This year, one theme of Atomic cafe in Gypsy avalon is “Okinawa”, one prefecture of Japan. Artists from Okinawa will build a booth called “Uchina Village” (“Uchina” means “local people” in Okinawa) in the NGO village. In addition, artists performing Cuban music, Okinawan traditional folk music, and hip-hop (KACHIMBA featuring RITTO, with Hajime Nakasone, special guest: Hideko Itami from Soul Flower Union) will play together at the Atomic Cafe in Gypsy Avalon (July 26, 14:30 to 15:10). Prior to the musicians’ performance, Jinshiro Motoyama will discuss the US military base in Okinawa with Daisuke Tsuda, the current organizer of the Atomic Cafe (July 26, 14:00 to 14:30). (They may speak in Japanese.)
As you may know, Okinawa is famous both as a tourist site and as the location of US military bases. The Japanese government continues to support the Henoko base construction, even though an Okinawa Prefectural vote in 2019 showed that 72% of the people who voted opposed the base. The Henoko base construction is a major, unavoidable issue that is yet to be solved. However, given its rich culture, I think that Okinawa should be viewed as more than the island where the US base is located.
Okinawa has a long history of exchanging culture with many countries, from Taiwan, China, mainland of Japan to the other countries, and from ancient to now. Recently, Japanese and Taiwanese (One Taiwanese and four Japanese, including one woman) succeeded to paddle a primitive-dugout canoe for 200 km from Taiwan to Yonaguni island in Okinawa without map and compass (They used sun and stars for navigation of their voyage). Their success shows that people could have immigrated 30,000 years ago, and that Okinawa and the other countries could be connected. Taro, the percussionist from the Cuban band KACHIMBA, related an interesting story about “Sanshin”, a traditional three-stringed instrument used in Okinawan traditional folk music. The Sanshin may not have originated in Okinawa; the ancestor of the Sanshin is supposed to have come from China and been further developed in Okinawa. One bit of evidence in support of this hypothesis is that an instrument similar to the Sanshin is found in China. A creator of Bingata, a form of Okinawan pattern dye art, Yukinaga Chibana, also mentioned that several Bingata patterns are strongly influenced by culture from China; the plants and animals represented in these patterns are found not in Okinawa, but in China. These cases strongly indicate that the people of Okinawa have a long history of cultural exchange with other countries, and people in Okinawa had taken and adopted many cultural elements from many countries. The local Okinawan language categorizes these examples using the word “Champroo”, which means, roughly, mix everything together and the result will be durable.
At the Gypsy Avalon, a collaborative group of Okinawa musicians called KACHIMBA featuring RITTO, with Hajime Nakasone, will perform live for about 40 min (July 26, 14:30 to 15:10). Their music represents the history of Okinawa, even though their musical style is distinctive. If I were to use one word to convey the ethos of their music, I would choose “Champroo”, like the stories about the Sanshin and the patterns of Bingata. As you see MV (music video) below, in the musical group, KACHIMBA, which is rooted in Cuban music, builds the musical foundation, while Hajime Nakasone, an Okinawan folk singer, layers Sanshin on the music with his singing, and RITTO overlays his rap rhythmically on top of that. Hajime Nakasone, the Okinawan folk singer, expressed his feelings after playing with the group as follows: “As Okinawa locals, the vibration and passion are shared among us, so our music mixes well.” Although they play a mixture of Cuban music, traditional Okinawan folk, and hip-hop, their music is a truly “music of Okinawa”.
In the booth at the NGO village, the work of young artists will be exhibited, including Bingata, the Okinawa-style pattern dye art, and works by modern painters. Collaborative work incorporating Bingata works of “Somesenka” by Yukinaga Chibana and work by the painter DENPA will be on display, and T-shirts showing their work will be for sale. The Bingata artist Yukinaga Chibana is young and energetic in pursuit of his vision as an artist. His patterns are inspired by the history of Okinawa after the war, while also respecting classic patterns. For example, one of his patterns is an Okinawa rail “Yanbarukuina”. This Yanbarukuina is unique in that it displays woodland camouflage on its belly. This pattern represents people living in Okinawa after WW II, when the US base was built on the island.
Yukinaga Chibana suggests that the tattoo is a form of expression similar to Bingata. He notes that “Hajichi”, an old Okinawan tattoo style, is thought to have originated as a healing procedure (injection of Ryukyu indigo as a medicine for scars), and he sometimes mixes Hajichi patterns with tattoo designs in his work. One interesting aspect of his work is that he tries to mix newly created Hajichi patterns with classic ones originating from China. His work elaborates on carefully thought-out plans to mesh many of these patterns together. Although he puts both new and classic patterns together, his work is intimate and fresh. Bags displaying Hajichi patterns are also for sale at Uchina Village in the NGO village.
DENPA is one of Okinawa’s modern-style painters. He works as a painter and also owns a gallery for young artists. He says that he always concentrates on drawing a line according to whatever inspiration he senses. His painting has a kind of shamanic sensibility, but the viewer can see many elements and fragments through which he conveys his passion. One theme of his painting is the contradiction inherent in human activity. He explains softly that straight bold lines or blocks in his paintings suggest the artificial qualities of buildings which are built by human rational but cold blooded aspects, but other abstract and faint images around this architecture show real human activity such as basic instinct and pureness. However, he never insists that audiences take particular meanings from his paintings. Instead, he says that, “The impression you take from my painting is yours, not mine.”
Please come to see the live performance by KACHIMBA featuring RITTO, with Hajime Nakasone (special guest: Hideko Itami from Soul Flower Union), at Gypsy Avalon on July 26, and visit Uchina Village in the NGO village to see artworks such as the Bingata works of “Somesenka” by Yukinaga Chibana and modern paintings by DENPA, as well as collaborative work combining “Somesenka” and DENPA in the booth. While you are there, you can buy bags and T-shirts, and Japanese staff will lead you in discussions and games about the US base. If you like drinking alcohol, Awamori, a diluted spirit made from rice, will also be sold so that you can enjoy this local product too. We participants in the Fuji Rock Festival love music, arts, and peace. Please share your passion with us and add Uchina-village to your plans. I’d really appreciate your support.
Text by Masaya Morita