Okinawan Music Explored at ‘Strings of Ryūkyū’ Event

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Miki Nakamine (Photo by Joseph Kamiya)

Miki Nakamine (Photo by Joseph Kamiya)

GARDENA — The Okinawa Association of America (OAA) in Gardena will host a special event celebrating the sanshin, a traditional three-stringed instrument that is synonymous with Okinawan music, on Saturday, March 5, at 1 p.m.

Los Angeles residents might recognize the sanshin — a snake-skinned, banjo-like instrument — from an OAA event or a local Japanese festival. The goal of the March 5 event is to present an opportunity to learn more about this ancient instrument and Okinawan music in general through lectures, performances, and a beginner-level sanshin lesson.

Utilizing Skype video, a professional sanshin craftsman from Okinawa, Miki Nakamine, will present a lecture detailing the history and making of the instrument. The lecture will be in Japanese with simultaneous English translation. Nakamine is a member of the Sanshin Kumiai (Union) in Naha, which was established in 2010 and consists of 18 professional artisans who specialize in the craft and repair of sanshin.

Chogi Higa, a local instructor of Uchināguchi (one of the endangered Ryūkyūan languages), will present English translations for three popular Okinawan folk songs. Since traditional songs were written in the Ryūkyūan languages, many people cannot understand the lyrics. Higa, who was recently honored with a commendation from the Japanese consul general in L.A., is one of the few instructors in the U.S. who teaches Uchināguchi.

Throughout the day, traditional and contemporary Okinawan songs will be performed by local sanshin musicians. The event will also include an introductory lesson for audience members to play the sanshin and learn a beginner-level song. No experience necessary and a limited number of sanshin will be available to use at the event. People who own a sanshin are encouraged to bring it for the lesson.

This event is part of an ongoing series of educational programs at the OAA. Admission is $5 for current OAA members and $10 for non-members. RSVP is required; email [email protected] or call (310) 532-1929. The OAA is located at 16500 S. Western Ave. in Gardena.

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