One of my favourite things about being in Okinawa is that I am immersed in the deep culture and tradition of Music, which seeps into every area of living in this country. You can’t avoid the music culture, it’s everywhere! Everywhere you go you hear the melancholic twang of the Sanshin, the moving rhythms of the Taiko drum and are drawn into rich history through the stories and tales the Min’yo (folk song) conveys in every colourful phrase. I have to admit that the nasally quality of singing is still something to get used to ><. Nonetheless, my insides explode with ecstasy every time I come across even a snippet of this musical tradition. I cannot begin to tell you how childishly excited I got when I saw the Eisa performed live in Okinawa World a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to die and go to Eisa heaven. It was amazing!!!
I have been dying to get into the musical scene since I arrived, but I have been having a bit of a problem doing so. For a country that prides itself on its technological advances, I was disheartened to realise that there is very little you can find on the web. But things are slowly moving forward because I found out that one of my kid’s grandfather is apparently a very famous Sanshin player and musician in Okinawa, and is holding classes which I can take in the coming year! Also met another child’s mother who is a talented Taiko drummer. I had to contain my shrills of excitement when I spoke with her lest I scare the lady. I am, afterall, her son’s teacher haha!
As the holiday season rolls by, I’ve had time and space to explore more into the beauty and history behind the island’s music. I can’t help but fall more and more in love with it!
This leads me to reflect upon my own musical journey so far and this post is basically that reflection. I look upon the list of singers and bands I grew up listening to and am grateful for their influence on me not only as a musician, but also as a person.
It’s also a chance for me to compile all my favourite music into one post and come back to it whenever I want. Some of these I haven’t touched in awhile so it is absolutely refreshing for me!
Friends and family know me for having an eclectic (and somewhat odd) taste in music. Some throw in a bit of a well-meaning tease when I share them passionately. I cannot begin to express how in love I am with music and how it sets my spirits on fire every time something is played. I give thanks to God with every fibre of my being that I got to do this for a Bachelors degree, and got to learn what I learnt through the course of three years. I love my school largely because of its flexibility and nurturing environment for all kinds of music. I majored in Classical music, but my love for Irish music blossomed in that environment too. Since graduation, I’ve missed being in that musical environment. I miss having music as a part of my everyday, and I miss being surrounded by musical people. As I’m writing this, I realise that I even miss talking about music, so prepare yourselves cause the dam is about to break! (Feel free also to skip this cause it’s gonna be just me talking about music.)
I am thankful to be in the part of Japan that known for its music.
I came across this beautiful singer, named Natsukawa Rimi, when I was in Singapore early this year, through a TV ad for her upcoming (now past) concert in April. I had no prior knowledge of Japanese music, except for a brief study in Ethnomusicology in year one (if I ever do a Masters, it will be on Ethnomusicology!! Just sayin~), so I immediately googled her.
Nothing progressed from there because it was so hard to access her music; there is nothing on Spotify or Apple Music (except one album), and certainly no CD of hers in the stores in London.
But since I got here, I’ve gained access to everything Japanese and Japanese music. Turns out she’s Okinawan! I’ve been listening to her everyday since I signed up for Line Music subscription (Line is Japan is much more than a messaging app).
I just want to say that I loooove her voice!!
Rimi reminds me very very much of Hayley Westenra, who was one of the key musical role models of mine when I was first drawn to music at 15.
I used to sing her songs all the time and would spend hours lost in her music. I also started supporting New Zealand’s All Blacks because she sung at the Rugby World Cup as New Zealand’s representative several years ago (p. s. They won the Cup that year).
I got to see her live in Singapore at the David Foster & Friends concert about six years ago and cried like a baby when she sung.
And then there’s Libera – the gateway to a whole new world of music. My love for music began that one day when I was shopping with my mum and sister at Raffles City when I was 15 (I remember this so vividly). We passed That CD Shop when I was caught by the heavenly sounds of Libera. This track (Locus Iste) was playing in the shop. It was a rather posh music store, known for its sophisticated range of music, and we never went in. It was the kind of store that people in shorts and slippers wouldn’t enter. I’ve never went in myself, so my mum and sis were rather surprised when I asked if we could.
Long story short, I bought the CD right there and everything happened.
The next five features are all Irish. If I could’ve chosen my race, I might have chosen to be Irish. My Irish music mentor used to tell me all the time that I was born in the wrong skin colour, I should’ve been Irish.
Mairéad Nesbitt from Celtic Woman
Anyway~~~ This next person, part of a group which I also love, is my biggest inspiration. I’m primarily a singer but my biggest role model is not a singer, she’s a violinist. Or better yet, a fiddler.
Just watch her.
I’ve watched this sooo many times! Her music and dance is alive, it’s freedom!
I once wrote a personal email to thank her for being so alive and for inspiring me to be the same in my music. She wrote back a very encouraging and strengthening reply that I still remember to this day.
Anúna is a whole world of its own. Deeply intertwined with nature and history, I am often transported to another fantasy land when I listen to them. What amazes me is that most of its singers are not trained, it is one of the key essence of the group. There is so much rawness and purity within.
I met Anúna at a singers workshop they held in London and was blown away by sharings on the power of breath and awareness of our center as a person and as a community when we sing as one. It was so profoundly enriching!
A relatively new discovery, but I’ve been hooked on the life and joy their music brings since I first got to know them. This group brings to the table a very fresh and authentic look on Irish music for what it is – a gathering together to share and enjoy one another and what we love.
I’ve decided, after a lot of consideration, to put up two recordings of mine on some of the Irish music I’ve done in my time in Middlesex University.
The first is of a performance with my friend and violinist/ fiddler, Jacintha, on our third year. We walked down the hall of the old church as we performed this so the quality and clarity varies through the track. This song is about the world war.
This next one features one of my highlights of my entire study because I got to sing and perform with Siobhán Armstrong (Founder of The Historical Harp Society of Ireland, who practically revived the early Irish harp after it was lost after the war) and an actual early Irish Harp (one of the rarest instruments today). She is my wonderful mentor and friend, who graciously took me under her wing and nurtured me as an artist in the ways of traditional Irish music.
(Sorry but this recording is unfortunately very soft, I hope you can still hear it.)
Wife of renowned composer, Robert Schumann, Clara was very much left in the background in a world where musical composition was a male-dominant field. It wasn’t acceptable for women to compose in those days. Being a prodigy on the piano, she played a major role in her husband’s music, helping him with his works. Her husband was supportive of her own talents and she ended up composing her own pieces in her free time. I personally think she’s more talented than Robert even in composition, but while he remains as one of the greatest composers of the 19th century, Clara is hardly known in the musical world because she was a woman.
This one is one of my favourite pieces by Clara Schumann. I performed this in class for the first time in second year (and later in a concert) and remember asking everyone who they thought might have written this. Most guessed Schubert and were surprised when I said it was by Clara Schumann. No one in class have heard her music until that day. I was really happy to bring recognition to this incredible composer.
The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams
I love Vaughan Williams, especially this piece of his. It’s a very colourful piece that paints the fields of England right before the First World War happened. He wrote this piece during a holiday while walking down a cliff in Kent, near where war ships were conducting fleet exercise; and then was later arrested because someone thought he was a spy for the enemy lol.
I just love this piece. Close your eyes and you can almost picture the lark soaring through the English plains.
So that’s my list~ at least for now. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this, albeit I’m not sure how many actually sat through this whole shazam. Nonethless, I am happy I did this!
I am thrilled to have a little Okinawa and Japan added to this mix! 2018 is exciting!!!