Debo Band’s Hiyamikachi Bushi

The lively song ‘Hiyamikachi Bushi’ will be known to anyone familiar with Okinawan music. It was written in the 1950s to cheer up the island people during troubled times. The song is still very relevant today as the people of Okinawa continue to undergo hardships and are still suffering from the forced burden of hosting a huge number of US military bases with all the inevitable trouble that this brings.

Now comes a unique version of ‘Hiyamikachi Bushi’ which has been recorded for their second album by Debo Band, a large group of Boston-based musicians whose main inspiration is the roots music of Ethiopia. The band has taken the song and re-imagined it in their own way.

Debo Band

Debo Band

In an interview with PRI the band’s accordion player Marie Abe says that she felt there was a lot in common with Ethiopian and Okinawan experiences: “There are two kinds of affinity we’re expressing here: one is musical, the use of the particular pentatonic scale. The other is geopolitical/historical; both Okinawa and Ethiopia have gone through extremely challenging events like famine, military occupation, war, and immigration that have led to the formation of large diaspora[s] throughout the world.”

The full feature can be read here together with an audio sample of Debo Band’s ‘Hiyamikachi Bushi’:

http://www.pri.org/stories/2016-05-25/song-helped-japan-heal-after-wwii-gets-ethiopian-remake

Thanks to Mitzi Uehara Carter for alerting me to this.

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