Why isn’t Japanese folk music more popular abroad?

I can’t stand J-pop, but I’ve got a real soft spot for Japanese regional folk music (not meaning enka!) I must have had at least 12 Rough Guide to the Music of… CDs over the years, but the Japan and Okinawa ones (with groups like Nenes) are two of my favourites. I’ve therefore been wondering why it isn’t more popular among my fellow World Music fans back in Europe.

A pattern I’ve noticed is that the World Music artists that become popular in Europe are mainly the ones who tour there all the time. Being actually based in London or Paris also doesn’t hurt. For example, looking back that seems like the only possible explanation for the popularity of The Bhundu Boys, hardly among the best African groups in the 80s.

So, my main theory is that Japanese acts just don’t tour enough, and with the strength of the yen that is unlikely to change!

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