One thought on “Okinawa Revisited fRoots November 2014

  1. Paul: lovely nostalgic fRoots article on Okiinawan music! – Excerpts from the email I sent you (posted here at your suggestion): You say that in the “early 1980s” Korner & Peel received Okinawan LPs, resulting in “the first UK radio play for Okinawan music”. Well, maybe – depends on the exact date. But in my own CV I’ve noted: “Programmes broadcast on BBC Radio 3: Okinawan music, 1982 ….”
    I don’t have exact dates of the broadcast, but it was surely early 1982, because that programme resulted from a UK tour by the Miyagi Minoru Okinawan dance/music troupe, 17 Nov-2 Dec 1981 (Belfast, Newcastle, Malvern, Birmingham, London (Commonwealth Institute), Chichester, Hull). I was lecturer/interpreter with the troupe, who performed kumiudui dance-drama and various folk and classical pieces. Then indeed we recorded at the Beeb, and I did the talking and structuring of the broadcast. I don’t have any further info about the event.
    Anyhow, whichever broadcast was first, there’s no doubt that Korner & Peel’s broadcasts would have had far more impact than mine!
    ====
    Also, two Okinawa-related excerpts from a document I typed up (at the request of classmates, who wanted me to send written memories since I couldn’t attend my 50th (!!!?) high school reunion in Michigan last year):
    • Richard Thompson meets Okinawa via an eggplant
    Cambridge, 27 November 1983: Richard Thompson [[the famous folkie]] was performing at Clare College Folk Club, for a small audience. I was one of two people somehow selected to warm up the crowd.
    I chose to sing my usual Japanese cowherd song, plus two Okinawan folk songs while playing the three-string snakeskin ‘banjo’ sanshin. One song was “Nashibii Bushi” – “The Aubergine Song” (see below). Actually, I introduced it as “The Eggplant Song”, which evoked laughter and puzzlement since I hadn’t yet learned that Brits call the thing an aubergine. It also probably reduced the emotional impact of this truly moving song. [[A new bride begs her evil mother-in-law to remember when she herself was a new bride, and show some compassion.]]
    After his first set, in the dressing room I asked Richard how he got such a lovely sound out of his guitar. (Answer, more or less: He bought a great guitar and played it superbly. Ah!)
    And he said he had really enjoyed my songs and asked me about the sanshin. I let him pluck at it.
    Four years later, out came his album Live, Love, Larf & Loaf. And it included a rocking Okinawan song, “Haisai Ojisan”, with a sanshin player joining the folk-rock backing band. [[And Richard sang it quite convincingly and with excellent pronunciation.]]
    I’d like to think, of course, that he got the Okinawa bug through me as first contact. But I’ve never met him since.
    ====
    And my other eggplant memory (how many people have two of them?):
    • Aubergines and sukiyaki
    Okinawa, 1981: I was asked to appear on a daytime TV chat show, in a regular segment that featured various male guests currently residing far from their wives. ([My wife was in England.) Each such man had to cook a meal, live, on TV! And then, in my case, I was asked to sing an Okinawan song, accompanying myself on the sanshin.
    Well, I chose “The Aubergine Song”, “Nashibii Bushi”, because first I cooked for them my nasu no miso-ae, aubergine fried in sweet miso and various other goodies. Due to severe time limits, I pre-fried parts of the dish, then fried up the rest as the camera hovered. Then we all ate the stuff, and of course the others all said, “Wow, delicious – you’re quite a chef!” (What else could they say?) But this did lead nicely to the song. The photo (attached, if I figure out how) shows the remnants of the food, and me in my apron.
    And speaking of food: The guest on the left is Ei Rokusuke, lyricist for the song “Sukiyaki”, which became a US number 1 pop hit in 1963 – the first Billboard chart-topper in a non-Indo-European language. Its Japanese title, “Ue o muite arukō”, translates “Looking up as I walk along” (to keep tears from falling), but someone figured it would fare better in the USA with a more familiar Japanese title. Hence “Sukiyaki”!? Tastier than “Toyota” or “Harakiri”, I guess.

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