Archive for the ‘Okinawa Overseas’ category

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.


Seminar on Okinawa and Scotland

July 14, 2015

A Public Seminar will be held next week in London which may interest those in the UK with connections to Okinawa. The seminar is on ‘Central and Local Governance in Japan and the UK: Lessons from Okinawa and Scotland.’

“The coral reefs, white sand beaches and sub-tropical rainforests of Okinawa, a chain of islands stretching over 600 miles of ocean between Southwest Japan and Taiwan, seem a distant world from the misty mountains and lochs of Scotland, but recent political developments in Scotland have brought to light some surprising parallels.”

okinawa and scotland

“Like Scotland, Okinawa is a smaller, once independent, area incorporated within a far larger entity, which possesses its own distinct history, culture and  political outlook. Debate on the balance between central and local governance has recently taken prominence in political discussion in Okinawa, and last September, intrigued by recent events in Scotland, several Okinawan journalists and researchers, including the founding member of a small but growing Okinawa independence movement, flew to Edinburgh to observe the independence referendum.”

In this seminar Professor Takayoshi Egami of Waseda University will discuss the historical and political background of Okinawa. The talk will be followed by discussion and a drinks reception.

When: Wed 22nd July 2015, 6.30 pm
Where: The Swedenborg Society, London, WC1A 2TH
For more information:

Okinawa at the Edinburgh Festival

July 4, 2015

Okinawan performing arts will return to Scotland this summer at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Last year the ‘Ship of the Ryukyu’ collective of singers and dancers put on several shows of Bottle Mail from Okinawa which was written and produced by Megumi Tomita. This year the theatre company returns to the festival with a 45 minute performance of Okinawa Sansan directed by Haruo Misumi.


In this year’s show “a dazzling mix of folk music, classical Ryukyu Court dances and traditional bingata patterned costumes will transport you to the tropical Okinawa Islands.” The music will include contemporary arrangements of sanshin and violin and promises to give a glimpse into daily life in the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom.

Performances of Okinawa Sansan will start at 15.05 every day from 7th to 29th August at Greenside Venue, Edinburgh. Further details and a video trailer are at the Ship of the Ryukyu website: