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Sanshin Lesson #3 April 20, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Language, Music.
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Jojo and I attended Kinjo-sensei’s sanshin lesson in Okinawa City last week. We fumbled through a couple of classical songs (clarification: I fumbled, Jojo really read the music) while the other, far more experienced students patiently waited. Then they busted out this jam:

Interesting sanshin facts:

  • sanshin literally translates to “three strings”
  • they are traditionally covered with python snake skin
  • the low string is known as the male string, and the high the female
  • the head of the instrument is “sky” (but, you know, in Japanese), and the taiko body is “earth”
  • the hogen lyrics of “Kagiyadefu” (which Jojo wrote about last week) translate roughly to: “How can I express the joy of this morning? I was a wilting flower, then the dew touched me and I was revitalized.”

There’s a professor at San Francisco State named Wesley Uenten who teaches Okinawan culture and sanshin. After hearing so much slow, sad sanshin music, I have to remember how Wesley explained Okinawa music:

Okinawans are capable of hating and loving passionately — always a mix of extremes — so even joyous songs sound somber.

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Comments»

1. Tom Corrao - April 30, 2010

http://chicagookinawakenjinkai.blogspot.com/ery good but one small correction. Sanshins are covered with the skin of a python not a Habu. Habu skins are too small to be stretched over the body of the sanshin. Pythons are used from the days of the Ryukyu Kingdom when Okinawa was the hub of trade in Asia. I believe thay were attained from trade with Indonesia. Today you can still get real snake skin sanshins but the Simulated vinyl python skins are much easier to get through customs.

Elisa - April 30, 2010

Thanks for the info! I corrected it.


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