Archive for the ‘Okinawa Overseas’ category

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:


London Okinawa Day 2015

May 29, 2015

The annual Okinawa Day will be held on Saturday 20th June this year. Admission is free and the event will take place from 10:00~18:00 at Spitalfields, London E1. The event attracted 8,000 people last year. The organising committee’s aim is to introduce Okinawan culture further in the UK and enrich the existing relationship between the UK and Okinawa which has been established through previous Okinawa Day events.


The thriving London Okinawa Sanshinkai is also prominent in promoting the music side of things and will no doubt be showing off their skills again. This year it is hoped to include Ryukyu music and Eisa dance as well as performing arts workshops by individuals and groups from the UK and Okinawa. There will also be karate demonstrations and arts and crafts stalls from Okinawa plus food and drinks, including the inevitable awamori.

Further details are on the Okinawa Day 2015 website where there is also a video of some highlights from last year’s event:




Okinawa-Asia Music Network Meeting 2015

February 9, 2015

The first Okinawa-Asia Music Network Meeting was held at Tenbusu Hall in Naha yesterday. The first part of the meeting was a briefing session in which last year’s presentation of ‘Music from Okinawa’ at WOMEX (World Music Expo) in Spain was reported on and discussed. The duo Sakishima Meeting who performed a showcase in Spain also talked about their experiences at the event. There was a speech from London-based arts manager and producer Akiko Yanagisawa who focused on ways to promote Okinawan music overseas.

This theme was taken up again in the second half which featured a discussion with three guests from South Korea and China who are all involved in the organisation of world music festivals in their own countries. There was also live music with a short performance by Kazutoshi Matsuda who was one of the artists featured on the Music from Okinawa CD presented at WOMEX last year. Some of the other artists from the CD were also at the meeting. I managed to talk with Isamu Shimoji of Sakishima Meeting during a break in the proceedings before he and Yukito Ara hastened to another venue in Naha where they were scheduled to give a live show later in the day.


Some of the discussion at the meeting focused on the business side of promoting Okinawan music overseas; on the possibility of further participation at WOMEX events; and the desirability for Okinawa to host its own world music festival in order to become a hub for networking and spreading Okinawan music to the rest of Asia and the world. I was impressed by the talk given by Wei Gao from China who is an organiser of the annual Sound of the Xity festival in Beijing which is committed to the joint development of the Chinese and Western music industries.

Even more interesting was the presentation by Kim Min of Sonic Islands who talked about her work in organising the Ulsan World Music Festival in Korea. In her concluding remarks she made the important point that traditional music is something that needs to be constantly revitalised or else it just becomes like an exhibit in a museum. On the other hand, she stressed that it is equally important not to slavishly copy the big stars seen on television but to find one’s own musical identity sincerely. She also made the observation that WOMEX itself should not necessarily be held in such great awe and is just one method of networking.

Sakishima Meeting: Isamu Shimoji & Yukito Ara

Sakishima Meeting: Isamu Shimoji & Yukito Ara

Some of those who participated by asking questions seemed unaware that Okinawan music is really not such a big secret nowadays. In fact, it has been featured regularly for many years in magazines such as the UK’s fRoots and Songlines and has loyal followings in many parts of the world. With the growth of the internet and new ways of listening to music it has now become more accessible than ever. It could be argued that even the term ‘world music’ is becoming obsolete and has already served its purpose as a marketing tool for what fRoots calls ‘local music from out there’.

Sakishima Meeting at WOMEX

October 27, 2014

Music from Okinawa was successfully introduced at last week’s Womex event in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain. As well as the presentation of a new CD compilation of music from the Ryukyu Islands there was a live performance by Sakishima Meeting (Yukito Ara and Isamu Shimoji).


Sakishima Meeting at Womex last week

Sakishima Meeting at Womex last week

The duo were also featured in a special World on 3 programme from Womex broadcast on BBC Radio. They played two songs for the show and Isamu Shimoji was interviewed by presenter Mary Ann Kennedy. The show can be listened to for the next four weeks through this link:





Music from Okinawa at WOMEX

October 16, 2014

A reminder for anyone in Galicia, Spain next week that the annual WOMEX (World Music Expo) is being held in Santiago de Compostela from the 22nd to 26th. As mentioned previously it will include a stand for Okinawa and there will be a live performance by Sakishima Meeting (Yukito Ara and Isamu Shimoji). An English booklet introducing Okinawa and some of its musicians has been produced for the event along with a special 16 track compilation CD of Music from Okinawa 2014.

