is reshaped by the environment and audience. Based on ethnography in Berlin, London, Amsterdam, and Tokyo, and interviews with Japanese techno DJs, I explain how the European environment impacts the performance, aesthetics, and reception of Japanese DJs. A police crackdown in Japan has resulted in the closure of many clubs, and business conditions have made it difficult for new artists to break through. Many Japanese DJs have flocked to Berlin, not only for its legendary club culture, but also lower rents, ease of obtaining visas, and perceived plethora of opportunities.. However, the vastly different club environment in Berlin relative to Japan—the often-decrepit equipment, multi-hour sets, more diverse and dance-oriented crowd, stylistically focused environments—causes them to reformulate their aesthetics. They may encounter discrimination. They can capitalize on stereotypes of “technical” or “spiritual”; a few play to European desires for the “exotic,” and Japanese 1970s pop has recently become trendy. Extending work on cosmopolitanism, this case study shows the subtleties of transnational music in a hierarchical global market, where genres are not so much universal as subject to multilateral flows, varying with performance-oriented factors.