Okinawa’s Kohaku Utagassen
Okinawa has its own unique version of Japan’s annual New Year extravaganza Kohaku Utagassen (Red and White Song Battle) in which two teams of male and female singers compete against each other in front of a television audience. Okinawa’s RBC recorded the show Shinshun Minyo Kohaku Utagassen yesterday at their studios in Naha and I was among the audience members. The show will be broadcast by RBC TV on New Year’s Day at 15:00.
This is a great chance to see lots of the top names of Okinawan traditional song gathered together on stage. Those performing yesterday included Yaeyama’s Tetsuhiro Daiku, veteran women’s group Deigo Musume, Mika Uchizato from Minami Daito, Yoriko Ganeko, Toru Yonaha, Keiko Kinjo, Hirokazu Matsuda, Mayumi Yamakawa, Kazumi Tamaki, and newcomer Takayuki Oshiro. There were also special duets by Minoru Kinjo and Yuki Yamazato, and by Seibun Tokuhara and Misako Oshiro. The teams were captained by singers Aiko Yohen and Shuken Maekawa.
The recording went on for around three hours including a ten minute break and one or two unscheduled stops along the way for technical mishaps and, dare it be said, several false starts by one of the singers. It would be too much of a spoiler to reveal which team of singers were judged to be the winners but the outstanding individual performances for me were Mika Uchizato’s ‘Abayoi’, the songs by Keiko Kinjo and Yoriko Ganeko, and Tetsuhiro Daiku’s ‘Yaeyama Sodachi’. If you are living in Okinawa you can watch the whole show on 1st January with a glass or two of Orion beer.