Found about this on Twitter of a live performance of the song Okinawa Samba (from 1980) by Asano Yuko who is perhaps best known as an actress but she began as an idol singer. Upon first discovering the song, I read it as Okinawa Sanba as サンバ is also used for the Ryukyu instrument sanba (三板) so realizing that no one was playing sanba in the video but the music sounded like samba was kind of funny to me.
I also have a thread on Twitter that this post took me in rabbit hole while researching it. Lol.
Suzuhana Yuko, the vocalist of the Japanese folk rock band Wagakki Band, recently shared on her YouTube channel that she’s a fan of the sanshin and Okinawan folk music. She performs Asadoya Yunta and talks a bit about how she came upon the instrument and her love of Okinawa. In the video’s description, she writes in English (probably for her worldwide audience) of how the sanshin is not the same as the shamisen that’s used in her band’s music. Maybe we’ll one day see an original Okinawan folk pop/rock song on a future album of Wagakki Band like The Boom’s Shima Uta and Heiwa no Ryuka from the Southern All Stars.
I’ve posted about i-Dushi before and lately they’ve been very active on their YouTube channel (link). The video clip above is one of their older ones (2015) performing a cover of Umi no Koe and it has over 3 millions views! In addition to their original songs, they also do Okinawan versions of famous J-pop songs.
Living outside of Okinawa and Japan makes it difficult to find sanshin and supplies (kunkunshi, bachi, uma, karakui, etc.) so I’m always looking for online stores that service musicians outside of Okinawa/Japan. While you may not be able to have a real snakeskin sanshin shipped outside of Okinawa/Japan, you can a synthetic one shipped to you along with the aforementioned supplies.
An online store I’ve come across is the (bear with me as it’s a long name) Sanshin Craftsmen’s Business Cooperative Association of Okinawa (online store link). A great thing about them is what their name implies: they are an online store that features instruments and items from craftsmen with workshops in and outside of Okinawa. Another great thing about them is that they’re also active on YouTube, Twitter, and other social media platforms. They also have a sanshin class via Zoom (international students are also welcome to join) the intro of which is featured above.
They respond quickly to email messages so contact them with your questions. I can confirm the quality of the items and their shipping having recently received an order from them. There are other online stores out there but it’s difficult to tell if they’re still operating and it’s definitely something you don’t want to take a chance on.
If you know of any other online stores, be sure to leave a comment and I’ll take a look.
Uchinanchu are lucky to live Hawaii as we have many Okinawan-owned restaurants and businesses. During the pandemic, many of these businesses have been hit hard so let’s do our best to help them and others too. The Okinawan FEASTival website has a list of places to support and keeps a Google Sheet with up-to-date information for what’s open or closed.
Here’s an excerpt from their website:
We are extremely lucky to have so many Okinawan dishes regularly available for us to eat. Not just for a special week but ALL YEAR. Okinawan dishes were not on regular menus but added on by request. The owners thought Okinawan food would not sell. If we don’t regularly order these dishes, then it will prove it’s not worth it to keep on menus. 😦 We need to prove that wrong!
Travis Seifman is probably one of my longest Twitter follows and I’ve learned so much from him about Ryukyu/Okinawa. He has so many amazing Twitter threads that it’s difficult to select one so I chose one of his more recent ones that happens to be linked to his blog post Ryukyu: Empire of the Sea. Speaking of his blog, 上り口説 Nubui Kuduchi, it’s the best English-language resource to learn about Ryukyu/Okinawa on the web.
Here’s an excerpt from the blog post mentioned above:
It’s rare enough to see whole special exhibits dedicated to Ryukyuan history, and as wonderful and special as it would have been to do a Shuri-centered or Okinawa-centered exhibit (both in general, and in the wake of the fire at Shuri gusuku in 2019), it’s really something to see them do a show based on perspectives from outside of Okinawa Island. I have to wonder, when was the last time that any of the most major museums in the greater Tokyo area did a show focusing specifically on these “outer” parts of the Ryukyus? And, not only that, but as I’ve mentioned on this blog before, there a several current trends in Ryukyu Studies for reassessment of the Ryukyu Kingdom as an “empire,” reassessment of just how unified even Okinawa Island really was prior to the 15th or 16th century, and an increased focus on these outer islands and the differing perspective they can offer.
Featured in a Rolling Stones Japan article and already having a song (Kingyo Sukui — her 1st digital single nonetheless) chosen to be an ending theme for a TV drama, is MATSURI set to become the next big breakout from Okinawa? Listen to the song on YouTube or on Apple Music to decide for yourself. Personally, I’m already a fan.
Today is the release day of Asato Mina’s 2nd single Shima nu Kokoro. The song has an Uchinaa Pop feel to it and has modern day Okinawa as its backdrop. Currently available for sale on iTunes and coming soon to music streaming services (outside of Japan). Follow Mina’s accounts on her InstaBio.