Shuei Kohama & Rinsho Kadekaru on CD

Earlier this year Okinawa’s Marufuku Records released the joint album Kohama Shuei / Kadekaru Rinsho on CD for the first time. The album was previously available only as a cassette tape and was made back in 1962 when both of these singers and sanshin players were playing together fairly regularly. The re-release of this album comes as a very welcome surprise. The ‘godfather’ of Okinawan minyo Rinsho Kadekaru is already well-represented on CD by numerous recordings which have been released since his death in 1999, but his collaborator Shuei Kohama has had hardly anything available on CD until now.

Shuei Kohama (1919~2002) was born in Koza on Okinawa’s main island and he began playing music at a very young age. Eventually he took on some pupils of his own and among the best known musicians who learned from him were Rinsho Kadekaru, Shouei Kina, and Shotoku Yamauchi. His later performances as part of a duo with Kadekaru formed the basis for the recording of this album.

The 16 tracks contain mostly traditional island songs including the popular ‘Sukikanna’, ‘Umi nu Chinbora’ and ‘Kaisare’. There are also two less common songs from the south of the main island – ‘Haebaru Kuduchi’ and ‘Shimajiri Kuduchi’. In addition to the obvious pleasure of listening to Kohama and Kadekaru, the album is also of great interest because of the appearance of Yuki Yamazato – at that time just 25 years old – and she sings guest vocals on two of the songs. The second of these is Teihan China’s ‘Nageki no Ume’ which closes the album.

A few years ago Marufuku also released a CD of another important but now largely forgotten singer when Hiromi Shiroma’s album from 1960 was made available for the first time on CD. There may well be other tapes by musicians who deserve the CD treatment from Marufuku. Listening to these recordings demonstrates convincingly that it really was a great time for Okinawan traditional songs and musicians. Despite some attempts nowadays to package and present newer Okinawan artists in a way which might appeal to a wider range of listeners, these older recordings by Kohama and Kadekaru are the real thing. The sincere way in which the songs were played and recorded, without any compromises or softening for commercial purposes, adds to their power and relevance.

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