Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Bob Brozman RIP

May 4, 2013

The sad news has come through of the death of American virtuoso guitarist and ethnomusicologist Bob Brozman who was found dead at his home in California on 26th April having apparently taken his own life at the age of 59. Brozman was a superb guitarist famed for his wide-ranging interest in many different kinds of music. He was especially renowned for his study of the blues and for his great involvement in Hawaiian music but his eclecticism meant that he travelled the world discovering and collaborating with musicians from many different genres and backgrounds while always remaining sensitive and sympathetic to the musical environments he found himself in. His many albums included collaborations with musicians from Hawaii, India, Okinawa, Reunion Island, and Papua New Guinea. In 2007 he even made an album Lumiere on which he played all the instruments in a variety of different styles, building up each instrumental part layer upon layer to form what he called the Bob Brozman Orchestra.

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In 2000 Brozman and the Okinawan musician Takashi Hirayasu made the album Warabi Uta which was recorded on the Yaeyama island of Taketomi. It was subsequently released worldwide as Jin Jin/Firefly. The album was a groundbreaking project of startling simplicity and originality with just Hirayasu’s voice and sanshin and Brozman’s guitar on a set of Okinawan children’s songs. The pair made another album the following year, Nankuru Naisa, which this time was recorded at a studio close to Brozman’s home in Santa Cruz. Around this time I met Bob Brozman for a lengthy chat while he was touring Japan and the interview is included in The Power of Okinawa. On publication of the book he wrote to congratulate me and was full of praise and enthusiastic comments. During our meeting he was enormously helpful and interesting on the technical side of the music which I knew less about and he was full of imaginative ideas and theories. Bob Brozman never became a big commercial star but he was in a way more important than that and there was nothing he couldn’t do with a guitar.

Seijin Noborikawa RIP

March 20, 2013

The news came through today of the death of one of Okinawa’s best loved and most well-known singers, Seijin Noborikawa. He passed away yesterday (19th March) after being hospitalized in Okinawa with liver failure. He was 80. Nicknamed “Seigwa” he was widely regarded as the greatest living singer of traditional Okinawan songs, following the death of his mentor Rinsho Kadekaru. Seigwa was active musically right up until the end of last year when his final recording was the album Duet which he made with Misako Oshiro.

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In earlier times he was also known as the  Jimi Hendrix of the sanshin for his fast playing style.  A compilation album of his best recordings from 1975 to 2004 was released to commemorate his 75th birthday but he then went on to release two further studio albums – Suiko Jizai (2008) and Fountain of Songs (2010) – as well as a live double album and the duet with Oshiro last year. His popularity increased after his starring role as an actor in the Okinawan-set movie Nabbie no Koi and in a subsequent film Hotel Hibiscus. Seigwa will be remembered too for his playful onstage personality and for his willingness to support younger musicians.

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2013

A Happy New Year of the Snake to all from the Power of Okinawa!

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Last year was an unusually good one for new album releases from Okinawa. Three in particular were outstanding. Shoukichi Kina returned to something like top form with the release of Nirai Pana an album which gets better with every listen; Yasukatsu Oshima made another top class album Shimawataru~Across the Islands; and Misako Oshiro collaborated on some excellent recordings with Ainu musician Oki for the album Kita to Minami.

Other good releases from Okinawan artists included Tetsuhiro Daiku’s Agi, Chihiro Kamiya’s Utaui and Tatsumi Chibana’s solo debut Atarashii Sekai. There was also another Misako Oshiro collaboration, this time with fellow veteran Seijin Noborikawa. All of these were reviewed on this blog. Let’s hope 2013 is another good year for Okinawan music.

Japan earthquake

March 18, 2011

It is a week today since the massive earthquake which struck the north-east of Japan followed by a devastating tsunami. Now there is the added danger of leaks of radiation from a nuclear power plant which appears to be out of control. In Okinawa we are a long way from mainland Japan and were not directly affected by last week’s earthquake. However, we were still on high alert for the tsunami which in the end didn’t arrive here. Since last Friday all television has been taken over by news reports of the quake and its aftermath. Many music and sporting events in Okinawa have been cancelled and in some cases events have been transformed into charitable activities to help the earthquake and tsunami victims.

On 17th January 1995 I was living in Kobe and was caught in the middle of the Great Hanshin Earthquake which took more than 6,000 lives, so the earthquake which hit Japan last week had a special relevance for me and brought back many bad memories of those days. Already the number of dead and missing far exceeds the figures in Kobe. People are now faced with the additional problems of aftershocks and further quakes, as well as power cuts, food shortages, lack of transport and heating. The appalling pictures and scenes of devastation will gradually fade from media coverage as other world events become more newsworthy in the weeks ahead but what my experience of the Kobe disaster makes clear is that the suffering continues for a very long time after that. What is needed now is long-term support and assistance for all those who have survived. The Japanese government might also need to think seriously about alternatives to nuclear power in a country so prone to earthquakes and natural disasters.

I hope that all readers of the Power of Okinawa blog and their families and friends are safe and well. Our sympathies must go out to all those who have been involved in this disaster. Let’s hope that the recovery and rebuilding process will proceed as quickly as possible.

The Power of Okinawa – 40% discount

December 4, 2010

There is a new reduced price for the 2nd edition of The Power of Okinawa. For those buying the book through the internet only, there will be a discount of around 40%. For full details see the Contact/Orders page of the Power of Okinawa website.

On the Power of Okinawa blog

July 7, 2010

It’s just over three months since this blog began and I still haven’t really mentioned the point of it all. So just to put the record straight, this blog accompanies the second edition of ‘The Power of Okinawa’, the first book in English on Okinawan music, which was published in March 2010. The new edition is much bigger and better, but as all guidebooks are likely to date soon after publication (or even before), this blog is being used to add new information on Okinawan music and for the occasional album review. There are also some posts on other kinds of roots music that I’m interested in. Finally, there may also be some occasional posts on Okinawan life or culture which may have nothing to do with the music at all.

 Any longer music features should eventually end up on the Features page of the Power of Okinawa website, where several of the articles I’ve written over the years are already available to read.

 So to recap, my self-imposed guidelines are to write about Okinawan music; other roots music; or just plain Okinawa. While it might be nice to write about other interests of mine, such as the novels I’ve been reading, the films I’ve seen, or the World Cup football which has had me trapped in front of the TV now for nearly a month, I will resist the temptation.

 Many thanks to everyone who has been reading the blog up to now.