Uta no Hi 2013 Photos: A Mahalo to Hawaii’s Okinawan Community

Updated 1/2/16
I did it. I watched the entire 7:00PM to 1:30AM live webcast, beginning Friday evening and ending early Saturday morning, of the “Uta no Hi” concert from Kadena, Okinawa, Japan. The annual event, I learned, was developed and sustained by the Okinawan band, BEGIN, to raise funds to repay a debt of gratitude to the Hawaii Okinawan community. Interestingly, the backstory is just as if not more fascinating than the concert series itself.

In August 1948, the United Okinawan Assistance Association of Hawaii appealed to Hawaii’s Okinawan community for donations to purchase pigs to help the war-battered people of Okinawa rebuild their agricultural economy. Seven men — Ryoshin Agena, Heisho Miyasato, Gyukichi Nakama, Shinei Shimabukuro, Genbi Tonaki, Yasuo Uezu, and Yoshio Yamashiro — sailed to Oregon with funds to buy 550 pigs, loaded them on a ship, and cared for them on the 28-day trip to Okinawa.1

In a spirit of appreciation, of buta no ongaeshi2, BEGIN’s goal is to raise enough funds to give the Hawaii Okinawan community 550 musical instruments3 from Okinawa. [Update 1/2/16: “BEGIN has donated over 50 Ichigo Ichi E to the HUOA” (12/14/15)]

I’m not sure if the amount of Hawaiian influence built into the concert is a standard part of Okinawan concert culture today or if it’s a means to emphasize the goals of the fundraiser. Regardless, the Hawaii presence throughout the concert is immense. You can get a sense of it in the pictures below. As the end of the concert neared, all the performers returned to the stage for the traditional kachashi and the dancers, both hula and Okinawan dance, joined in, spreading out at the foot of the stage and in the aisles between the seated audience. As the concert closed, as the performers took their final bows and the cameras zoomed out and faded, the strain of a recorded version of “Hawaii Aloha”4 played softly.

The photos below were captured from the streaming live video. Here’s a still of the Stolabo Tokyo homepage with Uta no Hi streaming live:

Stolabo Tokyo webcast homepage with "Uta no Hi" streaming live.

Stolabo Tokyo webcast homepage with “Uta no Hi” streaming live.

As a viewer, you have the option to zoom in on the video so that it fills your entire screen.

The resolution of the video was generally poor, and there were some glitches where either video or sound failed to transmit. Thus, the quality of the photos isn’t the best and the sound recordings I made probably won’t be great. (I haven’t had a chance to review the recordings.) But there’s really no room for complaint when the alternative is to have no streaming at all. Live webcasts such as this will, hopefully, become more common and, in the process, better in terms of resolution. I can only imagine what it would be like in high definition video and audio.

BEGIN: Uechi Hitoshi, Higa Eishō, Shimabukuro Masaru on 6/28/13 at the Uta no Hi (Songs Day) concert in Kadena, Okinawa, Japan.

BEGIN: Hitoshi Uechi, Eisho Higa, Masaru Shimabukuro on 6/28/13 at the Uta no Hi (Day of Songs) concert in Kadena, Okinawa, Japan.

This little pig is the inspiration behind Uta no Hi.

This little pig, sold as a concert souvenir, is the inspiration behind Uta no Hi.

BEGIN: Uechi (accordion), Shimabukuro (guitar), Higa (sanshin).

BEGIN: Uechi (accordion), Shimabukuro (guitar), Higa (sanshin).

Higa and drummer.

BEGIN: Higa, on washboard, and drummer.

BEGIN: Shimabukuro

BEGIN: Shimabukuro

BEGIN: Drummer

BEGIN: Drummer

Guitarist with BEGIN.

Guitarist with BEGIN.

Two girls from Hawaii who stole the show.

Honoka & Azita5, two young girls from Hawaii, stole the show. They could play with Jake Shimabukuro!

Two girls 2
Two girls 1

This band rocked!

Pasha Club (ぱーしゃくらぶ): Yukito Ara (新良幸人) on sanshin. This Okinawan band rocked!

