Archive for June 2018

A Weekend in Itoman

June 24, 2018

It has been a busy weekend in Itoman. Yesterday (23rd) was Irei no hi – a public holiday in Okinawa to mark the 73rd anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa. As usual it was commemorated at Okinawa Peace Memorial Park in Mabuni, Itoman with a ceremony attended by several thousand people.

Among those in attendance was Prime Minister Abe who made the usual insincere speech full of platitudes about how much Japan cares about Okinawa. It received a certain amount of heckling from some members of the audience who suggested that Abe should go home. Sadly, nothing changes and after all these years Okinawa is still overburdened with American military bases fully supported by Abe’s government against the wishes of the Okinawan people.

On a brighter note, today was the annual Itoman Hare (or dragon boat races) when thousands flock to Itoman’s fishing port for the all day event. The races were introduced from China at the end of the 14th century and the festivities continue to this day. It was another hot day with the sun blazing down and a temperature of 31 degrees. Below are some photos taken during the races this afternoon.

 

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London Okinawa Day 2018

June 5, 2018

The 10th anniversary of London Okinawa Day will be celebrated later this month. This annual event has grown each year and its purpose is to introduce and spread the culture of Okinawa in the UK. The performing arts have always been central to the culture of the Ryukyu Islands and the audience will be entertained by modern and classical music and dances from around the islands.

For this important 10th year anniversary some special guest artists have been invited to perform. Well-known singer and sanshin player Horiuchi Kanako will be coming from Okinawa and there will also be songs from Miyako Island singer Yogi Masaki and Amami Island singer Tamukai Miharu.

Other events will include Eisa drumming and dancing and performances of karate by several groups from the UK. A variety of stalls around the stage will provide more information as well as Okinawan food and awamori. You can even buy a sanshin!

Okinawa Day is an all day extravaganza that takes place at Spitalfields, Brushfield Street, London E1 from 10:00 to 18:00 on Saturday 23rd June.

https://www.sites.google.com/site/londonsanshin/okinawa-day

Maltese Rock: Otobune

June 1, 2018

Otobune means ‘Ship of Sounds’ and is an accurate reference to the musical voyage that Okinawa based Maltese Rock have been on since their formation in 1997. The band – led by vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Morito – describe what they play as punk, blues, Okinawan folk song and gypsy music (and a few other styles too) and they have created a bit of a cult following not least in the Sakaemachi market of Naha where Morito runs his own bar.

Their previous album three years ago led to an appearance in 2016 at a Womex showcase in Galicia, Spain and also to live shows in Poland and Taiwan. The new album is shorter (at 37 minutes) and is more straightforward and more tightly arranged than its predecessor. This generally works to its advantage as in the past the dominating presence of Morito has revelled a bit too much in showing off all the wildness.

This is not to say that Morito takes a back seat. The distinctive sound of the album is still that of his gravelly voice and six of the eight songs are his compositions. The exceptions are the first and last tracks.

Rinsho Kadekaru’s poignant ‘Jidai no Nagare’is transformed into the band’s own style for a fine opener. Closing the album is a new take on the familiar ‘What a Wonderful World’. It has been noted here before that Okinawans (and Japanese) have a disturbing habit of choosing the most hackneyed and obvious Western songs. (‘Amazing Grace’ or ‘’Danny Boy’ anyone?).  But Morito’s new Japanese lyrics and his inimitable vocal just about get away with this one.

Of the original songs two of the more conventional (if one can ever say that about Maltese Rock) are the most successful, and ‘Under the Bridge’ and ‘Melancholic Reimy’ are both very good additions to their canon. The five band members are joined by Yoko Tada who makes an important contribution on several tracks with saxophone, clarinet and flute. Yukito Ara also joins them to play sanshin on three songs.

Overall this is a very good release and while it doesn’t move in any significant new direction it will please fans of the band and will serve to further enhance their already high reputation.

Otobune is released today (1st June) on the Music from Okinawa label. Maltese Rock will play a joint concert with the band Hanggai from Mongolia at Sakurazaka Theatre (Hall A) Naha on 5th June at 19:00.

www.musicfromokinawa.com