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New shop promotes Okinawan Eisa scene

By: David Knickerbocker

Date Posted: 2002-03-14

A new Eisa (traditional Okinawan dance) shop recently opened in Okinawa City to serve as a central base for promoting Eisa activity throughout the island. The store sells all kinds of Eisa-related goods including costumes, CDs, books, pictures and other accessories. They also hand out information related to Okinawa City's Koza area. The concept for opening the shop was to promote Eisa for everybody, and they have done a good job of helping people to understand the art form. And when customers come to owner Yoshihiko Nakama asking for lessons and demonstrations, he serves them in this manner as well.

There really isn't too much information out there about Eisa events, and that's why Nakama decided to open his doors. He wanted to centralize the promotion of Eisa in Okinawa to make it a stronger driving force in the island music and art world. Nakama hopes to have more relationships with military members through his venture. He really wants to make this the key location for the traditional music scene, and he hopes that other Eisa groups will work with him. His shop was not opened as a store per se but rather as a headquarters for the Eisa world. "Making money selling Okinawan culture doesn't seem the right way to do it," he says. "I want to promote Eisa and make a profit, but handling this issue seems to be a hurdle."

As many young people have been attracted to his shop, he hopes he can help educate the younger generation on the art form. His store has also become a hangout, and talented young musicians often drop by to talk or play their music outside. Everybody, young and old, is welcome here. Nakama also says he'll gladly help with events for other musicians to give them a chance to make it in the Okinawa music scene. He feels that if he is able to intertwine Eisa music with other forms, the art will become significantly more popular.

Be sure to drop by the new Eisa shop located in Palumiya Street between Park Ave and Gate 2 Street. When walking by, you'll hear traditional Eisa music being played, while a TV monitor outside shows video footage of past Eisa performances. Also, the store sells a few informative books on Eisa written in English that are quite enlightening.

Book review: "The Power of Okinawa"

The Power of Okinawa Roots Music from the Ryukyus is an English book about the traditional music of Okinawa. In it, John Potter, assistant professor at Kogokkan University and regular contributor to the music pages in the Kansai Time Out, describes the history of Okinawa, its culture and music, and some of the most famous musicians from Okinawa, including Kina Shoukichi. Potter also describes the direction the music is headed in modern times and gives a list of recommended albums at the end of the book to help point the reader in the right direction. The book is written in English and is a good introduction to the music of Okinawa and its surrounding islands. The Book is sold at Campas Record on R330 near Plaza House.

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