Sounds of the Ryukyus 2: Kina Shoukichi

Below is the main text of my second column for Momoto magazine which was published in July 2012.  A Japanese translation follows the English.

Sounds of the Ryukyus, vol.2

Discovering Okinawa with Kina Shoukichi

Why am I living in Okinawa? I have one man to blame for this – his name is Kina Shoukichi. When I listened to him it came as a great shock to hear Okinawan music for the first time. Japanese music was very lacklustre and unexciting by comparison. My discovery led me to many other kinds of Okinawan music and finally to moving here.

I first met Kina at the end of the 1980s when he and his band Champloose put on such a life-affirming show in Kyoto that I still remember it as one of the highlights of my life. I then interviewed him for a magazine and in 1994 met up with him and his band in England when they performed in London. The next day I drove him to my hometown of Norwich where he did a live interview on local radio.

While most people know Kina for his song ‘Hana’ I would be perfectly happy never to hear this over-recorded song ever again. For me, there are two different songs which are far more moving. One is ‘Agarizachi’, a Kina original which refers to a point on the coast of Yonaguni and expresses love and concern for these precious islands. The other song that I like even more is ‘Nagareru Mamani’ which blends Kina’s words with a beautiful melody by Fukuhara Tsuneo. Kina is also surprisingly good when performing Okinawan minyo and it’s easy to overlook that he is also a great singer.

Kina Shoukichi can also be exasperating and eccentric. His political activities sometimes seem to be at odds with the views expressed in his music. And despite telling me many times that he is eager to write more songs, he has produced little recently to match the glory days of his past. But as the man who introduced me to Okinawa and changed my life forever he will always have a special place in my heart.

Akainko was a wonderful album of mainly traditional songs made in 1998. Kina shows that he has a remarkable voice and a great feeling for these old songs.

Akainko was a wonderful album of mainly traditional songs made in 1998. Kina shows that he has a remarkable voice and a great feeling for these old songs.

沖縄発見と喜納昌吉

私はなぜ沖縄に住んでいるのでしょう?それは一人の男のせいなのです。彼の名は喜納昌吉といいます。初めて沖縄音楽をきいたのが彼の曲で、とても大きな衝撃を受けました。それに比べると日本の音楽は面白みに欠け刺激が少ないと感じたものです。この発見が様々な沖縄音楽との出会いにつながり、とうとう移住するまでになりました。

初めて喜納に会ったのは1980年代の終わりでした。その時の京都で見た彼とチャンプルーズの感動的なステージは今も忘れられません。その後、雑誌の取材で、そして1994年には公演に来ていたロンドンで会いました。その翌日は、地元のラジオ番組に一緒に出演するため私の故郷のノーリッジへ車で行きました。

喜納の有名な曲「花」を知らない人は、ほとんどいないでしょう。あまりにも多くのアルバムに録音されすぎて2度ときけなくても気にならないかもしれません。私にとっては次の2曲のほうがずっと感動的だからです。ひとつは「東崎」。与那国島の岬の情景をかけがえのない島への想いをこめてうたっています。もう1曲は「流れるままに」で、喜納の歌詞と普久原恒勇の美しいメロディーが融合した素晴らしい唄です。喜納が民謡をうたうとき、彼が偉大な唄者であることを確信します。

喜納昌吉はときには周りを苛々させる変わり者だとも言えます。彼の政治活動と唄の世界は相容れないこともよくあります。書きたいと言いながら何年もオリジナル曲を書いていません。輝かしい日々はもう過去のものかもしれませんが、私の人生を変えた、この男は私の心の中の特別な場所にいつも居るのです。

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2 Comments on “Sounds of the Ryukyus 2: Kina Shoukichi”

  1. kiji Says:

    Absolutely smack on with Agarizachi.
    Indeed he is a bit erratic and I have the impression it got worse. The first times I met him he spoke about God asking him to bring a message through his music, later it sounded as if he took himself for God. Last concerts I saw of him left me saddened as he was basically too drunk to perform, broke a string on his sanshin then went berserk destroying a perfectly fine sanshin.


    • Yes, Agarizachi is a great song. Sorry you had a bad time the last time you saw him. He can certainly be erratic. I would be very surprised if he was drunk though as he rarely drinks.


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