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The Sugarcane Recordings June 25, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Music.
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Out in the country in Sashiki, the buzzes and drones from nocturnal critters was enthralling. So on our last night there, I convinced Jojo to sneak out of the house with me around 1 a.m. We sat in the middle of a dark sugarcane field and recorded some new songs with atmospheric accompaniment.

“International Cutie Pies”

“Moe Meguro”

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The Tonaki Song June 1, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Language, Music.
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One night on Tonaki Island, we went out to this seawall with Sigrunn, new friends Kinjo and Saya, the pink guitar, the recorder, two bottles of awamori and some panda chocolates. Here was the result:

This song utilizes some traditional elements of Okinawan folk and pop music:
1) Hogen phrases (akisamiyo = oh my god, deji = very)
2) Musical battle cry “iia za za!” (a vocable = lyrics with no lexical meaning)
3) Finger whistling (yubi bue)
4) Lyrics about a drunken creeper (a.k.a. Yamada Denki)
5) Power derived from distilled liquor (and chocolates)

Now to wax poetic. (more…)

Ideal Roommates May 28, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Language, Music.
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During our last week, Jojo and I filmed a music video for his band Please Quiet Ourselves. Jojo toted those masks around to Nakagusuku Castle, Kogen Hotel, Naha, and all over Okinawa City so we could present to you this:

A cab driver brought Jojo to tears by teaching him this Okinawan proverb: ichariba chode. Once we meet, we are brothers and sisters. We felt that strongly in Okinawa, being so quickly taken in by friends, and friends of friends of friends.This fraternal philosophy inspired the video.

“World Music” Boom May 7, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Language, Music.
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According to some experts, the surge of worldwide interest in Okinawan music stems from this song. The Boom is a mainland Japanese band, but the singer wrote “Shima Uta” after visiting Okinawa, and incorporated sanshin hooks and Hogen phrases. The Hogen title literally means “island music,” and the song is meant to capture the post-war island spirit.

According to Wikipedia, many others have covered this song, including … wait for it … ANDREW W.K.

Urasoe Bells May 4, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Music, Photos.
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I just found another citywide PA recording from Urasoe. I think it was marking the noon or 1 o’clock hour. You’ll get an idea of how serene the city could feel from our tatami mat apartment bedrooms, until the traffic light turned green (“blue”) on the major highway right below.

A Sanshin Social May 2, 2010

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Here’s Kinjo-san and one of his masters students at our last lesson with him. Let the minor imperfections in this song remind that most people in Okinawa learn and play music simply for the joy of it — spending time with friends, sipping tea between songs, and making beautiful sounds, not making money.

Notice the Little Mermaid sanshin up on the wall?

Cosmic Preservation April 30, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Music.
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Unfortunately I didn’t get to perform with the Okinawan gamelan ensemble as planned, but I did snag some recordings during our practice session.

This song begins quietly with the gendèr (bronze keys with bamboo resonators, played with two hands and dampened with the wrists) doing the introduction. Dig it:

Even If the Engine Fails April 30, 2010

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I guess there’s no point in trying to hide that we’re no longer in Okinawa. Jojo and I returned to California on Monday due to a family emergency, with many lessons, concerts and friends left unseen. Another trip is definitely in order, partly because I don’t feel I’m finished with the studies I wanted to do.

Please don’t stop reading — there’s still lots of catching up to do, some audio and video that never got posted, plus reflections and further research.

While there, I tried to think of all my favorite traveling songs. Here’s a homecoming song by Sacramento artist Justin Farren that became painfully relevant. I listened to it about a dozen times on the plane.

“Cassiar”
from Songs from Spare Rooms
© badservicebadger 2008

By the way, I had Justin in mind when I wrote about the anonymity of folk music. He’s been locally famous for years, and even though he could arguably make it big, he’s always opted to stick with a faithful Sacramento audience. I like that.

Sanshin Lesson #4 April 23, 2010

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We had another lesson with Kinjo-sensei last night, and we finally nailed “Aha Bushi,” the beginner’s beginner song:

So serious!

Support World Music on the Radio! April 22, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Music, Other Arts.
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There’s a little place back home with a big place in my heart. It’s been the hardest thing to be without. Sure, I miss eating cheese and sleeping on a mattress, but what I miss the most is KDVS.

As a timid UC Davis freshman, the campus radio station offered me a like-minded community and a home-away-from-dorm. As a rock/pop DJ, its extensive library encouraged me to dig deeper.

My musical discoveries at KDVS led me to studying ethnomusicology, wanting to learn about music as culture all over the world. I probably wouldn’t be in Okinawa if it weren’t for KDVS, even though ending my radio show was the most difficult part of leaving.

So, I would like to ask you to support KDVS’ annual fundraiser this week. We’re trying to raise $60,000 by Sunday to cover two-thirds of the yearly operating budget that UC Davis doesn’t pay for. The station provides a 24/7 signal of awesome freeform programming, and to keep that coming we need your help.

It’s a tax-deductible donation, and we’ll also send you thank-you packages of your choice — packs of three, four, five CDs, records, gift certificates, books, T-shirts, a dance party, a date, anything. Here are some premium packages I recommend, for a $25 donation as a student/low-income or $40 general.

International:
Women of Africa / Soweto Gospel Choir
Youssour N’Dour / Seun Kuti
Global Drum Project

Hip-hop and electronic:
NASA / Julio Child / Lyrics Born
Felix Da Housecat / Unagi

Crossing those boundaries:
Chillis / Lushlife / KDVS Hip-hop Mixtape
Chillis / Exile / Daedelus

This T-shirt that I designed last year:
Mobile DJ Unit shirt

And — this is unsanctioned and we’re not really supposed to do this, but — if you tell me you pledged at least $10 to KDVS, I’ll send you a copy of the compilation I’m going to make with all our recordings from Okinawa, with professional recordings mixed in. It will be dope.

So please pledge! We all have to pitch in to keep international and underground music and voices on the air. Thank you!