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Sunday, March 17, 2002

Book Bites

THE POWER OF OKINAWA: Roots Music from the Ryukyus, by John Potter. S.U. Press, 2001, 184 pp., 1,200 yen (paper)

In this slim but informative volume, John Potter traces the history of Okinawan music, the innovative ways in which Okinawan artists have blended traditional sounds with outside influences and the growing popularity of Okinawan music overseas.

Based around the "sanshin," a three-stringed instrument that sounds somewhat like a banjo, Okinawan music got a new lease of life in the 1970s, when musicians like Shokichi Kina combined its centuries-old traditions with rock and reggae instrumentation to create an entirely new and exciting sound.

From Kina and his band Champloose to other artists such as Yasuba Jun and An-Chang Project, Nenes, Takashi Hirayasu and Bob Brozman, and Rinken Band, "The Power of Okinawa" is an entertaining guide to the Okinawan music scene and one of the last "undiscovered" musics of the world.

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