Japan Society Welcomes Okinawan Duo SAKISHIMA MEETING Tonight
As the fourth and culminating performance in The Shamisen Sessions, a multi-month celebration of the music and history of the distinctively Japanese instrument, Japan Society presents Okinawan folk-pop duo SAKISHIMA meeting with Yukito Ara on vocals and sanshin (Okinawan shamisen) and Isamu Shimoji on guitar and vocals. The band will perform a live, cabaret-style show in Japan Society's Murase room. Susan Hamaker, founder of the website JapanCultureNYC.com and the president of the Okinawa American Association of New York, will lead an informal pre-performance talk on Okinawan culture and history at 7:30pm. Okinawan food and drink will be available for purchase and dance is both welcome and encouraged.
As the southernmost islands of Japan, Okinawa Prefecture's isolated location and its history of independence have led to musical traditions that differ from Japanese norms. One particular distinguishing trait of Okinawan musical tradition is its use of the sanshin, a three-stringed musical instrument that shares the same origins as the mainland Japan's shamisen. An early form of the instrument was first introduced in the 14th century to the Ryukyu Islands (present-day Okinawa) from China, where it was called the sanxian, then entered mainland Japan at the end of the Muromachi period (1338-1573) where it evolved into the shamisen, often recognized by Westerners as similar in design to the banjo. One noteworthy feature of the sanshin is that it is covered with snakeskin (whereas the shamisen is covered in cured hide), lending the instrument its colloquial name, "jabi (snake-skin) sen."
Okinawan culture has always shown particular fondness for its hometown songwriters; indeed, a common preconception of the Okinawan people among mainland Japanese is as accomplished musicians, with a particular emphasis on their lyrical prowess. Over the past few decades, Okinawan music has grown in popularity and has been increasingly performed and acclaimed both within and outside the Japan region, with the world-traveled SAKISHIMA meeting at the forefront of the modern Okinawan folk scene.
SAKISHIMA meeting's playing style incorporates ancient Okinawan traditions with more modern Western performance approaches, presenting updated pop takes that utilize the Okinawan scale. Sometimes known as the Ryukyuan scale, the Okinawan scale is the pentatonic "C-E-F-G-B-C", which differentiates itself from mainland Japan's major pentatonic scale ("C-D-E-G-A-C"), the predominant mode for most Japanese traditional and folk music. Even longtime pop aficionados will find new twists in the band's truly unique compositions and smooth melodies.
SAKISHIMA meeting's show tonight, December 12, will take place at Japan Society, located at 333 East 47th Street. Tickets to this event are on sale now. To purchase tickets, please visit www.japansociety.org, or call 212-715-1258.