Tetsuhiro Daiku was born in 1949 on Ishigaki Island, the most populated of the Yaeyama islands. Situated 429km south-west of the main Okinawan island, these sub-tropical islands are the very last trickle of Japan. On a clear day it’s possible to make out the mountains of Taiwan, just over 100 km to the east.
Yaeyama shima uta (island songs) has fundamental differences to that of the main Okinawan island such as the scale and vocal technique. Yaeyama shima uta was just a vocal music sung outside while working in the fields. These working songs are called Yunta and Jiraba. The sanshin, the three stringed snake-skin lute, at the heart of Okinawan shima-uta, was only incorporated into Yaeyama shima uta about 100m years ago, as opposed to Okinawa where the sanshin can be traced back 600 years. Yaeyama shima uta has close connections with south east Asia, as opposed to China.
At the age of 19, Tetsuhiro Daiku moved to the main Okinawan island port city of Naha. He subsequently won several prizes for sanshin and fue (flute) playing as well as obtaining teaching licences. He has run three sanshin schools, and estimates to have taught over 1000 students.
Testsuhiro Daiku made several recordings from the 1970s mainly for local release in Okinawa. In 1991 his career took an unexpected twist after meeting Japanese saxophone player Kazutoki Umezu. The two collaborated with an ever-growing number of other musicians on a series of groundbreaking albums. His acclaimed Japanese debut CD Yunta and Jiraba was released in 1993 and featured Japanese jazz saxophonist Kazutoki Umezu. The follow up CD Uchina Jinta was released in 1994 and was praised for it’s enterprising mixture of Okinawan music and Japanese chindon (brass band street music). He has gone on to record several albums of pure traditional Yaeyama, music while at the same time keeping a foot in the more experimental world. Other albums have featured Indonesian gamelan, rock, and most recently avant-garde Japanese musicians on the Makoto Kubota produced Blue Yaima.
He is one of Okinawa’s most respected and travelled musicians having performed in Europe, America, South America and Africa.