Matt Gillan: ‘Imagining Okinawa: Japanese Pop Musicians and Okinawan Music’

Excerpts from Matt Gillan’s “Imagining Okinawa: Japanese Pop Musicians and Okinawan Music,” Perfect Beat, Equinox, 2009. Gillan is an art and music faculty member at International Christian University, Tokyo.

In addition to Okinawan popular music being used to construct Okinawan identities in contrast to Japan, the music is also used by mainland Japanese audiences as a way of negotiating Okinawa’s cultural position within Japan. (194)

The use of Okinawan music by mainland musicians has been accompanied by a vigorous discourse concerning issues of appropriateness, authenticity, and cultural meaning. (193)

The Boom’s ‘Okinawan’ songs ‘Hyakuman tsubu no namida’, ‘Shimauta, i anbe’, and ‘Okinawa ni furu yuki’, as well as both ‘Nachikasanu koiuta’ and ‘Heiwa no ryuka’, all use a predominantly Okinawan scale in the vocal melody. (189)

This idea of Okinawan music as a ‘primitive cultural other’ within the Japanese cultural sphere is one which crops up again and again in discourse surrounding Okinawa. (189)

The use of anti-war imagery in such a large proportion of the (relatively small number of) ‘Okinawan’ songs by mainland Japanese musicians underlines the cultural position of Okinawa within the Japanese nation as an anti-war symbol.” (187)

See “Response #8: Re-emergence of Okinawa and the Transformation of Identity” in Sarabitarafan, 4/24/12.

See Matt Gillan’s Songs from the Edge of Japan: Music-making in Yaeyama and Okinawa, Ashgate, 2012. Also see PowerOfOkinawa’s brief review, 4/17/12.

Matt Gillan 2012

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