3rd Anniversary for China’s Shimauta

Last night I went to the 3rd anniversary celebration for Sadao China’s ‘live house’ Shimauta. Formerly based in Ginowan, the venue where Nenes began their career has been in new premises on Naha’s Kokusai-dori for the past three years. My previous visits to Shimauta have seen rather a Japanese tourist-oriented show in a somewhat soulless setting where the focus has been on the rapidly changing line-ups of the four woman band Nenes. Last night was noticeably different as Sadao China took centre stage for much of the evening in a special show featuring himself alongside his koto-playing younger brother Sadateru, his son Sadahito, Yaeyama singer and sanshin player Kanako Hatoma, original Nenes member Yasuko Yoshida, and the newest line-up of Nenes themselves. Most of the musicians were featured individually as well as being part of the ensemble and we were treated to more than two hours of top class entertainment.

Sadao China

Sadao China notably won a Japan national record award last year for his 6 CD album of over a hundred songs, Shimauta Hyakkei. With the death of Shouei Kina last year, and with Seijin Noborikawa only sporadically showing glimpses of his greatness, there must be a strong case for China being the most accomplished living performer of traditional Okinawan songs. From the opening ‘Jidai no Nagare’ right up to his final ‘Nakuni’ China’s singing and sanshin playing was exemplary on a wide range of songs from around the islands, and his mastery was seemingly effortless.

Shimauta 'live house'

Kanako Hatoma also continues to delight. While her potential is largely unfulfilled on record, she has a captivating personality on stage and is a terrific performer, especially of the old Yaeyama songs. Here she was also joined on stage by the other musicians for a performance of her first single ‘Chidori’ , which was co-written for her by Sadao China when Kanako was just 16.

The latest Nenes line-up performed a number of their well-known songs with backing tracks before joining China and the others for the final group of songs. As I mentioned in my book, it’s hard to see what the point of Nenes is nowadays. They resemble a tribute band performing karaoke versions of past glories such as ‘Tege’ and the Uchinaguchi re-write of Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman, No Cry’. Nevertheless, on a night like this everything was to be enjoyed and their segment provided a lively diversion. One of the newest members of the line-up is Mayuko Higa from Ishigaki and she provided leadership, making the announcements in a confident manner.

Nenes member Mayuko Higa

It was fascinating for me to see Mayuko again, because I last came across her as a 14 year old when she was a regular at the Hatoma family’s own club Bashofu in Ishigaki. At that time she was ever eager to get on stage with her sanshin and she sometimes joined Kanako Hatoma for a performance of the Yaeyama classic ‘Tubarama’. Now 21, she is developing into quite a talent, albeit within the confines of the Nenes quartet. 


Explore posts in the same categories: Live in Okinawa

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: