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"The term enka refers to two different styles of Japanese music. The first is a traditional type of music from both the Meiji period (1868–1912) and the Taisho period (1912-1926). The second is a genre of melodramatic Japanese popular songs, which has been likened to American country music in terms of themes and audience. The term now usually refers to the latter.
The term enka (演歌 - from enzetsu public speech and ka song) originated in Meiji Japan. It began as a form of political dissent - speeches set to music to make them spread more easily - but quickly changed form. It was the first style to synthesize the Japanese pentatonic scale with Western harmonies.
In recent decades, enka music has declined both in sales and in recognition as American-like J-Pop music has become more popular. However, there are still many in Japan who like it. Its popularity among younger Japanese people has increased lately because of singer Kiyoshi Hikawa and the early solo releases of then-Morning Musume member Yuko Nakazawa. Enka singers, especially females, usually perform in a kimono.
Nods to traditional Japanese music are common in enka, usually in the form of an interlude featuring instruments like the shinobue and the shamisen. Besides television, enka can usually be heard in many restaurants and drinking establishments."