Posts Tagged ‘Kina Shokichi’

I suppose I ought to perhaps do a post introducing Okinawan Pop, and my love of it, before delving into this one aspect, but I figure I’ll get around to that intro post fairly soon anyway, and this subject is on my mind right now.

When in Okinawa a few weeks ago, I happened upon the official live house (not a real English word, I know) of Kina Shoukichi and Champloose (喜納昌吉&チャンプルーズ), one of the top acts in the Okinawan pop boom of the 1970s, and ended up with a free DVD, a 20 min video documentary about Shoukichi’s political activism. Elected a member of the Diet back in 2004, he was a very active activist before then, and remains so today I believe.

His message, like that of many other activists the world over, is simple: Peace. He expresses this in a number of slogans, chief among which is 「すべての武器を楽器に」 (“All weapons into musical instruments”), and has taken part in a number of Marches for Justice and the like, various activities throughout the world, performing in UN Plaza in NY, in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, in a town on the border of North and South Korea, and in Baghdad in 2003, as well as at one point apparently running a “peace boat” sporting his slogan on its sail from Yonaguni (the westernmost point in Japan) up to the main islands.

It’s very easy to get caught up in his music, in his message, and I do love the idea that people all around the world do enjoy such exotic and obscure music – most people probably don’t even know where Okinawa is, let alone anything about its history or culture. The music is moving, loud, and energetic, the costumes bright and colorful.

But ultimately, when I turn off the DVD, and really think about it, his message is just like that of countless other protest groups around the world – he professes a desire for peace, without showing that he understands the complexities of the political and historical situations that have led to conflict, and more importantly, without providing an answer. “Peace” by itself is not that answer.

You can sing and chant, shout and orate, march and parade around Baghdad and New York and Tokyo all you like, but a message of “War Bad Peace Good” or “All Weapons into Musical Instruments” does not address the need for Coalition forces to remain in Iraq until order is restored and the insurgency eliminated, nor does it address the feeling on the part of the insurgents that they need to keep fighting until the invaders, the occupiers, have left. What, is everyone supposed to just throw down their weapons in an instant and embrace and stop fighting? Is a ten-character slogan supposed to make the Israelis and Palestinians put aside all their hatred, all their differences, all their problems, and embrace and make peace just because you’ve played some music and waved some banners?

Okinawa suffered terribly in the war, losing according to some sources 1/4 of its population in the Battle of Okinawa alone, along with countless traditional buildings, cultural artifacts, and historical records. The postwar American Occupation in Okinawa lasted twenty years longer than in the rest of Japan, ending finally in 1972. During those twenty years, as one might expect, strong movements arose demanding Okinawa’s independence, or Okinawa’s return to Japanese sovereignty… and much of this is said to be embodied in the Okinawan Pop movement which arose in the early 1970s. However, the music is not overtly political like anti-Vietnam War music; rather, it speaks to a very generalized message of peace, and evokes the spirit, the feel, the culture of Okinawa through use of traditional music – shimauta (島唄, “island songs”) or min’you (民謡, “folk songs”).

Why this music, along with what little Okinawan contemporary art I have looked at, focuses on this very general message of peace without engaging with any issues, I have no idea. But I find it very interesting, and I feel it sets Okinawa apart in a special way. I hope to look into this more…

I wish I could post that 20 min documentary for you all. I may at some point rip it off the DVD and put it up on YouTube so that it can be shared. I was given it for free, and I do believe these guys want it to be shared in any case.

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