Featuring Super Mario Land and japanese folk music.
Greetings fellow game music lovers,
after Punch out, we go right back to Mario, more specifically to Supr Mario Land, Gameboy (1989). So far we had one entry regarding the first world music last christmas, this time it's the turn of the last world: The Chai kingdom theme:
The likely origin of the jingle at the beginning is well known in the gaming community and should only be listed here for the sake of completeness. It is the famous "Oriental Riff" that dates back to at least the 19th century and was featured in many western asian-oriented productions:
But what about the rest of the music that starts with 0:02? Most people can say that it sounds kind-of asian due to the pentatonic scale but find it hard to pinpoint it to a certain country. The style of the kingdom points towards China with the presence of pagodas, chinese zombies and a chinese mythological cloud enemy. And of course, since japanese culture took a lot of influence from chinese culture, sometimes it's hard to keep the two apart.
Nevertheless, at the moment I cannot rule out that this portion of the song is of japanese origin. The reason for that is a folk song from 16th century Fukuoka called "Kuroda Bushi". Listen to it closely:
For maybe better comparison, here a recording by Hozan Yamamoto from 1971 which uses a flute:
I shall say it flat out: I think the Chai theme sounds like a happier remix of Kuroda Bushi, converted to a higher key and trimmed by a few notes in a manner comparable to the oriental riff.
According to informed sources, the tune originated from Kuroda court music in particular from a piece called "Etenraku". Thus, I cannot rule out that there are more tunes in that direction that might provide a more obvious match.