Much thanks to the Okinawaology Blog for pointing out that a November 19 2010 performance of Kumi Odori (or Kumi-udui in Okinawan) has been made available by the Okinawa Times on YouTube.
Kumi-udui (組踊) is an Okinawan theatre form which originated in 1719, when Tamagusuku Chôkun (玉城朝薫), the Ryukyuan Magistrate of Dance (udui bugyô, 踊奉行), devised this new form of theatre in order to serve as a new form of entertainment for Chinese investiture envoys, come to Ryukyu to officially acknowledge, on behalf of the Chinese Imperial Court, Shô Kei as king of Ryukyu. Chôkun had previously spent time in both China and Japan, and Kumi udui definitely shows the influence of Noh and kabuki, and of Chinese theatrical forms as well.
It’s a beautiful display of Okinawan traditional arts, incorporating classical sanshin music, classical/literary Okinawan language, bingata and other textile arts and fashion, and of course dance.
Kumi Odori was just last month designated one of the world’s important “Intangible Cultural Heritages” by UNESCO. I have yet to see it in person, and somehow was under the impression that it was much less frequently performed, much less available, but apparently it is still performed, and I now hope to see it in person some day.
Nidô tichiuchi (二童敵討), the play seen here, was in fact one of the two first plays written by Tamagusuku Chôkun for that first performance in front of the Chinese investiture envoys. It tells the story of two boys, Chirumachi (鶴松) and Kamijû (亀千代), who seek revenge against Amawari (阿麻和利), lord of Katsuren gusuku (Katsuren castle), for the death of their father, Gosamaru (護佐丸), lord of Nakagusuku.
Basically, the legend goes that Amawari, desiring more power and territory for himself, and with his eye on the throne, told the king that Gosamaru was plotting to overthrow him. Amawari was given command of the king’s forces, with which to attack the supposed traitor Gosamaru. The latter, out of loyalty to his king and kingdom, refused to fight back, and committed suicide in his fortress of Nakagusuku. Amawari’s schemes were soon discovered, however, and he was executed.
I must admit I have yet to watch these YouTube videos of the play, so I am not sure how the theatrical version of the story goes, but, here it is, with subtitles in Okinawan and Japanese, but not in English, I’m afraid:
A brief summary and explanation:
Scene 1: The Appearance of Amawari
Scene 2: The two boys leave their mother (to go execute their revenge plot)
Scene 3: Amawari’s Outing, and the Revenge (First Half)
Scene 3: Amawari’s Outing, and the Revenge (Second Half)