Okinawa Revisited fRoots November 2014

23 years after writing my first feature in fRoots magazine, an interview with Shoukichi Kina, here’s an update on what’s been happening since and the current scene.

Okinawa Revisited fRoots Nov. 2014 okinawafroots

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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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