Hajime Nakasone: Uta nu Itu

Okinawan singer and sanshin player Hajime Nakasone has just released a new album Uta nu Itu (Thread of Songs). For many listeners this will be the first encounter with Nakasone’s recordings but, in fact, he made a debut album Achamegwa some thirteen years ago. At that time he was a 12 year old schoolboy. The debut came about as the result of Nakasone winning a competition to make an album produced by Rinken Teruya and it is Teruya who is also the executive producer of this new album.

On Uta nu Itu Nakasone sticks fairly closely to the traditional material he grew up with – he began learning songs and sanshin from his grandfather at the age of three. The arrangements here are mostly the standard ones with Nakasone singing and accompanying himself on sanshin, shimadaiko, and horagai (conch) though he is joined on hayashi by Tink Tink member Seira Ganaha on one track.

Uta Nu Itu

The album opens with two of the most familiar of Okinawan traditional songs, ‘Umi nu Chinbora~Akayama Bushi’ and ‘Nakuni’. There is also a good version of ‘Shimajiri Kuduchi’ and there are performances of songs written by Teihan China (‘Jyotankaa’) and Choki Fukuhara (‘Munushiri Bushi’). As a ‘bonus track’ Nakasone includes ‘Kabira Bushi’ a vocal duet with grandfather Seikou Nakasone who also plays sanshin.

Hajime Nakasone has been a regular performer at Aiko Yohen’s club Nantahama in Koza which is where I first came across him. For some years he has been under the wing of the veteran Seijin Noborikawa and at times it seemed as if he was almost becoming a carbon copy of his mentor. Although there is nothing exceptionally different about any of these recordings it is good to listen to him branching out and discovering his own style on this album.

Uta nu Itu is released on Marunaka Records.

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