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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.

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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:

Contemporary Sanshin & Kachashi Dance April 20, 2010

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The other day we saw a supposedly famous Okinawan singer, Yogi-san. She’s a prime example of classical music in a contemporary context.

She also offered a beginners’ lesson in kachashi, the traditional folk dance. This was after a full day of awamori taste-testing, so most of the people in this room are pretty soused.

Lo-res is the best res. Not really, but that’s all we’ve got for video.

Street Beats April 18, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Music.
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Also, this guy did a rap for me.

Later he took off his shirt and asked passers-by to feel his arms. His favorite English phrase was “New York Police!”

Rhymes & Revelations April 18, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Music, Photos.
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I have been trying so hard to focus on strictly native culture here, what is truly Okinawan — to ignore and refuse American or Western influence, especially within music. But last night at a hip-hop/punk concert in Naha, I realized: It’s pretty comforting that some music is so universal.

These originally American, or at least Western, genres of music have traveled halfway around the world to foster the same kind of fraternal atmosphere we get back home. It was one of those kinds of shows where, by the end of it, you feel like you’re homies with everyone there.

There’s nothing inherently Japanese about the music besides the language, but I have trouble understanding lyrics even in English. The DJ played mostly Japanese tracks, but he also bumped NOFX, Op Ivy and House of Pain.

It was a refreshing show, to see rappers and punk rockers on the same stage, live painters and live tattoo artists, hip-hop-heads and punks, fixie kids and skater kids, all together. Those identities were so blurred that my perceptions of people (i.e. judgmental judgments) were totally shot, and then gone.

Basically, the night reminded me that these tags of “American” or “Western” influence are not evil, and really don’t even apply. Hip-hop is still hip-hop, anywhere in the world. Punks are still punks, anywhere in the world.

Rising above any negative history or current affairs, music is meant to be spread, appropriated, reshaped and shared — crossing boundaries in identity, nationality and geography. And if it brings a bit of my idea of home to Japan, then it’s all good, it’s all good!

More photos…

East Meets Southeast April 13, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Music.
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Sorry Okinawa, but today my heart is in Indonesia!

This community gamelan group practices at the Geidai arts university in Naha. The director, Ryosen Kameshima, plays in the Gender Sanshin Trio. Since the Indonesian music scale is so similar to the Ryukyuan music scale, they sometimes add sanshin to their ensemble. So pretty! I can’t wait to go back.

Lunch Partners in the Park April 4, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Food and Drink, Photos.
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These guys immediately descended on me and my bento of marinated saba and chicken. Did you know that if a cat is hungry enough, it will eat rice?

Naha Nomikai April 3, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Music, Other Arts, Photos.
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Yesterday was our last night in Naha (for now), so I set out in the rain alone after dark, armed only with an umbrella, one karate lesson and my recorder. I wandered some side streets until I heard live music spilling from an izakaya.

Here’s the owner, Ryouko Miyazato — or Mama-san. She has an amazing voice, and she proudly showed me posters of operas she performed in.

Somehow I got charged ¥1,000 for one glass of juice, but it came with andagi donuts, tempura, a photo shoot, posture correction, a kachashi (like Okinawan hula) dance lesson, a sanshin lesson, and a drum lesson. Here’s my debut on the drums (nothing fancy), accompanying Uehara Katsunori:

Here’s Uehara-san singing again, thanking first me and then, one by one, all the traveling guests. The clackety sound is from wooden sanba, like castanets:

The night really exemplified how this music bridges gaps, in many ways. Most of the customers were tourists from Tokyo, but everyone became Okinawan when singing and dancing. It was mostly an older crowd, but when a team of young eisa dancers and musicians joined in, the music became ageless.

Oh yeah, photo-shoot photos

Japanese Soul Food April 1, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Food and Drink.
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There’s this delicious Japanese food called okonomiyaki. It’s like a giant savory pancake omelet full of veggies, meat and sometimes noodles. This one here has cabbage, pickled ginger, onions and Okinawan soba.

Yusuke-san, who works here at the Sora House, cooked up an okonomiyaki feast for us! This is soon to be topped with a special okonomiyaki sauce (similar to the thick plum sauce), mayonnaise and Bonito flakes.

So good! Just a few potatoes away from a proper Passover celebration.

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!