Archive for the ‘Okinawa Overseas’ category

Mako in Seattle

May 21, 2020

Traditional Okinawan music performer Mako has recently been in touch to introduce herself and to talk about her fascinating ‘Okinawa Overseas’ story.

She was born in Okinawa but moved to Hawaii with her family at the age of eleven, and later moved to Seattle as an adult. Her sanshin playing began after she moved away from Hawaii, and this led to the discovery that singing and playing sanshin offered a connection or ‘portal’ back to her roots.

As a member of the Okinawan community in Washington State she frequently plays in the Seattle area. “Sometimes this is at public events like cultural and/or world music festivals” she says, “other times at private events such as fundraising parties, school events, or as a guest speaker in classrooms. I just love to see people’s eyes pop open when they see and hear something they’ve never seen or heard before and to introduce Okinawa to those people.”


She performs both solo and sometimes as leader of the group known as Mako and Munjuru who can be found via their Facebook page. She is also a member of the Honolulu musical troupe Ukwanshin Kabudan.

“With this worldwide pandemic everything came to halt. After more than two months of stay-at-home and a small dip in the bar graph in the greater Seattle area it seems as though people’s wheels are starting to turn. Although stay-at-home was extended to take effect until the end of this month, I’m involved in a couple of projects starting very soon. I’m hoping to be able to keep introducing Okinawan music for as long as I’m enjoying it.”

An album of Mako’s recent recordings of traditional Okinawan songs has been released just this week. The album Portal is a fine example of her work and is available through Bandcamp at the link below:

She will also be doing a live stream on 21st May at 7pm Pacific Daylight Time for 30 minutes or so. It can be seen on either of these Facebook pages:

Mako and Munjuru

SAMA: Seattle Sacred Music and Arts

Okinawan Avant-Garde Night

August 30, 2019

There will be an Okinawan Avant-Garde Night in London, UK, on Thursday 3rd October. This is presented by MYM at Rich Mix arts centre in Shoreditch. Taking part will be Okinawa’s Mutsumi Aragaki (vocals, sanshin, electronics, audio-visuals) and UK-based Japanese/Swiss singer Mina who plays sanshin and violin. The pair will be joined by Japanese dancer Yu Tamura who will also be familiar to Power of Okinawa readers as a member of An-chang Project.

The trio will give a music and dance performance that offers an avant-garde approach to ancient sounds and tales from Okinawa.

“By blending songs, stories, images and movements together with Japanese performing artist Yu Tamura, this new collaboration invites the audience to discover the unique and rich culture of Okinawa with a highly artistic perspective.”

More details can be found on the Rich Mix website.

Okinawa Day 2019 in London

June 11, 2019

For those in London next week the annual Okinawa Day is being held on Saturday 22nd June at Spitalfields Market. The nearest station is Liverpool Street. As before, it will be an all-day event from 10:00 until 18:00 and admission is free. This is a great chance to find out about and celebrate the unique culture of the Ryukyu Islands. There will be performances of Okinawan music as well as karate and Eisa dancing.

As a preview to Okinawa Day there will also be an Okinawan Music Concert by the guest musicians on the 21st. They will play songs from the Miyako, Yaeyama, and Amami islands. This has been organised by the London Okinawa Sanshinkai and will take place at SOAS University of London in the Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre of their campus at Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square. Once again admission is free. Doors open at 19:00 and the performances will go on until 21:00.

Okinawa Americana in fRoots Magazine

September 12, 2018

My interview with the duo Okinawa Americana – Merry and David Ralston – is included in the new Autumn issue of the UK magazine fRoots published this week. The one page feature is part of the magazine’s Root Salad series. The article will eventually appear in the Features Archive category of this blog.

A selection of musicians featured in the Autumn 2018 fRoots. Bottom left: Okinawa Americana

In the meantime it can be read in all its glory by buying the magazine. There is also a digital edition that can be subscribed to through the newly revamped and updated fRoots website.

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.

Music from Okinawa at WOMEX

October 17, 2016

The annual WOMEX (World Music Expo) 2016 is held from 19~23 October and it returns this year to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain where it was also based two years ago. Once again there will be a stand for music from Okinawa and there is a live showcase by Naha band Maltese Rock on Saturday the 22nd.


This year two sampler CDs have been produced to be given away at the event. One of them Music from Okinawa is a compilation of contemporary music from the Ryukyu Islands and its 15 tracks present a wide variety of genres and songs including Maltese Rock, MKR Project, Churashima Navigator and Sakishima Meeting. The booklet notes are in English and Spanish.


The other CD contains Okinawa Shimauta and has 14 recordings by Hajime Nakasone, Toru Yonaha, Yoshimasa Touyama and others including one of the very best performances I’ve heard of ‘Ashimiji-bushi’ by young singer and sanshin player Narise Arakaki. The booklet also has an introductory foreword in English by Kazufumi Miyazawa who was the project supervisor for the CD.

Aragaki & An-chang in Tokyo

September 20, 2016

If you live in Tokyo there’s a highly recommended event at the end of this month with music from the Ryukyus at Cancolor Cafe, an Okinawan cafe in Shinjuku that regularly features acoustic live shows. The cafe hosts a joint appearance by Mutsumi Aragaki and An-chang Project on 30th September in an evening entitled Ryukyu Koros: chorus. It all starts at 19:30 and promises to be a special evening.


Aragaki is a superb singer and sanshin player from Okinawa with eclectic musical tastes who performs solo and also with her trio MKR Project. She is equally at home with traditional songs and with her own innovative compositions. Joining her on the 30th will be Jun Yasuba’s An-chang Project from Japan (featured in The Power of Okinawa book) who are well-known for their lively harmonies and songs from the Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan and Micronesia.

Debo Band’s Hiyamikachi Bushi

May 27, 2016

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’:

Thanks to Mitzi Uehara Carter for alerting me to this.

Kanako Horiuchi in London Benefit Concert

April 25, 2016

The Okinawa-based singer and sanshin player Kanako Horiuchi will be in the UK next month and has a live show in South London at The Ivy House, Nunhead on 18th May. Also performing as guests will be Swiss/Japanese singer Mina Mermoud who plays sanshin and violin, and members of the London Sanshinkai. This will be a benefit concert for victims of the recent Kumamoto earthquake in Japan.

Kanako Horiuchi

Kanako Horiuchi

Kanako Horiuchi, originally from Hokkaido, is one of the Ryukyu Islands’ leading musical ambassadors, travelling the world, spreading the sounds of the islands and sometimes collaborating with local musicians. She is already well-known to readers of The Power of Okinawa blog and website for her work with the great Okinawan singer Misako Oshiro, for her experimental Ska Lovers project, and most recently for her album Hana Umui recorded in Senegal with kora player Falaye Sakho.

This is a rare chance for those in the UK to see a performance of Okinawan music and also to support victims of the earthquake. Tickets and further information are available here:

And before her visit to the UK, Kanako Horiuchi will be doing three live shows in Germany at Dusseldorf (7th May), Wachtberg (8th) and Frankfurt (10th).


Okinawa in Songlines

March 31, 2016

The new May 2016 issue of Songlines Magazine has a feature by me on Okinawan music. My article Dispatch from Okinawa focuses on the Trans Asia Music Meeting in Naha earlier this year and on some of the musicians at the showcase event.


Songlines is a leading world music magazine published in the UK and the new issue will be in shops from tomorrow (1st April). The article will also be published on the Features page of The Power of Okinawa website in the near future.