Esplanade Presents | Super Japan – Japanese Festival of Arts


Songs of the Ryukyu Islands

Unaigumi (Japan)
Misako Koja, Miyazato Namiko, Hiyane Yukino, Shimabukuro Emiko
22 May 2016Sun
1hr 30mins (no intermission)
Esplanade Recital Studio
Performed in Japanese
This event is over


Limited concessions for students, NSFs and seniors: $28


Black card: $30
White card: $32

Tote Board Arts Grant

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Beautifully melodic, heartfelt and uplifting, there is a sense of immediacy and sincerity in Okinawan folk music that strikes a chord with listeners. The form, distinctively performed on the sanshin (a three-stringed lute), is deeply rooted in the history of the island.

For Misako Koja, Namiko Miyazato and Yukino Hayane, the original members of the popular Okinawan folk group Nenes known to have introduced this genre to the world in the ’90s, two decades of being apart have not diminished their ability to command the stage.

In their latest incarnation since they parted ways in 1997, the three are back with more social messages to share, and have joined forces with Emiko Shimabukuro to form Unaigumi. The group performs a range of traditional Okinawan and shima uta (new folk) songs in traditional costumes, and their music often carries anti-war sentiments and words of hope and peace. The word "unai" of Unaigumi means “sisters” in the Okinawan dialect, and the four are just that.

In 2014, they made an appearance at Ryukyu Festival and released an album Unaijima (The Sisters’ Island) produced by Kazuya Sahara, the man behind the original Nenes sound. The following year, they teamed up with frequent collaborator Ryuichi Sakamoto, which took them on a tour across the US and Europe. The quartet also performed at Fuji Rock Festival 2015.

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