Kina Shoukichi & Champloose (1st album)

The third in an occasional series revisiting classic albums and old favourites.

This self-titled album was the debut from Shoukichi Kina and his band Champloose when it was originally released in 1977. It contains nine songs recorded live at the Mikado club in Koza on the main island of Okinawa – the forerunner of the Chakra live house which Kina runs in Naha today. The album was finally released on CD by Tokuma Japan Records in 1989 as one of the titles in their ‘Japanese Rock CD Recollection 70s’ series. The CD came with two extra tracks, both studio recordings previously available only as a single. The album was also released by GlobeStyle in the UK as The Music Power From Okinawa.

So much for the details. What they don’t tell you is that this was a revolutionary album which shook the Okinawan music world and changed it forever. It was also my own introduction to sounds from Okinawa. When I first listened to Kina Shoukichi & Champloose on a homemade tape someone had given me in the late 80s I became completely hooked on this music and bought the newly released CD soon afterwards. It set me off on a journey to discover Okinawa and its music which eventually led to my moving to these islands. So it’s all Kina’s fault.

The album begins with the best recording of the much played ‘Haisai Ojisan’, then almost without stopping Kina goes straight into the lively ‘Uwaki Bushi’ and ‘Red Ojisan’. The great song ‘Agarizachi’ is here and so is the much loved ‘Bashagwa Suncha’. Also hidden among the later classics is the little gem ‘Sukuchina Mun’ which was (unusually for Kina) never recorded again. Several of these songs appeared again on subsequent albums but the sheer exuberance of these early live recordings takes some beating.

All the songs on the album are Kina originals strongly influenced by the traditional Okinawan music Kina grew up with but played in a newly mixed up rock style. Kina sings and plays electric guitar and brother-in-law Takao Nagama (later of Ayame Band) is on electric sanshin. Other family members are Kina’s wife Tomoko and his sisters Sachiko and Junko on backing vocals, while brother Masahiro is on bass. The additional studio recordings are ‘Tokyo Sanbika’ a comic song which mocks the busy lifestyle of the Tokyo businessman, and the single version of ‘Shimagwa Song’. The studio recordings are with different musicians and include well-known Japanese singer Akiko Yano on keyboards.

Even with the extra tracks the CD is just 40 minutes in length. Kina’s next album Bloodline was to be only 28 minutes. But Kina Shoukichi & Champloose should be quite long enough to get you onto your feet and into this glorious life-affirming music. For all its roughness and ramshackle immediacy it’s an Okinawan classic which still deserves attention today.

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