The islands of Okinawa are known for their natural beauty and people, as well as the harmonic sounds the people create in their lives.
One thing you can find in Okinawa is the rich diversity of things, be it in nature, or in the people you meet in the streets. Okinawa is a place for diversity and uniqueness. Music is one of the defining characters of a place. Though Okinawa has its two traditional Ryukyuan music styles, koten (classical) and min’yō (popular), the island has become a rich source of musical diversity.
Post-war Okinawa: Champuru Music
In the beginning of the post war era, the music scene in Okinawa started to become a haven of talents and a rich source of artists and performers. The time ushered in talents who mastered their craft in jazz, country, gospel and contemporary music.
Soon, locals were blending their traditional tunes with western ones, creating a different and unique kind of music. Walk along American village in Mihama and you come across restaurants playing music from traditional Ryukyuan, to jazz to hip hop and even K-pop. Have a stroll down Kokusai Street and you can find a chain of jazz bars along one block, hip hop bars on the other side and some locals engaging in some reggae music on the street.
An Okinawan duet
Two people who have been integral to the Okinawan music scene are husband and wife team Eddie and Mimi, who have been playing together for the past 30 years. Music has brought the two together; they’ve played in bands all over the island and played as a duo in some of the major music hubs in town. They’ve even won the prestigious Urasoe Music Festival in ‘98. Eddie and Mimi still play live in places like Coconut Moon, with a band at Renaissance Hotel at Onna-son village and Andalucia in Naha.
Teaching the next generation of musicians
Aside from making music together, Eddie and Mimi have helped ensure that music in Okinawa keeps its diversity. They established their own music school (Sunset Music School Okinawa) that caters to students of different ages and from all walks of life. Teachers are artists who are skilled in their craft, whether it’s piano, guitar, wind instruments, or the drums. They have kept the traditional Okinawan music alive by teaching sanshin to individuals who want to learn this different and unique local island instrument.