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Friday, Sept. 8, 2006


Various Artists "Peace Not War Japan"

Charity music has a rich tradition in Western countries, from 1985's "Live Aid" extravaganza to War Child's benchmark album of indie philanthropy, the 1996 "Help" compilation. Given the size and wealth of Japan's music industry, it might be expected to chip in where poverty and strife raise their ugly heads -- but there is little tradition of charity in Japan's music biz.

"Peace Not War Japan" has been produced in association with Britain's "Peace Not War" group, who previously released two compilations featuring such acts as Sonic Youth, Massive Attack and Jane's Addiction. It's also the first-ever compilation of contemporary Japanese "peace music," which throws up the interesting question of whether, rather than being a rare example of a charity album, this is actually something even more radical -- a protest album.

"PNWJ" is an interesting stroll through the narrow no man's land between mainstream pop and indie music, with Soul Flower Union and KP setting the album's political compass to local issues with their respective songs "All Quiet On The Far Eastern Front!?" and "One Korea" that bookend the album. The dub-influenced tracks by Dry & Heavy and Ryukyu Underground, a cover of Shokichi Kina's "Hana," are the highlights, although their dark, trip-hop atmosphere probably accounts for the absence of similar projects in the Japanese mainstream.

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