Haisai Ojisan
February 2, 2008 2:28 PM   Subscribe

Shoukichi Kina, peace activist, club owner, environmentalist, sailor, critic of the US presence in Okinawa, proponent of Okinawan independence, and, since 2004, member of the Japanese House of Councillors has been playing his highly influential hybrid of traditional Okinawan min'yo, reggae, and other island music styles since he formed the band Champloose in 1968.

His most famous song, "Haisai Ojisan", has been covered by such artists as John French, Fred Frith, Henry Kaiser, and Richard Thompson. Due to his collaboration with world-music superstar Ry Cooder, Kina is largely responsible for introducing Okinawan pop music to the global stage. Clearly identified by the sound of the sanshin, Okinawan folk tunes and pop songs by Kina and such later groups as Begin, The Boom, and Rimi Natsukawa and have been performed by people from Japan, Argentina, Argentina, Peru, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Brazil, Guatemala, Germany, Mexico, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Canada, and New York.
posted by billtron (8 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Full disclosure: I appear in one of the videos listed above.
posted by billtron at 2:29 PM on February 2, 2008

I am absolutely in love with this man!

E pay nehedi biru, bilitron! (sp!)

I first heard of Kinasan via David Byrne and Luaka Bop (and the Peppermint Tea House album). It took me back to Naha ... Ojana ... 1964. Anyone who has danced in a bon odori Okinawan style can't miss the characterisitc whistles, 'yipping' and twang of the sanshin in Kina's music.

Wow. Lots of good links to fill my ears.
posted by Surfurrus at 2:57 PM on February 2, 2008

There are two songs guaranteed to get everyone at the karaoke party on their feet and singing along here in the longtime expat community of Gifu, Japan...Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline, and Shima-uta. I also participated in a yosakoi dance troupe for a year (several years ago) and to this day, the choreography which accompanied the Okinawan folk song remains thoroughly imprinted (the other steps? not so much.....)

Thanks, billtron.
posted by squasha at 3:28 PM on February 2, 2008

Jing Jing is one of the rare songs that is virtually guaranteed to cause me to get up and dance around embarrassingly.

Thanks for all the links!
posted by kaseijin at 3:59 PM on February 2, 2008

Great post! I really appreciate the research you've done here. I discovered Kina around 1986, from a CD collection of his 70s stuff. I've enjoyed that record on and off for years, but haven't sought out much else from him: partly, I suppose, out of fear that his music will have started showing some of the same overuse of really bad synth sounds and aesthetically questionable "hybridizing" that so much Okinawan pop has suffered from in recent years. But I really look forward to checking all this stuff out. Thanks again, billtron!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:05 PM on February 2, 2008

Don't fear the synthesizer, flapjax.
posted by billtron at 4:23 PM on February 2, 2008

Awesome post! I'd been listening to Champloose for a few years, but was unaware of the history. And Rimi Natsukawa I was ignorant of entirely, so thank you!
posted by zusty at 5:37 PM on February 2, 2008

Don't fear the synthesizer, flapjax.

Heh heh! Actually, billtron, I'm a big synth fan, use 'em a lot myself. But there's just certain levels of cheap preset cheese that I have a hard time with!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:58 PM on February 2, 2008

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