Here you can read articles on Okinawan music and musicians previously published by the author.
fRoots magazine Nos.343/344, Jan/Feb 2012
Two generations of Okinawan minyo singers and sanshin players talk to John Potter
I’m in Okinawa’s capital Naha with Misako Oshiro, widely regarded as the greatest living female singer of minyo (traditional songs) from the Ryukyu Islands. But this is a double meeting because I’m also talking with Kanako Horiuchi, more than 40 years Oshiro’s junior. The two women have just made an album together, Uta Nu In, released on Tokyo’s Respect label, and they are busy doing interviews and promotion.
fRoots Magazine Nos.328/329, Aug/Sept 2011.
Born in Peru, she’s returned to her ancestral Okinawan home for the music. John Potter gets a house concert.
Most of the interviews I’ve done have been on neutral ground, often at a concert venue, and very occasionally at the musician’s home. Well, today is a real exception. Okinawan-Peruvian singer and sanshin player Lucy has actually turned up at my house here on the south coast of Okinawa for our talk. She arrives with her fellow musician Nao who played on Lucy’s recent first album. Some months ago I discovered that Nao is a neighbour of mine and it was her suggestion for Lucy to come to my home. The two women arrive bearing a gift of apple pie. I note that Lucy is also carrying her sanshin and she is happy to serenade us later with some traditional songs from the Ryukyu Islands. When finalizing the arrangements for this meeting a couple of days ago, I hadn’t expected Lucy to be performing in my own living room!
Okinawan music is unique and the people’s liking for it has often been remarked upon. From the earliest recorded times any excuse would be found for the indulgence of dancing. The early social and emotional life of Okinawans centred around this alfresco dancing and also around singing, music, poetry and picnicking. It seems that any family gathering would end up in some kind of impromptu performance. The people would also divert themselves after their work was done by drinking and playing musical instruments. They even carried their sanshin into the fields ready to play. The situation was such that in the mid-19th century, two months after Commodore Perry’s last visit to Naha, a set of regulations was issued to the Okinawans from the Shimazu clan in Satsuma prohibiting singing, dancing, and sanshin playing while foreign ships were in port.
fRoots Magazine No.328, October 2010.
Sanshin player, singer and producer Sadao China has a special place in modern Okinawan music. John Potter enjoys his hospitality.
It’s a sizzling hot Wednesday afternoon in August on the subtropical Ryukyu island of Okinawa and at last I’ve caught up with singer, sanshin player, songwriter and producer Sadao China. In fact, I’m sitting in the living room of his home, a spacious house in Kitanakagusuku only a stone’s throw from the radiant blue Pacific Ocean. Probably best known overseas as producer of the four-woman group Nenes, China himself is something of a legend in the Ryukyu Islands as a performer and last year won a national record award in Japan for his 6 CD box set Shimauta Hyakkei, a magnum opus comprising 101 traditional songs.
fRoots Magazine No.240, June 2003.
Shouei Kina, Okinawan roots music icon and father of famous musician Shoukichi Kina, was interviewed at the age of 83 by John Potter.
He is father to 11 children, has 33 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren. But it's not for his great services to increasing the population of the Ryukyu Islands that Shouei Kina is famous. It's for being one of the most important figures in the history of Okinawan music. He's recorded over 500 tracks in his career, is a maker and teacher of the ubiquitous three-stringed sanshin, devised the method of writing music for the instrument, and singlehandedly introduced and popularized another instrument, the sanba, now an essential ingredient of Okinawan music. And the 83 year old is still singing and playing sanshin almost every night in Naha, Okinawa with his own Shouei Kina Minyo Group.