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Court Music Concert February 21, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in History, Music.
Tags: , , , , ,

Okinawa’s geographic location between mainland Japan, Southeast Asia, Korea and Taiwan makes it an ideal position for the U.S. Armed Forces. But more importantly, the strategic position allows pan-Asian influence on the music. We got to see examples of the resulting product last night at the Korinza theater in Koza, a free concert of traditional Okinawan court music and dance.

The plucked sanshin came from China to Japan via the Ryukyus (and later evolved into the better-know shamisen). The Japanese koto zither bares strong resemblance to the Korean kayageum (conflicting stories on which one came first). Certain dance costumes are borrowed from the Chinese, and certain emphatic hand movements are borrowed from Indonesia.

The opening piece featured 39 sanshins/singers, nine kotos, one shakuhachi bamboo flute, one fiddle and one drummer.

My favorite piece was with a smaller ensemble and these two dancers. Our friend Michiko-san told us it’s a fishing song from Onna Village (where we moved to today). The sanshins and kotos play in unison, and the dancers correlate most with the drums.

All the songs were sung in hogen, the native Okinawan language. It’s no longer taught in schools and has largely fallen out of everyday use, so probably this is the only medium in which the dialect will survive.



1. Electrofishing « oki yo! - March 24, 2010

[…] that the compilation Ryukyu Underground also has an electro version of “Soi Soi,” the traditional fishing song I recorded at the court music concert. I still like the original better, but it’s fun to compare and […]

David Rothauser - August 24, 2012

Dear Elisa,

I love your recordings of Okinawa music. How may I find a copy of the Court Music Concert? Or may I download it? I’m especially interested in the opening piece. Is it called “Oki yo?



Elisa Hough - August 24, 2012

Hi David, thanks for reading! “oki yo” is just a nonsense name for the blog, but I’ve forgotten the name of the koto piece. There’s no where to download it now, but I could make one or two pieces available if you’re interested.

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