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Chibi brings Ryukyu Magic to audiences

Date Posted: 2001-06-08

Early music on Okinawa called "omoro" began with the rhythmic beat of hand clapping and primitive drums. "Taiko" drums are a direct link to that early period in music. The solo drum show of "Ryukyu Magic" connects those early beginnings with present modern day music. It mixes the traditional beat of drums with music and singing, creating an atmosphere that evokes a proud spirit of the Ryukyu Islands.

"Ryukyu Magic" is Eiichi Miyanaga, who seeks to bring to the rest of the world the beautiful culture of Ryukyu through his drum performances. The 50-year-old Okinawan has played drums since he was 15 years of age, but he is best known for his contributions to rock and roll in Japan.

As a young boy, he grew up in the area of Koza, where he learned to speak English from U.S. soldiers during the 1960's. He began to crave for western culture and music, and became a rock icon in Okinawa as the drummer for the former popular rock band, "Murasaki". Known as "Chibi" among his friends and fans, Miyanaga played with "Murasaki" through the seventies until their break up. He then played a short time with another well known rock band called "Condition Green", where he got the chance to go to Los Angeles in 1980 for the first time to record an album.

"It was the first time that I got to see Americans who were not soldiers," Chibi explains. The experience was very important for the drummer, who elaborated saying "I wanted us to be like an American or European rock group. I always followed their music when I was young."

Coming back to Okinawa he formed rock group Zodiac, but by the early 1990's Chibi started to feel the need to expand his music beyond rock'n roll. "I started to think to myself - what is my original music? I was using American words for a long time in my music, but it wasn't my culture," he says. "I wanted to show people my origins, so I learned my history. I started with the memories I had of my grandmother, who showed me Okinawan culture when I was a child."

Chibi began to study traditional and classical Okinawan music. As a drummer, he put these inspirations from his island's culture into songs that combined his own style of music with the traditional background he was learning. "In my mind I have many Okinawan melodies, so I made my own drums to play these songs." The result is "Ryukyu Magic."

"I want to show people the true Okinawan culture. Okinawa is a small place, but we have good music and many original things to give. And, the people have good hearts," Chibi explains. "We have to show the world our beautiful ocean, sky, and people." With this new message, Chibi has been playing and singing at various clubs and festivals on the island as "Ryukyu Magic" since April 1, 1995. Chibi is also concerned with the social changes occurring among Japanese people. "People change with money and lose the important things. We have to think about what is true, and get back to nature."

Making connections across the globe is what "Ryukyu Magic" is all about. He's been building up the Okinawan Rock Society as the president since '98. He also joined the New Murasaki, a rock group formed by George Murasaki, his sons and friends.

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