Okinawa Tourism Information:GreatGatheringforSingersfrom12Islands“All-IslandShimautaExchangeEventinKumejima”FirstAmbitiousProjectinOkinawa

Great Gathering for Singers from 12 Islands “All-Island Shimauta Exchange Event in Kumejima” First Ambitious Project in Okinawa

post : 2014.06.10 21:00

On Sunday, May 18, a music event “All-Island Shimauta (islands’ songs) Exchange Event in Kumejima” (Organized by All-Island Shimauta Exchange Executive Committee) was held for the first time in Okinawa.  The stage was set up on Kume Island, which is located about 100 km west of Okinawa Main Island.  From 12 islands of Okinawa (Okinawa Main Island, Minami Daito Island, Aguni Island, Kume Island, Miyako Island, Irabu Island, Ishigaki Island, Taketomi Island, Kuro Island, Aragusuku Island, Iriomote Island, Yonaguni Island), 36 singers got together to perform their songs respectively in front of about 500 audience from in and out of the islands. 

I would like to share a part of the 4-hour, intensive program with you here.

An obaa (Okinawan word for an elderly lady)"who sang without an accompaniment, a young solo sanshin (Okinawan traditional three-stringed instrument) singer, an about 10-people group including players for samba (a castanet-like Okinawan instrument) and taiko (drum), there were a variety of music formations.

Lively performances, earthy ones, and wistful ones… each island shows its own characteristic through the music performance.  You have not been to their islands, but you can see sceneries of the islands.  That’s how I felt while listening to their music.

In the middle of the event, kuichaa (a local traditional song / dance of Miyako Island) performers appeared on the stage, and the last performance was, of course, an obligatory dance “kachaasii” (an Okinawan dance for performing on auspicious occasions at festivals, weddings, parties etc.).  Men and women of all ages joined the performers and had the honor of closing the show.

Ms. Mika Asaka, who set up this event, has been in charge of interviewing and writing for a regular feature on Okinawan islands’ songs “Koishi Shimauta no Kaze (Longing for Wind of Islands’ Songs)” started in January, 2011 in “Churashima Story,” an Okinawan tourism information site presented by JTA. 

She was an MC for the event. Her swinging talk and perfect interacting with performers made the venue filled with laugher from start to finish. 

 “For “Koishi Shimauta no Uta,” I have visited islands in Okinawa for reporting representative shimauta one by one and written the historical backdrop, lyrics, drifts, episodes of the songs as well as the islanders’ passion for the songs every month.  This April made the 31st times I have written articles for the series.” 

Mr. Asahide Taira, whom I had a chance to meet for reporting the 8th article on “Kurushimuigushiku-bushi” in Kume Island in 2011, said this on the phone;

“I want to see singers on the other islands.”

It seems that his words triggered the first step to hold this exchange event.

For the past four years, I have great opportunities to meet singers on many islands through the interviews on shimauta.  Some of the other singers also told me “It will be enjoyable if we can exchange with singers on the other islands.” 

All the singers have been living, working, getting involved in the island’s events, singing, and been deeply entrenched in their islands.

“Someday we want to have an occasion of exchange through shimauta.  We want to connect all the islanders and all the islands through our shimauta.”

Their dream finally came true in a form of the event ““All-Island Shimauta Exchange Event in Kumejima.”

“It is even a “miracle” for singers and sanshin players from as many as twelve islands gathered for the first event.  I am eternally grateful to all the singers who took time in their busy schedule to participate in this event from afar, and to the people on Kume island who gave warm cooperation and support. Thank you very much.”

Ms. Asaka spent about half a year scrambling to prepare for this event. It is easy to imagine that it was nothing but a difficulty because every thing she did was the first time for her.  For that reason alone, the expression of a sense of fulfillment she showed on her face at the end of the event said it all.

As you know, Okinawa consists of about 160 large and small islands.  For visiting from one island to the other island, you need to take a plane or a ferry.  Most of the cases, you have to go to your destination by way of big island like Okinawa Main Island or Ishigaki Island, which is costly and time-consuming.

Seen in that light, it required an extraordinary effort and labor to have the performers get together from each of the remote islands.  This event can be an unprecedented, challenging project that nobody has ever realized. 

So is there a chance to hold the next exchange?

“The participants this time said to me; “It is my treasure to have had an exchange with singers and sanshin players from the other islands,” “I had a wonderful experience,” “It was great!”  They were very delighted and the exchange event made a huge success.  The singers asked me “Please hold it next year again.” “Please continue the event every year.”  For now I don’t know when and on which island we can hold it, but I hope we can continue the event by visiting each island every few years, including other islands which could not join us this time.  In addition, I want to provide information on Facebook.  The shimauta exchange event  has an equal value to a one-day travel to Okinawa islands.   I will be very happy if people out of Okinawa also come and join us for the next event,” she told me her strong motivation for her “Second Act” and after that with her naturally lively smile.

All-Island Shimauta Exchange Event in Kumejima 2014

Date: 14:00 to 18:00, Sunday May 18
Place: Kumejima Town Gushikawa Environment Improvement Center
(730Nakadomari, Kumejima Town)
TEL: 098-896-7010(Kume Island Tourism Association)
Admission: 1,000 yen (advanced) 1,500 yen (at the door)
Host: All-Island Shimauta Exchange Executive Committeeお知らせ/全島しまうた交流会/


Okinawa CLIP Photo Writer  Kiwamu Ogawa