Ni-Utu-Umachii: Meeting the roots of Ryukyu music

Rinkenband is in the front line of Okinawa’s music today, and headlines the 2-day Ni-Utu Umachi event t Koza Music Town this weekend.

Ryukyu music has its roots in ancient times, with nature-power and spirituality of the Ryukyu Kingdom’s ancestors playing a big role, and that music’s wings have spread to be ever more popular, as will be discovered during this weekend’s set of concerts at Koza Music Town.

The Saturday and Sunday Pageant of Music concerts at Koza Music Town’s 1st floor open café are free, starting at 5 p.m. and running to 8 p.m. each evening.  Featured will be Rinkenband (Okinawan pop), Koichi Kamiya (Okinawan folk), Yuki Yamazato (Okinawan folk), Hajime Nakasone (Okinawan folk), Kozue Chinen (Okinawan folk), Chibana Usu-deku (Okinawan Traditional dance performance and drums), Goya Eisa (Okinawan Traditional dance performance and drums), and Okinawa City Association of Performing Arts Organizations (Okinawan Classical performing arts).  On Sunday, joining the performers will be Seijin Noborikawa (Okinawan folk) Aiko Yohena (Okinawan folk), Syuken Maekawa (Okinawan folk), Tatsuya Shimabukuro (Okinawan folk), Hajime Nakasone (Okinawan folk), Awase Chong-daraa (Okinawan Traditional dance performance), and Goya Eisa (Okinawan Traditional dance performance and drums).

What does it mean to feel the source of Okinawan music, to gaze into the origin of it, or listen to it?  There is the ritual of agriculture and fishery in which people pray for the fertility and peace. It gives them their lives the rhythm of “ Hare and Ke〈≒ the unusual and the usual〉”. It must be the key of gaining tranquility and ground note to our lives. The ritual entertainment is the roots of classical or popular performing arts.
The music of the islands was grown upon the roots, making the trunk tough, and has been fruitful as a plenty of music pieces with the profound taste. Usu-deku is the circle dance for the sacred nature and the spirituality only by destined women. Chong-daraa is the dancer with humor and wisdom.

In the classical music, we can feel the graceful glory of the Ryukyu dynasty with nostalgia. Numerous folksongs was the precious food for the mind of the people in Okinawa and emigrants overseas, around early 20th century. Still now, such the various music pieces are deeply breathing beside the islanders. And through them, we can see the archetype of the music or the dance which were, in those days, nothing but the pure expression of prayer and thankfulness for islanders’ rather peaceful days.

So, now, we must say it’s fruitful to feel the thankfulness for the successive tradition of the music, and to experience  “Ni-Utu, the roots music“. The day of Ni-Utu-Umachii invites us to sing a song of joy — the joy of again meeting, a reunion with the precious roots beneath each one’s feet.