Ruper Ordorika: Azukre Koxkorrak

Posted April 23, 2014 by powerofokinawa
Categories: Basque Music

For more than three decades Ruper Ordorika has been one of the most important singers, songwriters and musicians on the Basque music scene. Since his debut album in 1980 his career has included numerous collaborations with writers and musicians and has spanned a variety of genres from traditional music to rock. On this latest album Azukre Koxkorrak (Sugar Cubes) he sings a collection of songs made well-known by other singers and bands from the Basque region of northern Spain.

Ordorika’s guitar and his strong, deep voice are joined by a small group of musicians playing guitar, violin, mandolin, bass and drums. The choice of songs includes compositions by popular bands such as Hertxainak, leading folk band Oskorri, iconic Basque musician Mikel Laboa, and singer and poet Xabiar Lete. Producer Anjel Valdes says: “When Ruper thought about this album, he wanted to compile some of the Basque songs and bands that have been very special to him. The album can be considered a tribute to the important bands and musicians in Basque history that he references.”

Ruper Ordorika

The album title is derived from a Basque expression: people or things close to one’s heart are said to become the sugar cubes of your heart and so these are songs with personal resonance for Ordorika. ‘Sarri, Sarri’, which provides one of the best moments on the album, is from the band Kortatu and it relates to Joseba Sarrionandia. He is one of the best writers and poets in the Basque language but was imprisoned in the 1980s for his connections with the Basque separatist group ETA. He subsequently staged a sensational escape from jail and fled to Cuba where he has lived in hiding ever since.

There are several rock songs on this album but it’s the more reflective pieces which sound the most vital and up to date. Best is when the musicians create a lovely warm sound somewhere between the two, as on ‘Garraztasuna’, ‘Izarren Hautsa’ and ‘Non Duzu Zauria?’ There are videos of two of the songs, ‘Sarri, Sarri’ and closing track ‘Gure Bazterrak’ (with music by Mikel Laboa), on Ordorika’s website. This is a very rewarding project as these songs come to life again in the hands of a master.

Azukre Koxkorrak is released by Elkar.

www.elkarargitaletxea.com

www.ruperordorika.com

 

 

Awich+Manami: Two

Posted April 21, 2014 by powerofokinawa
Categories: Okinawa CDs

Two songs by two singers from two genres telling two stories. That’s the concept behind this new CD release by Okinawan singers Awich and Manami.

Awich sang the song ‘South Tinjanashi’ with hip-hop artists Tatsumi Chibana and Kakumakushaka on their groundbreaking Duty Free Shopp album Oto Ashagi. She is also known in Okinawa as a poet and DJ and was the organiser of the Flow Manifesto bilingual spoken word events. By contrast, Manami is a pure pop singer who is best-known as the voice and face of songs used in Orion beer commercials. Her catchy synth-pop compositions are immediately recognisable.

Two

Here they come together on two songs ‘Delay’ and ‘In the Battle’. There is also a third track which is an ‘acoustic’ version of ‘Delay’. The two women seem to bring out the best in each other with these songs on which they swap vocals to sing and rap in a mix of Japanese and English. ‘Delay’ is smooth and seductive while the powerful ‘In the Battle’ is tough and uncompromising.

It all leaves the listener wondering if and when there will be a full-length collaboration. A lot of thought has obviously gone into these productions and both women are given the space to shine. A special mention should go to Manami’s brother Daisuke Nakamura who wrote and recorded the music and is responsible for the keyboards, programming and mixing. All lyrics are by Awich and Manami.

Two is released by VAA/Siesta

http://ciphercity098.com/

http://www.manami-okinawa.com/

Okinawan music in The Guardian

Posted April 18, 2014 by powerofokinawa
Categories: Okinawa Overseas

Justin McCurry is Tokyo Correspondent for the UK newspaper The Guardian. Earlier this year he came to Okinawa to report on the situation here. For his feature on Okinawan music I was able to introduce him to singers Lucy Nagamine and Tatsumi Chibana and he also made contact with Shoukichi Kina and the band Nenes.

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 1.18.17 PM

After several delays the article has finally been published in today’s edition of the national newspaper. The online version contains a video of Lucy performing live in Naha. Justin also managed to squeeze in a mention of my book. The online article with video is here:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/17/okinawa-musicians-focus-japanese-protest-military-bases

 

Shizuko Oshiro: Washita Shimauta

Posted April 14, 2014 by powerofokinawa
Categories: Okinawa CDs

Shizuko Oshiro is a veteran singer and sanshin player and this album Washita Shimauta (subtitled Oshiro Shizuko Ketteiban) is the latest in the growing list of album releases by influential Okinawan artists on Kenichi Takahashi’s Tokyo-based Respect label.

Oshiro was born in 1947 on Ishigaki Island. She played taiko from the age of five, began learning sanshin at six, and at 15 came to Naha with the intention of becoming a minyo singer. She recorded the song ‘Asabana’ the following year and it became a big hit around the islands. After this she appeared regularly on television and radio and started her own minyo kenkyujo (school). She played at the minyo club Hantabaru for 30 years until 2005.

金城_h1-4

Oshiro is well-known as a teacher of traditional songs and sanshin as well as being a singer and two of her pupils are Keiko Kinjo and Lucy Nagamine. On this album Lucy appears as a guest singer, most notably to duet with Oshiro on the song ‘Shin Digunu Hana’.

