37: The Problem With Chai Kingdom

Mario’s first-ever adventure on a portable system has a great soundtrack, but its final world, Chai Kingdom, features an example of a certain melody that has long been a shorthand for all manner of Asian cultures, accurately or not. This episode — which is one where Drew talks a lot, you should probably know — explores where this nine-note structure came from and how we should regard it now that we know it’s a bunch of malarkey. But what VGM is actually authentic to the culture it is referencing?

Track listing:

0:07: Chicken Dance / Savage Reign / SNK Sound Team
2:18: Chai Kingdom / Super Mario Land / Hirokazu Tanaka
5:40: Kung-Fu Fighting / Carl Douglas
6:09: Turning Japanese / The Vapors
6:41: China Girl / David Bowie
7:20: Japanese Boy / Aneka
8:43: Scene 1 Intro / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game / Yasuhiko Manno
9:54: China Theme / Street Fighter II / Yoko Shimomura
12:20: Aladdin Quick Step / Thomas Comer
12:42: Chinese Bicycle / Columns 3 / Morihiko Akiyama
14:56: Tea Rock / The Flintstones: The Rescue of Dino and Hoppy / Yasuko Yamada and Naoto Yagishita
16:32: Oriental / Golden Sun / Motoi Sakuraba
20:13: Fo’s Theme / Battle Arena Toshinden / Yasuhiro Nakano
23:23: Szechwan, China / Tekken / Yoshie Takayanagi
24:40: Chinatown / The Revenge of Shinobi / Yuzo Koshiro
27:09: War in China / Live A Live / Yoko Shimomura
28:10: Back to the China / Metal Slug 2 / Takushi Hiyamuta
31:25: Eastern Country / Romancing Saga 3 / Kenji Ito
34:44: Lee / Fighting Street / Yoshihiro Sakaguchi
36:41: Dragon Driftway / Mario Kart 8 / Atsuko Asahi
38:35: Oriental Comrades / Bounty Sword / Kohei Tanaka and Akihiko Mori
41:35: China Unified / Sangokushi Retsuden: Ransei no Eiyuutachi / Unknown Composer

Links and whatnot:

The NPR segment on the oriental riff
The website where examples of this melody are catalogued 
Legacy Music Hour’s “asiatic” episode
The Super Marcato Bros TMNT episode

 
 
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Drew Mackie