Kagura

(Jap. "God music")
   Refers to Shinto songs and dances. Ceremonial music documented in sources dating from the eighth century falls into eight categories: the generic kagura songs; "Eastern entertainment" containing dances; night duty songs; Yamato songs (named for the traditional first clan of Japan); funeral songs; palace guard songs; field songs used in agricultural ceremonies; and "big songs" performed before festival days.
   Kagura, sung in sustained, formal manner, begin with a solo singer who may be joined by a unison chorus. All singers are male. The song may be accompanied by instruments; the wagon, a sixstringed zither, and a light clapper, the shakubyōshi, are the most common.
   The kagura sung in large shrines may be danced by female attendants, {}miko. These formal dances are called mikomai. {}Kagura are heard today at major shrines at Shinto festivals and in the imperial palace in November and December. The reduced kagura cycle on such occasions is 12 songs, broken into five groups articulated by instrumental pieces and dances, the whole lasting about seven hours.

Historical dictionary of sacred music. . 2006.

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