There is also a recording of Oshiro’s first hit ‘Asabana’ which comes originally from Amami Island. Five of the songs were either written or co-written by Oshiro, including ‘Kui Shinubu Kukuru’ which she wrote when she was 22. The title track is by Bisekatsu and Tsuneo Fukuhara and a highlight among the other songs is the excellent ‘Nuchi nu Shientaku’. The album ends with a strong performance of another Oshiro co-written song ‘Utushibi nu Uta’.

Shizuko Oshiro

Shizuko Oshiro

This is generally a slower paced album with Oshiro’s voice accompanied just by sanshin and occasional taiko. Oshiro plays the six string version of the sanshin throughout the album while Lucy plays three string sanshin. There is a fairly even balance of old and newer songs among the 13 tracks and the album has a timeless feel which makes it almost impossible to distinguish between the two.

Washita Shimauta will be released by Respect Records on the 23rd April.

Elkar Records and the Basque Country

Posted April 7, 2014 by powerofokinawa
Categories: Basque Music

The music of the Ryukyu Islands and the Basque Country may have little in common at first glance but the themes and concerns of the people who produce it have many similarities. Not least are an independent spirit and pride in local traditions, music and culture. They have also the shared, sometimes uncomfortable, experience of being smaller groups subsumed within much larger nations. The Basques also have a language of their own which is apparently unrelated to any other and is thought to be the oldest in Europe.

For almost twenty years I have been fascinated by the music of this land known to its people as Euskal Herria and located in northern Spain and south-western France. This interest began when I requested an album for review from Anjel Valdes the record producer and coordinator for Elkar Records which is the leading company for Basque music. Since that time Anjel and I have kept up a long-running email correspondence and he has regularly sent me important album releases. Finally after all these years I was able to meet him in person when I travelled to the Spanish Basque Country last week.

The main Elkar offices in Donostia-San Sebastian

The main Elkar offices in Donostia-San Sebastian

Anjel Valdes shows me around the Elkar studio

Anjel Valdes shows me around the Elkar studio

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Elkar is both a record company and a book publisher with many shops selling CDs and books – a large number of them in Euskara (the Basque language). Thanks to Anjel I was given a tour of the Elkar offices and recording studio in Donostia-San Sebastian and was also introduced to two of the most important Basque singers and composers. First I met the near legendary Benito Lertxundi and sat with him outside a café in the small town of Orio. The next day I met another important musician Ruper Ordorika and had lunch with him in his hometown Vitoria-Gasteiz in the inland region of Alava.

Meeting the great Basque singer Benito Lertxundi

Meeting the great Basque singer Benito Lertxundi

One of the Elkar shops in Bilbao

One of the Elkar shops in Bilbao

With Ruper Ordorika in Vitoria-Gasteiz

With Ruper Ordorika in Vitoria-Gasteiz

I was also introduced to Aizpea Goenaga who is the Director of the Etxepare Basque Institute, and saw a television programme being recorded at EITB (Euskal Irrati Telebista). Anjel’s remarkable friendliness and hospitality even extended to taking us on tours of the coastal and mountain areas and a trip to his home of Durango.

The coast at Donostia-San Sebastian

The coast at Donostia-San Sebastian

No trip to Bilbao would be complete without a visit to the Guggenheim Museum

No trip to Bilbao would be complete without a visit to the Guggenheim Museum

In the town of Durango with Elkar's Anjel Valdes

In the town of Durango with Elkar’s Anjel Valdes

I have already introduced Anjel to the music of Shoukichi Kina and Yasukatsu Oshima. Now it just remains to entice him to Okinawa and to further cement relations between the two cultures.

 

 

Kina & Plantinga on Australian radio

Posted April 7, 2014 by powerofokinawa
Categories: Okinawa Overseas

On the 5th of last month three tracks from the recently released (and reviewed here) double single Washinnayo by Shoukichi Kina and Pascal Plantinga were featured on the Australian weekly radio show Enter the Dragon which comes from Melbourne community broadcaster PBS FM. The one hour special entitled ‘Okinawan Island Spirit’ can still be listened to by going to the PBS website:

http://pbsfm.org.au/node/33691

In addition to Kina and Plantinga the show includes tracks from Ryukyu Underground and Amami’s Rikki as well as The Boom. PBS is a provider of independent and diverse music and it’s good to know that this now includes something from the Ryukyu Islands.

Pascal Plantinga is interviewed on Peter Barakan's radio show

Pascal Plantinga is interviewed on Peter Barakan’s radio show

Pascal Plantinga visited Okinawa and Japan in February to promote the collaboration with Shoukichi Kina and was interviewed on Radio Okinawa and also on Peter Barakan’s show Weekend Sunshine which is broadcast on Saturday mornings by NHK FM.

 

Seijin Noborikawa anniversary concert

Posted March 6, 2014 by powerofokinawa
Categories: Okinawa Live

A concert will be held on the 29th March at Okinawa’s Uruma Shimin Geijutsu Gekijo Hibiki Hall to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of Seijin Noborikawa. “Seigwa”, as he was known, was one of the most important singers and sanshin players that these islands have ever produced and he was active as a performer and recording artist right up until his demise last year at the age of 80.

seigwa

The list of musicians scheduled to appear reads like an all-star cast from the minyo world and includes Koutoku Tsuha, Sadao China, Seishin Taba, Tetsuhiro Daiku, Koichi Kamiya, Misako Oshiro, Aiko Yohen, Yuki Yamazato, Katsuko Yohen, Keiko Kinjo, Four Sisters, Yasukatsu Oshima and Toru Yonaha. Tickets are just 2,000 yen (2,500 yen at the door) and the concert starts at 6.30 pm. Unfortunately, I will have to miss out on this one as I will be in the middle of a three week trip to Europe at that time.


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