Masaaki Uechi (上地正昭)
Pasha Club: Masaaki Uechi (上地正昭), guitar.

This band rocked 2

This band rocked 4

Drummer's view.

Drummer’s view.

Audience view.

Audience view.

Koja Misako 古謝美佐子 most artistic, blending Okinawa minyo with Okinawan dance and hula.

Misako Koja (古謝美佐子) was, I felt, the most artistic, blending Okinawa minyo with Okinawan dance and hula.

Hula and Okinawan Dance.

Koja with hula dancers.

Koja with Okinawan dancer.

Koja with Okinawan dancer.

photo 13

Koja with keyboardist.

Koja with keyboardist.

Koja with sanshin.

Koja with sanshin.

An excellent rock band!

Kanjuku Trio: Shigeru Suzuki, Tokuo “Toku” Nakano, and Tadashi “Chu” Kosaka, with BEGIN jamming, too!

This guy can play!

Kanjuku Trio: Shigeru Suzuki, lead guitarist extraordinaire!

He was fun to watch.

Kanjuku Trio: Toku Nakano.

Aoi Teshima 手嶌葵 - one of the songs she sang was "The Rose." Her "Teru no Uta" is beyond beautiful.

Aoi Teshima (手嶌葵) – one of the songs she sang was “The Rose.” Beautiful! Her “Teru no Uta,” which she didn’t sing, is beyond beautiful.

Teshima Aoi 手嶌葵 2

Teshima Aoi 手嶌葵 3

Okinawan kobudo with rokushakubo. The show opened with Okinawa taiko and martial arts.

Okinawan kobudo with rokushakubo. The show opened with traditional Okinawan taiko eisa (エイサー) and martial arts.

Shinobu Otake (大竹 しのぶ) - beautiful, talented, and charismatic.

Shinobu Otake (大竹 しのぶ) – beautiful, talented, and charismatic.

Beautiful charismatic

photo 14

Eye candy!

Eye (and ear) candy!

photo 02

photo 03

photo 04

photo 05

The most charming young girl!

The most charming young girl! She’s playing the Okinawan sanba (三板), which is similar to castanets.

photo 07

Kumu hula.

Kumu hula Sandii Manumele, Halau Halihali Ke Ao, Tokyo.

Hula dancer

Hula dancer

photo 09a

Waraba or keiki hula.

Waraba or keiki hula.

Begin joining in.

BEGIN joins in.

Tahitian dance.

Tahitian dance.

photo 10

Yu Takahashi (高橋 優).

Yu Takahashi (高橋 優).

I had to get this in!

I had to get this in!

The hosts were entertaining, talented, and totally unflustered. The stage crew, in the back, has to be the best and most efficient in the world.

The hosts were entertaining, funny, and totally unflustered. A few of the stage crew are working in the background. The crew of more than a dozen has to be the fastest and most professional in the world.

The stage was spectacular.

The stage, at night, was spectacular.

The afternoon sun was sizzling but the fans hung in there.

The afternoon sun was sizzling but the fans hung in there.

The afternoon sun was sizzling but the fans hung in there.

The temperature cooled as the sun fell.

Kampai! Spirits were high!

Kampai! Spirits were high!

The kachashi finale on stage was wild!

The kachashi finale on stage was wild!

__________
1 Karleen C. Chinen, “‘Pigs from the Sea’ Coming to Blaisdell Concert Hall April 30 [2004],” Uchinanchu, April/May 2004.
2 Buta means pig; ongaeshi (恩返), to repay a kindness.
3 A forwarded email message from the executive director of the Hawaii United Okinawa Association, received 28 June 2013.
4 I’m not sure who the singer is, but see/hear the version by Bruddah Iz.
5 A couple of photos from Honoka & Azita’s Facebook page (retrieved 7.1.13):

Honoka and Azita 1

Honoka & Azita

Honoka and Azita 2

Honoka & Azita

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This entry was posted in Concert, Culture, Dance, Festival, History, Images, International, Music, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

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