An interview with tidanomiyuki

Singer tidanomiyuki was born on the southern Yaeyama island of Ishigaki. After a move to Tokyo as a university student, she began playing music at local cafes and bars. Then in 2009 she spent a year in the UK, first in Norwich and then in London studying art and design. After her return to the Ryukyus she moved to Okinawa in 2011.

She plays guitar, piano and sanshin, and learned Yaeyama minyo from renowned musician Kousei Miyara. A debut album five years ago led to an invitation to perform at Zandari Festa in Seoul. In 2017 she appeared at the Playtime Festival in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. A second album of original songs Now and Then was released the following year (and was reviewed here).

Since that time, she has been busy not just with music but with a major addition to her family as she recently became a mother with the birth of a baby daughter. She is married to Yuki Irei of Okinawan indie-pop band, the you. An outstanding guitarist, Irei also accompanies her on electric guitar when she plays with a band.

What follows are some of my questions about her music, together with the answers she gave to me in English.

Why did you decide to be a singer? Is it something you always wanted to do?

I’ve liked singing alone ever since I was a child. In fact, I started making up songs when I was a junior high school student. I borrowed my brother’s guitar at that time and what I learned was that the guitar is a good tool for me to make a song easily and so I started writing many songs of my own. The first time I sang my songs with a band in front of people was at university. I probably began to think then that I wanted to be a singer through these experiences.

You learned minyo and sanshin in Ishigaki. Have you ever thought about singing and playing traditional Yaeyama songs again?

Well, I started to learn Yaeyama minyo when I came back to Okinawa from Tokyo and I like to sing Yaeyama minyo as my hobby now. Of course, I’ve known some Yaeyama minyo since I was a child, but I had never learnt properly before. When I started to learn Yaeyama minyo from Miyara Kousei- sensei, I learnt that Yaeyama minyo has a sensibility and sophistication and I was attracted to that.

Do you have a process in writing songs, and do you have special themes or feelings that you want to express?

Mostly whenever I make a song, I begin with an image in my mind and I spontaneously play the guitar and then the melodies and words come to me at the same time.

I think that the foundation of my songwriting is in the memories I have of the time I spent with my family in Ishigaki island. I always think of my island, my hometown, and I am thinking that I want to go back to my home one day.

When you are not playing music or writing songs, what kind of music do you listen to?

I like many kinds of music, especially jazz, funk, acoustic, rock and pop. Among my favourite singers that I listen to are Priscilla Ahn and Simon & Garfunkel.

You have played both solo and with a band. Which do you prefer?

I’m happy to play both solo and with a band. When I play solo it’s a small world, but the listener might find it easier to catch my words and melody. It might be like a size of a canvas. If you have a sheet of paper and draw a flower, it might be only a flower and there is nothing in the background. So, when I play with a band I am on a bigger canvas, and I can draw a river and a butterfly and the blue sky along with the flower.

You have written some songs in (very good) English. How was that?

Thank you very much. To be honest, I don’t have much confidence in writing in English but when I make a song sometimes it’s the English words that just come to me first.

Can you say something about your plans as a singer and musician in Okinawa?

I think it is a good situation for musicians to play in Okinawa because there are many places to be able to play in public. I had a baby last year, so I am thinking that I want to start making songs and playing music again this year, in 2020. I am looking forward to seeing what kind of new songs will come to me since I had a baby.

https://tidanomiyuki.wixsite.com/officialwebsite

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