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Culture Combo March 30, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Music.
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We’ve been able to see a lot of live music in the last few days, thanks to the music festival and Ben’s performance at a hip-hop/R&B club in Itoman. And last night I went to MAFALi Cafe, a hip Afro-Caribbean-inspired restaurant in downtown Naha, and saw this group VaNa MaZi.

So what if they are from Austin, Texas. I still want to feature them here. This was their last night in Okinawa after staying here three months, and violinist Corinna wrote this song in particular while living here. The admittedly Game Boy-borrowed beat is a little bit of Japan in their normally acoustic folk set.

They are definitely headlining a show at the Domes in the future!

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Urasoe, Come On Baby! March 29, 2010

Posted by Jojo in Photos.
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It has been a while since I posted, so I still need to say goodbye to Urasoe.

Really fun. Big music post coming soon. See you, bye bye.

Just a Reminder March 29, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Language, Photos.
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The Raddest Record Players I Have Ever Seen March 29, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Music, Photos.
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Today we went into a sweet antique shop called Shinai Denki just off Kokusai Dori, the main shopping district. They had all kinds of awesome odds and ends, and they gave us some sushi. But the best stuff was all the turntables:

A crank-operated 78 player. He threw on a French version of “Beyond the Sea.”
EDIT: He threw on the old French song that “Beyond the Sea” is based on. Thanks, Allan.

Hella cute rocketship portable player.

The tiniest turntable ever, complete with a box of 3-inch ’50s and ’60s singles.
Instead of selecting 33 or 45 on it, you turn a knob from “slow” to “fast.”

I’m not sure I had ever seen a jukebox quite like this before.
Too bad you can’t see the ’50s song titles written in Japanese.

Traditional Trio March 29, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Music.
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Part Two of the music festival conference was a networking party, which I usually hate except that I actually networked with some really cool people. And also we got to watch this traditional style trio, Uizuasu, perform a few songs. Here’s their closing number:

Kirei, ne?

The Okinawan Music Business March 29, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Music, Other Arts.
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To me, the title of this entry is a contradiction in terms. It’s at least something I never considered before, but here’s why I’m thinking about it now:

Musix 2010, the Okinawa International Asia Music Festival, was this weekend, and as part of the festival conference we attended a keynote address and panel discussion on music business issues.

(more…)

Doppelgänger March 28, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Photos.
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Yo, this shisa hell of looks like ALF.

Djembe Jam March 27, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Music.
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Today we moved into a cute hostel in Naha, Sora House. It’s right in downtown, a few minutes’ walk from the main shopping district, and we share a building with a maid cafe. Pretty sweet, huh?

I think a lot of the guests here are from mainland Japan, but we saw a guy from New Zealand come in, too. This guy was offering djembe lessons and had a pretty good jam with Jojo:

Last Night March 27, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Photos.
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Tonight’s our last night in Urasoe, and our last night here at JSL.

Tomorrow begins the third leg of our trip: The Unknown. With no specifics in mind, we’ll be around Naha and Okinawa City and maybe a couple other little towns for all of April, trying to meet musicians and other people of interest.

Then in May we’ll hopefully go to Tokyo to hang out with Sigrunn, who may as well be our cousin now too. And on May 10, just as our visitors’ visas expire, we shall return home, triumphant and broke.

Sanshin Lesson #1 March 26, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in History, Music.
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The most famous sanshin player here who’s not Okinawan is Byron Jones. He has established himself as an expert of Okinawan culture and language, even though born American, and now he teaches sanshin to native Okinawans.

Byron is a friend of Mike, our program director, and old friend of our moms, so he let me sit in on this week’s lesson at the Urasoe community center.

Most of the hour-and-a-half practice was spent eating a Hotto Motto platter and congratulating one of the students, who just completed a master’s degree in Ryukyuan studies at age 75.

But I did learn about this notation: Music is read from right to left in vertical columns. The right side of the column is for the voice, which also includes symbols denoting inflection and intonation, and the left side is for the sanshin notes, written in kanji characters.

Byron also explained the two main schools of classical sanshin music. The original is named for its creator, Afuso, the elder students. This method is said to be the “more pure.” One of Afuso’s students, Nomura, was chosen by the king to develop a new style of music, Amuro, which I think is more widely practiced today. (If I got any of this wrong, feel free to correct.)

He gave me some homework to memorize the note positions, since sanshin has no frets. Hopefully I will have more information as weekly lessons continue!