Shoukichi Kina live performance
Last Saturday evening Shoukichi Kina gave a live performance at his club Chakra in Naha. This was the second of two shows to promote his new album Nirai Pana which was reviewed on this blog last month. The first performance had been in Koza the night before.
A full house at Chakra saw Kina put on an exemplary performance. The inevitable ‘Hana’ was played twice – first in a stark solo version accompanied only by Kina’s sanshin and then near the end of the set with a full complement of Champloose band members plus Kina’s son Urufa who joined them to play electric guitar. Earlier in the evening two other young members of the Kina family, Masayo and Stephanie, provided backing vocals on two songs, ‘Haisai Kuduchi’ and ‘Umushirumun’. This was a refreshingly revamped and new-sounding performance from Kina who played sanshin on almost every song and used his accompanying musicians only very occasionally according to the needs of each piece of music. The default setting for most of the songs appeared to be Kina on sanshin plus keyboardist Yutaka Ishioka and bass player Takashi Kameda. This worked extremely well and Kina went through most of the songs from the Nirai Pana album plus a few old favourites such as ‘Haisai Ojisan’ which concluded the show.
Kina set out his stall with his newer stripped-down sound from the off with just voice and sanshin for the first two songs. ‘Agarizachi’, his great song about Yonaguni Island, was then followed by the exquisite ‘Omoibana’ for which keyboards and bass were added. It seemed that Kina might have peaked too early but to everyone’s joy the same high standard of singing and playing was maintained for the rest of the evening. Kina even seemed to have mellowed somewhat as he sang with obvious relish and enjoyment and we were spared the minor tantrums and calamities which have beset the occasional performance in the past. On Saturday it was just a master at work. It didn’t seem to matter that most of these songs were very familiar – Kina was able to bring them alive again and his wonderful singing wrung every little nuance and drop of emotion from the words.
On a personal note, I began the evening with the feeling that I may have been walking into the lion’s den. Okinawan artists rarely receive critical reviews as the media here appears to act as little more than a publicity machine for churning out musicians’ press releases. In contrast, my review of Nirai Pana had been critical of several aspects of the album such as the absence of new material and even the misleading cover photo which shows Kina with an acoustic guitar. On arrival at the club I was ushered to a seat near the front and told that Kina’s management had just provided him with a complete Japanese translation of the text of my review. Subsequently on stage Kina referred to me by name on more than one occasion, commenting on my “harsh criticism”. “Well, there’s nothing new about any of this album” he added at one point. Towards the end of the set he picked up an acoustic guitar and said he was going to use it now to show me that he can play it after all despite my correctly pointing out that there’s no guitar on the album. Fortunately, this was all said in a fairly good-natured way and we were able to meet up and have a talk and a drink together after the performance. Thankfully, he does appreciate constructive criticism.