The English booklet and Music from Okinawa CD ready for WOMEX.

The English booklet and Music from Okinawa CD are ready for WOMEX

As well as a song from Sakishima Meeting (‘Tome Dome’ from the film Karakara) the CD includes artists such as Kazutoshi Matsuda, Chihiro Kamiya, Tatsumi Chibana and Ryukyu Chimdon Gakudan alongside others both familiar and not so well-known. The music spans several different genres and the invitation to apply for inclusion on the CD was open to anyone resident on these islands, not just to Okinawan musicians. I know this only too well as I was asked to be one of the judges to choose the artists and tracks. As expected, this turned out to be an extremely difficult but fascinating task.

Ryuji Noda (Sakurazaka Theatre) and Sachiyo Tsurumi (Okinawa Arts Council) who will represent Okinawa at WOMEX

Ryuji Noda (Sakurazaka Theatre) and Sachiyo Tsurumi (Okinawa Arts Council) who will represent Okinawa at WOMEX next week

There will be a presentation by Ryuji Noda at WOMEX as part of the Asian Pacific Network Session and he will introduce plans to further develop intercultural exchange through music.



Awich and Okinawan rap

October 1, 2014

The rapper, poet and DJ known as Awich (Akiko Urasaki) has been featured here before, most recently for her collaboration with Okinawan pop singer Manami on one of this year’s most interesting CD releases. She has just returned from a trip to New York and is featured in the new issue of the magazine Vogue.



In the Vogue interview she describes growing up in Okinawa and her discovery of rap. She explains that to her rap and the more traditional music of Okinawa are not all that different: “Okinawan songs are so hip-hop to me. They talk about struggle, they talk about the blues.” The online feature includes several videos of Awich and of other artists she recommends in Okinawa and is available here:


Okinawa at WOMEX 2014

September 20, 2014

WOMEX (World Music Expo) is celebrating its 20th anniversary with its 2014 event which takes place from 22nd to 26th October in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain. Acknowledged as the most international hub of all music meetings worldwide, the trade fair brings together professionals from the worlds of folk, roots, ethnic and traditional music and there is a full programme of concerts, conferences and films. This year’s WOMEX will include a stand introducing music from Okinawa and there will be a live performance by the duo Sakishima Meeting (Yukito Ara and Isamu Shimoji).

Sakishima Meeting

Sakishima Meeting

There will also be a new compilation of music from Okinawa which is being distributed on a CD produced especially for the event. Earlier this summer I was asked to act as one of the judges to decide which artists and tracks should be included on this Music from Okinawa 2014 CD. In order to showcase a very wide range of music being produced on these islands, the organisers asked for submissions of new music for possible inclusion and more than 40 groups and artists responded.

I have therefore spent much of the past few weeks listening to lots of music in an attempt to make some near impossible choices and have been reminded of the enormous variety of sounds which are being produced around the Ryukyu Islands. The submissions ranged from classical Ryukyu court music to jazz, hardcore, electronica, salsa, island reggae and hip-hop as well as the familiar Okinawan minyo and shimauta.

The CD jacket features a bingata design by Makoto Otoguro

The CD jacket features a bingata design by Makoto Otoguro

The final decision has now been made and the 16 tracks chosen for inclusion on the CD are by the following artists:

Oomari, Sakishima Meeting, Kazutoshi Matsuda, Hirara, Ryukyu Koten Jyoshi Gakudan Uminai, Kachimba 4, Tatsumi Chibana, Maltese Rock, Nee-Nee, Noboro Sakurazaka, Piratsu Quartet, EPO, Ryukyu Chimdon Gakudan, Jun, Yusuke Maehana, Chihiro Kamiya.

Sakishima Meeting will also be in concert next week at the Sakurazaka Theatre in Naha. The concert is on Tuesday (23rd) which is a public holiday and it begins at 16:00.