Miuta album release
The 50th anniversary of Radio Okinawa this year coincides with the release of a new Various Artists album of shimauta on the Campus Records label. Entitled Miuta – which means ‘new songs’ – the 16 songs were all winners of the Radio Okinawa sponsored Miuta Taisho Grand Prix award. Each year, since its inception in 1990, the award has been given to a song chosen as the best new shimauta. Okinawan shimauta are being written at the prolific rate of 100 to 200 per year. Radio Okinawa itself has long focused on local performing arts and the songs chosen as the best shimauta are usually written in the local language, Uchinaguchi.
Included on the album is the first winner of the award from 1990, the song ‘Akabanta’ which is performed here by Seikichi Uehara. Many of the winners that follow are rather sad sounding songs full of melody and sung by women singers. Then, from 2004, comes the lively song ‘Yume wa Okiku Minyo Kashu’ by the young quintet Borojino Musume who are from Minami Daito island. One of the best tracks on the album is ‘Miyarabi nu Hana’ from Akane Murayoshi (also the title of her own album), and there are songs by Kazutoshi Matsuda and Tatsuya Shimabukuro.
Inevitably, not everything here will suit all tastes. In fact, the award itself was not given at all in 2000, so presumably there was no song that impressed the judges that year. But the album is an enjoyable listen regardless of the agenda behind it and there is enough here to make it a welcome addition to the already very long list of Okinawan music compilations.