Sounds of the Ryukyus 3: Songs and food

Here is the text of my third column for Momoto magazine, published in October 2012.  A Japanese translation is below.

Sounds of the Ryukyus, vol.3

Songs and food in Okinawa

In Japan all conversations turn sooner or later to food and Okinawa is no exception. This is quite different from my own country where only a gourmet is likely to dwell on the subject of eating for very long – understandably, some might say, given the lowly reputation of British cuisine in the past. But I soon discovered musicians in Okinawa who are happy to sing of the delights of eating on these islands.

One of many shimauta to catch my attention was the song ‘Goya Bushi’ which was recorded by Yokota Yoko. The song is about the virtues of this iconic island vegetable. Yokota’s version is hardly subtle but it’s the typical shimauta arrangement heard in music bars all over these islands. The words tell of the many reasons why goya is good for you and there is even a verse mentioning the importance of Vitamin C in hot weather. The song is included on the second of two compilation albums released in 2005 to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Okinawa’s Campus Records. Both CDs have covers parodying The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper album and pictures of the ubiquitous goya are also prominently displayed.

‘Goya Bushi’ is also included on another compilation released the following year by Respect Records to commemorate another great institution – Okinawa soba. This album celebrates the popularity of the island speciality in all its many forms. And it’s not just soba and goya – providing some variety on the album’s menu are the songs ‘Mango nu Uta’, and ‘Awamori Monogatari’.

The relative wealth of the Ryukyus today was not always the case and the hardships of the past cannot be forgotten. In the Amami islands the song ‘Honen Bushi’ arose as a result of the Satsuma invasion. The people of Amami suffered extreme poverty and sometimes starvation after sugar cane production was introduced and all the profits were taken from them. The song expresses despair about this situation and asks for a good harvest. Not all songs about food are happy.

Ura! Campus Best - with goya and other vegetables on show.

Ura! Campus Best – with goya and other vegetables on show

沖縄の唄と食

日本では話をしていると遅かれ早かれ食べ物のことになります。沖縄も例外ではありません。私の出身国ではグルメな人だけが食についてあれこれと話しをします。イギリス料理がこれまで低い評価を受けてきたことを考えれば納得です。私は沖縄音楽を聴きはじめてすぐに、ミュージシャンたちが島々の食のすばらしさを楽しげにうたっている事に気づきました。

たくさんの島唄の中で注目したのは与古田洋子がうたった「ゴーヤ節」です。島を代表する野菜の長所をうたっています。彼女のバージョンは手の込んだものではなく、どこの民謡酒場でも聞かれる典型的な島唄アレンジです。なぜゴーヤがいいのかたくさんの理由が紹介されていて、暑さにはビタミンCが大事だよという節もあります。この唄はキャンパスレコード設立35周年を記念して2005年に発売された2枚組みCDの2枚目に収録されています。両CDのジャケットはビートルズの「サージェントペパー」のパロディーで至るところにゴーヤの写真がみられます。

その翌年にリスペクトレコードから発売されたコンピレーションアルバムにも「ゴーヤ節」が収録されています。このアルバムはもうひとつの県民食である沖縄そばを取り上げていて、いろんな種類のそばを賞賛しています。また、そばやゴーヤだけでなくアルバムのメニューには「マンゴぬ唄」「泡盛物語」といった曲も提供されています。

今は比較的、豊かになった琉球ですが苦難の過去があったことは忘れられません。奄美の「豊年節」は薩摩の侵略があって生まれた唄です。サトウキビの生産を始めたけれど薩摩に収穫のほとんどを奪われた奄美の人たちは貧困と飢餓に苦しみました。「豊年節」はその絶望感と豊作を願った唄です。食についての唄がすべて楽しいものではないのです。

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: Momoto Magazine Column

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: