Shizuko Oshiro: Washita Shimauta

Shizuko Oshiro is a veteran singer and sanshin player and this album Washita Shimauta (subtitled Oshiro Shizuko Ketteiban) is the latest in the growing list of album releases by influential Okinawan artists on Kenichi Takahashi’s Tokyo-based Respect label.

Oshiro was born in 1947 on Ishigaki Island. She played taiko from the age of five, began learning sanshin at six, and at 15 came to Naha with the intention of becoming a minyo singer. She recorded the song ‘Asabana’ the following year and it became a big hit around the islands. After this she appeared regularly on television and radio and started her own minyo kenkyujo (school). She played at the minyo club Hantabaru for 30 years until 2005.

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Oshiro is well-known as a teacher of traditional songs and sanshin as well as being a singer and two of her pupils are Keiko Kinjo and Lucy Nagamine. On this album Lucy appears as a guest singer, most notably to duet with Oshiro on the song ‘Shin Digunu Hana’.

There is also a recording of Oshiro’s first hit ‘Asabana’ which comes originally from Amami Island. Five of the songs were either written or co-written by Oshiro, including ‘Kui Shinubu Kukuru’ which she wrote when she was 22. The title track is by Bisekatsu and Tsuneo Fukuhara and a highlight among the other songs is the excellent ‘Nuchi nu Shientaku’. The album ends with a strong performance of another Oshiro co-written song ‘Utushibi nu Uta’.

Shizuko Oshiro

Shizuko Oshiro

This is generally a slower paced album with Oshiro’s voice accompanied just by sanshin and occasional taiko. Oshiro plays the six string version of the sanshin throughout the album while Lucy plays three string sanshin. There is a fairly even balance of old and newer songs among the 13 tracks and the album has a timeless feel which makes it almost impossible to distinguish between the two.

Washita Shimauta will be released by Respect Records on the 23rd April.

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