Sounds of the Ryukyus

Momoto is a quarterly magazine published in Japanese in Okinawa and it focuses on life and culture on these islands. Last year I was asked to write a column Sounds of the Ryukyus for Vols.10~13. The column I wrote offers some very simple, brief introductions to Okinawan music topics from a personal perspective. The main text of the first column is reproduced below in English followed by a Japanese translation, and subsequent articles will be added to this blog. The magazines containing the complete columns with illustrations and photos are still available in most bookstores in Okinawa.

Sounds of the Ryukyus, vol.1

The Okinawan Minyo Master

I’m very happy to be writing this first column and hope to introduce some of my favourite music from these islands.

My discovery of Ryukyu Island music began many years ago in the late 1980s. After listening to all kinds of Okinawan music, and travelling around the islands many times, I finally decided to move here. I soon realised that minyo is at the heart of the people’s music and that Kadekaru Rinsho is its finest representative.

It’s well-known that Kadekaru recorded hundreds of songs and continued to sing and record until shortly before his death in 1999. But he is about as far removed from the usual image of the stage performer as it’s possible to be. He was a rather shy and reticent figure despite his many achievements and his voice sounds thin and wavering, but the more I listened to him the more addictive it became. He also had an enormous repertoire not just from Okinawa but from Miyako and Yaeyama and listening to him became an excellent way for me to find out about these wonderful songs.

I was lucky enough to see him perform twice at the 1997 and 1998 Ryukyu Festivals in Osaka. Since his death the following year there have been many albums released on CD but I always return to his ‘Jiru’ compilation of rare recordings and to his joint album ‘Uta Awase’ made with Yamazato Yukichi.

It’s very difficult to pick favourite songs but his versions of ‘Nakuni’ and the lively ‘Umi Nu Chinbora’ are great tonics. Most of all, I enjoy listening to his song ‘Jidai No Nagare’. This moving song describes the fate of Okinawa as it has been taken over and changed by various outside forces – from control by China to invasions by Japan and America. It seems to me the quintessential song of Okinawa.

Hukyokajin is a collection of 18 of Kadekaru's best tracks and includes Jidai no Nagare

Hukyokajin is a collection of 18 of Kadekaru’s best tracks and includes Jidai no Nagare








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