Yasukatsu Oshima in Naha concert

Last night I was invited by Yasukatsu Oshima to attend his concert at Sakurazaka Theatre in Naha. The Yaeyama singer has been based in the Kansai area of mainland Japan for several years and so his visits back to the Ryukyus are always very welcome and the intimate setting of the Sakurazaka Theatre was ideal. Sitting alone on the stage with just his sanshin for company, Oshima treated the audience to a superb concert. He seems to have fully developed as a singer over the past few years and has a formidably large repertoire of old songs from all around the islands.

The first half of his performance focused mainly on traditional songs from the southernmost Yaeyama Islands, with selections from his home island of Ishigaki and also songs from the islands of Kuroshima, Kohama, and Iriomote. He ended the first half with Shoukichi Kina’s ‘Agarizachi’, a song inspired by the eastern tip of the remote island of Yonaguni. Oshima revealed that he had originally heard the song as a young teenager. At that time Kina visited his village of Shiraho to protest against the proposed construction of a new airport on Ishigaki which would have destroyed the coral in the area. Oshima bought a tape of Kina’s songs and liked ‘Agarizachi’ so much that he eventually recorded it himself. Oshima also played his own composition ‘Karataki’ which is about the beautiful mountain to the north of Shiraho which was under threat more recently because of plans to construct a new airport.

Yasukatsu Oshima

The second half of the concert comprised songs from Miyako and Okinawa as well as some of Oshima’s own compositions. These included his tribute to Rinsho Kadekaru, ‘Ryusei’, and what has surely become his most popular original song, ‘Akayura’, in which some members of the audience provided spontaneous hayashi (background vocals).  Not surprisingly, he was called back for an encore and concluded the evening with a masterly version of the Yaeyama classic, ‘Tubarama’. Sitting next to me in the audience was Campus Records owner, songwriter and producer Bisekatsu, who enjoyed himself so much that he hummed and sang along to many of the songs, in between eating mouthfuls of popcorn. Also in attendance were well-known veteran actor Tomi Taira and her husband Susumu Taira, who starred together in the popular Okinawan film Nabbie no Koi.

There is no-one quite like Yasukatsu Oshima and this was an excellent evening of Ryukyu songs sung in all their sparse and elegant glory.

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One Comment on “Yasukatsu Oshima in Naha concert”

  1. Izumi Nishi Says:

    If I had had no classes to teach that night, I should certainly have been at Sakurazaka to share this fabulous experience with you.


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