Okinawa is an island located far south in the group of Japanese Islands stretching from north to south. From Tokyo to Naha (Okinawa), it's a distance of 1700 kilo meters. Further south of Naha, Miyako Island, Yaeyama Island and other subtropical islands stretch even further down, forming an arc shape against the background of a beautiful ocean. These islands number over a hundred and sixty. And you get to the furthest south to the Yonaguni Island, you've come pretty close to the country of Formosa.
If I may be forgiven for making such a statement, Okinawa is not Japan. I would like to think it as an independent nation. It's so entirely different from the mainland. The people of Uchina (Okinawa) had their own language, climate, ways and customs which they nurtured and prized. That is why they have an i
ndependent culture they are proud of, that they can continue introducing to the rest of the world. Okinawa is Okinawa.
It is often said that Okinawa is "a treasury of culture and songs". People dance and sing in their everyday lives. People always had their island songs for when they were happy and when they were sad. And they had their songs, of course for when they were in love. And today, people still gather to sing and dance for weddings, when a baby is born, when a house is built, when the crops are full, when fishing is good and also to pay respect to the ancestors. They drink their liquor aomori and holding their Sanshin (instrument) in one hand, they dance. As fingers on the Sanshin start to move faster, someone will start a Kachashi (an impromptu dance with a fast rhythm) with their palms up tow
ards the heavens. Forget about things that don't matter, these are happy moments, and why not make a wish for tomorrow's happiness, too! You always find in these circles, great spirited Oji (middle aged men) and Oba (middle aged women). Maybe it's due to the island songs that Okinawa people can claim the foremost longevity in Japan. You can feel the souls of the strong but gentle folks of the Okianawa in the island songs or folk songs that have been handed down the generations.
Okinawa music became popular starting around 1990 and younger generation Okinawa artists started producing pops based on traditional folk music. Okinawa music is now quite popular among the young. They seem to hit the right place, being original, fresh sounds that are unlike the Western type pops. There are now more than a few musicians in and outside Japan who claim to have been "baptized" by the Okinawa music.
The songs from "ISLAND" that you are listening to just now are a brand new type of music that weaves with a great touch, the "do, mi, fa, so, shi" of the Okinawa scale with sounds of ambiance. Each piece recorded on the "ISLAND" has
a beautiful melody and among these are three vocal numbers well known in Okinawa.
'TYNSAGUNU BANA' (a garden balsam) is a song that teaches, "Color of the garden balsam dyes your finger nails, Thus, let the words of your parents dye your heart".
"The Moon is lovely for thirteen nights, A Maid is lovely until she is 17" goes the song of 'CHIKINU KAISHIYA', a lullaby known on the Yaeyama Island. It used to be a festival song praying for an abundant harvest but became to be known as a song for children.
'AKATA SUNDUNCHI' is sang with words translated into English by a singer whose forte is soulful pops. Her name is Hitomi Touyama or Penny.
Singing her heart out with the Uchinaguchi is Kyoko Gushiken. She is a professional folk singer. But she is also the lady manager of the soba (noodle) restaurant in Tomishiro. If she warms up enough, this soba (noodle) cook will s
tart singing and dancing with the folks at her restaurant. For her, island songs are not anything fancy but a part of her life. To eat her great Okinawa soba noodles, warming up to her island songs and even dancing the kachashi woul
d be a great way to enjoy Okinawa.
In the Okinawa dialect, the southern wind is called "feinukaji". If you let yourself enjoy the feinukaji carried to you by the "ISLAND", you will certainly be able to feel the flow of time immemorial from Okinawa, an unhurried leisure.