Seijin Noborikawa 1932-2013

Seijin Noborikawa was born in Hyogo Prefecture in Japan on 18th November 1932 and moved to Okinawa as a child. A sanshin player from childhood he performed as a backing musician for the Matsuda Gekidan Theatre Group, where he perfected the traditional style and first met another Okinawan musical great, Rinsho Kadekaru, an association that would last a lifetime. Noborikawa later worked on an American base where he heard and digested the American hit songs of the day, an influence that crept into his own music.

Seigwa, as he was often called, was one of the founding members and later president of the Ryukyu Min’yo Kyokai, a traditional music society, and taught the sanshin to a 12 year old Sadao China. Nevertheless, he didn’t fit into the ‘traditional’ musician category easily. He didn’t usually dress in kimono, or only sing traditional repertoire but composed his own, anti-war and other protest songs, developed his own six string sanshin, the ‘rokushin’, and was known as the Okinawan ‘Jimi Hendrix’ for his fast sanshin playing.

In his younger years, he released relatively few albums. Some tapes and singles for Marafuku in the 1960s, an album for JVC in 1975, and then a comeback album in 1998, ‘Howling Wolf’. It was only after his starring role in the 1999 film Nabbie no Koi (Nabbie’s Love) that his fame spread to the rest of Japan. He later acted in the film Hotel Hibiscus (2002)

He was most productive on record in his 70s, releasing Spiritual Unity (2001) produced by Takashi Nakagawa of Soul Flower Union, a duet album with Sadao China (2004), solo albums Suiko Jizai (2008) Fountain of Songs (2010)and a duet album with Misako Oshiro (2012)

Seijin Noborikawa died aged 80 on March 19th 2013 and is remembered as not only a great of Okinawan music, but also one of the great characters and personalities to come out of Okinawa.

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