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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sanshin Lesson Five

Today, I would like to talk about one of kind of minyo (Okinawan folk songs) called Love songs. 
 These love songs were sung mainly during plays called Okinawa Shibai or Okinawa Play (Uchina Shibai).
 Okinawa Shibai are also called Kageki(歌劇)

 The pace of these songs is relatively slow, since they are usually sung by actors playing loving couples who exchange their feelings each other.

I would like to introduce three songs; Shira hama bushi, Hanagasa bushi, and Nishinjo bushi

1. Shira hama bushi:  The Song of Shira Hama. Shirahama means white beach
Lyrics: sung by couple called Kake uta
I am a woman like a fallen pine tree in the Shira hama;
even though the wind of Spring blows, my flower is not blossoming.
Our hearts are like fallen trees, since our love can't be.

我(わ)んや白浜ぬ 枯松(かりまち)がやゆら 春風(はるかじ)や吹ちん 
花や咲かん 二人やままならん 枯木心
Shira Hama Bushi:
Wan ya Shira hama nu  Kari machi du yayura Harukaji ya fuchin Hana ya sakan
Taiya mama naranu Kariki gukuru

Introduction part of the music: San sage tuning

2. Hana Gasa Bushi: The Song of Hana Gasa. Hana Gasa means flower hat
A brief interpretation: A woman carrying a flower hat is going to see her lover (a high-ranking man she has fallen in love with). A woman is not supposed to have a loving relationship with Satunushi (a man of different rank), but she misses him so much and can't wait to see him, so she hides her face with the flower hat and tries to approach him to see him. The song is performed by only woman.

花笠造やい 面影かくちょてぃ 梅ぬ匂い ヤレ  里とう我が仲忍ばんむんぬん 
我が落着ちゆみ  ヨイシ ヨイシトウ カタミティヨイシ
Hanagasa chukuyai, Umukaji kakuchoti, Umi nu niu-i, yare, satu ga waga naka shinuban mun nunn
waga uti chuchu-mi, yoishi yoishi tu katamiti yoi-shi

Introduction part of the music: san sage tuning

Here is a link of the Hanagasa Bushi performed by Mr. Toru Yonaha, one the greatest musician of Okinawa.


3. Nishin Jo Bushi:A song of the Wast gate.
A  woman who has fallen in love with a man who is a high-ranking officer (a higher-rank than she) can't marry him, but she loves him deeply. Each time they meet outside the castle, the man tells her after their meeting, "my love, I am going back to castle" and the woman responds "please wait, I will walk with you until you get the Wast gate of the castle".

行んどーや加那志(かなし) 待ちみそーれ里前(さとうめ) 
西武門ぬ間や(えだや) 御共(うとうむ)さびら ヨーテ じんとー御共さびら
Ichun doya kanashi, machimi so-re Satume, Nishinjo nu eda-ya, utumu sabira yo-te
Jinto Utumu sa-bira

Introduction part of the music: san sage tuning

Nishinjo bushi is a theme song of a play called "Nishinjo Aika"l, song performed by woman.

Behind the story of the love songs:
These love songs are written as real stories.
For example:
During the Ryukyu royal system, officers were dispatched to local governments to observe the islands and other villages. Those high-ranking officer sometimes fell in love with women in local villages or islands, even though such love was prohibited during that period. In this regard, they expressed their unfortunate love in music, so many such love songs were written in Ryukyu.

Unlike other folk songs, the love songs require emotions for their singing to be effective.  As in acting, we have to understand the meaning of the words as much as possible, like actors in a play.

If you interested in taking lessons of these love songs from me, including Sanshin play and singing, 
please contact me at
I will be happy to teach you!


1 comment:

  1. Hello, I found your blog about these love songs to be interesting. When I visit a Kenjinkai event they play and sing. However, I find that us American husbands are not able to understand the songs. Thank you for writing in English the meanings to these songs. I hope to find others.