Orion Music Fest 2013

The Orion Music Fest was held over the weekend at Ginowan Seaside Park and I was there yesterday for the second day. This is an invitation campaign event to promote Okinawa’s own Orion beer. Last year it ended badly as a thunderstorm and torrential rain caused the second day to be abandoned midway through the afternoon but this time there were no such problems and the weather stayed hot and sunny throughout the day. This necessitated much drinking of the cooling Orion beer by the large crowd.

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This year’s line-up was smaller than last time with only six main artists but in some ways this was preferable as each act was allowed more time on stage to showcase their music and to build a rapport with the audience. Singer and electric guitarist Akira Ikuma from Fukuoka opened the proceedings with his band and they were followed by Tokyo-based Okinawan singer-songwriter Shiori who sang and played keyboards.

The festival really came to life after this with the appearance of Parsha Club. Leader Yukito Ara was in top form and was his usual extrovert self striding around the stage with sanshin and keeping the crowd entertained with some brilliant music. They were also joined on sanshin and vocals by the trio Sansanar. Parsha Club didn’t do anything especially new or unexpected (except when Ara jumped down into the audience with his sanshin) but they added the main injection of Okinawan roots music and their show was the highlight of the day.

Parsha Club's Yukito Ara

Parsha Club’s Yukito Ara

Okinawan pop singer Manami was accompanied only by backing tracks and by her younger brother Daisuke Nakamura on keyboards but she gave a very good performance which was a huge hit with the crowd. She sang several songs co-written with her brother including two composed for Orion beer commercials. The emphasis here was on pure pop with catchy tunes and simple choruses but Manami did it brilliantly. She also gave a nod to her Okinawan roots with the song ‘Niraikanai’.

Manami at yesterday's Orion Music Fest

Manami at yesterday’s Orion Music Fest

Like all the artists at the festival Miyako’s Isamu Shimoji also appears in Orion beer commercials and also, of course, with Yukito Ara as one half of the duo Sakishima Meeting. This time he came with a band and played a very upbeat selection of his livelier songs. It would have been nice to have listened to a few of his more reflective pieces but the celebratory festival atmosphere called for a more pumped up tone and Shimoji had everyone on their feet as he ended his set with a powerful version of ‘Waido’.

The evening’s final act was the popular Latin-Okinawan band Diamantes who were fronted as ever by the energetic figure of singer Alberto Shiroma. They performed their usual crowd-pleasing set of lively songs with a Latin American bias and had everyone on their feet again. Diamantes were joined by all the other musicians for the finale as the five hours of music came to a close around 9 pm.

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