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My Dream Through Music

By: Mai Matayoshi

Date Posted: 2000-11-17

The following is the text of a speech by Mai Matayoshi of Shuri Junior High School, who won the Naha School District Speech Competition, then the All Okinawa contest. Next Thursday, November 23, she goes to Tokyo to recite the speech in the 52nd national event. There will be three contestants from each of the 47 prefectures. Over three days the 141 contestants will be whittled down to 26 who will take part in the final.

I was born and raised on the small island of Okinawa. I like my hometown, but I've never stopped to think about what its culture truly meant to me. The Okinawan people, by nature, are a beautiful people who love to sing and dance. They sing and dance when they are happy and often when they are sad. We have a long heritage of traditional music that helps us express our feelings; yet, only by traveling to New York City, did I realize how truly powerful is the Okinawan music.

I have trained to be a professional singer and dancer since I was in elementary school. While working with a group of singers, I realized that America was the best place to study music. Last spring I traveled to Manhattan in New York City. New York City was an exciting place. After spending a few days in the city, I realized that communication was a problem. Everything around me was written in English, and every one around me spoke so fast that I could not understand. I was shocked more by the differences in language than I was by the differences in culture. At first, I thought I wouldn't be able to stay very long; but, at the same time I told myself I should be more challenged.

There was always music on the streets of Manhattan; I felt that the music welcomed me. I had always been able to express myself through music; now I found that the music on the streets of a foreign country was healing and relaxing me.

On one of my excursions, I found a church in Harlem. In this church the preacher and the church members sang powerfully and passionately. The preacher played the drums and the chorus shouted "Jesus!" Their music had a powerful beat and the singers seemed to express happiness and sadness together. I was very touched by the performance and recognized that I had had similar feelings in the past. The African-American gospel music reminded me of my hometown Okinawan music. I remembered our own Okinawan "kachashi songs" as I listened and observed to the gospel singers in Harlem, New York City.

"Kachashi" lexically means to mix. Okinawan people always sing and dance "kachashi" whenever they have a wedding or something wonderful to celebrate. The rapid rhythm and simple melodies are easy to remember and make people want to dance. Okinawan people sing about their momentary feelings in “kachashi” songs. Sadness, anger, ethnic differences can be mixed in “kachashi” and can be changed into the joy of life. “Kachashi” has a power that fulfills the mental culture of the Okinawan people. I realized how great our Okinawan music was when I heard the greatness of that gospel music in Harlem.

I thought how wonderful it could be if people in the world could share the same feelings through music. Music can be a bridge for all of us to open up our minds and feelings so that we can live together peacefully. Gospel and street music opened my eyes and taught me for what kind of music I should strive.

Now my dream is to become an entertainer. I think I am lucky to have had the time to think about why people love music and why they sing and dance. I want to accept the challenge to become a singer and an entertainer who can help bring love and peace to all the people in the world.

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