Keiko Kina Family Band

Last night I went to the music venue Ohana which is the home of the Keiko Kina Family Band. The club opened five months ago and is run by Shoukichi Kina’s sister Keiko who for many years was a member of Shoukichi’s band Champloose. Ohana is on Naha’s main entertainment street Kokusai-dori and is just a few minutes walk from Shoukichi Kina’s club Chakra.

Keiko Kina

Keiko Kina has had a long career in music. She was born in 1950 and has been singing ever since she was a child. During the 1970s she moved to Hawaii and performed regularly there, and then returned to Okinawa to become an original member of her brother’s band Champloose, recording with them and touring around the world. She has also performed in concert as a solo artist and she released a single ‘Okinawa Blues’ in 2002. She eventually left Champloose in 2008 and formed her own family band along with her son Eddie on sanshin and granddaughters Masayo and Stephanie. It was her father’s wish that she would have her own club and this was finally realised with the opening of Ohana at the end of last year. Sadly, her father Shouei Kina – perhaps the greatest of all Okinawan minyo singers and sanshin players – died around the same time, in December 2009.

My own friendship with Keiko goes back more than 20 years. She was one of the first musicians I met on my early visits to Okinawa and was always welcoming and hospitable. So much so that on one occasion she insisted my family and I stay in her apartment as guests. In those days of my first acquaintance with the fierce heat of an Okinawan summer, I made the foolish mistake of getting terribly sunburnt on a trip to the Kerama Islands and ended up having to recuperate for several days at Keiko’s place  – much to her amusement – after a visit to the hospital in Naha.

The Keiko Kina Family Band are an accomplished quartet who perform a fairly standard set of popular shimauta, including familiar favourites such as ‘Bashofu’, ‘Asadoya Yunta’ and ‘Juku nu Haru’. Keiko plays sanshin, mandolin and taiko, but the focus often turns to her 20 year old son Eddie who seemingly ignores all the rules with his breakneck speed sanshin playing…sometimes reminiscent of uncle Shoukichi. Not to be outdone, granddaughter Masayo also takes centre stage for her own version of ‘Nada Sou Sou’.

Like her famous brother, Keiko Kina is an extrovert personality with plenty to say. She told me last night: “I have been singing seriously for more than fifty years. But the Okinawan media and television often pick up the same old singers and musicians and they have sometimes missed the better performers. To draw a large crowd and keep them entertained is not easy and only my brother and myself have been able to do this over such a long period of many years.”

The website for Keiko Kina and her club Ohana is at www.kinakeiko-ohana.com

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3 Comments on “Keiko Kina Family Band”

  1. Monade Says:

    We had two wonderful evenings in Ohana, in the last week. Kina, her daughter and all the other people were so nice and the music great! Recommended.

  2. CMK Says:

    Just saw Keiko, Masayo, Stephanie and great grand daughter perform at the Hawaii Okinawa Festival. She brought the house down and when she called musicians from Kouta Itoh back on-stage for the encore of “Haisai Ojisan” I had to get up and dance. She got a crowd up to dance. They are having Bon dance right now but I couldn’t stick around. She ended a very good day at the festival.

    • Billy Rhoden Says:

      Would love to hear her sing again. Listened to her in the early 80’s as a Marine stationed in Okinawa. If u see this keiko this is Billy Rhoden friend of Pauls


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