When I went to Okinawa for the first time this summer, and was having a meal at a Japanese-style bar, people around me began to play Okinawan music, and some people even began to dance. I was deeply impressed by the hearts of the people in Okinawa, who really love the music and the beautiful, exciting music itself, and came to be interested in it. Im not so familiar with Okinawan music yet, but I want to introduce some of its allure.
For the inexperienced person, Okinawan music has three characteristics; particular tone colors of the original musical instruments, a particular musical scale and the lyrics sung in the unique language of Okinawa which is called Uchina-guchi. The following websites can show you about Sanshin, a representative musical instrument of Okinawa, the Okinawan musical scale, and special features of Okinawan music.
English Site http://www.eyeneer.com/World/Ea/Instruments/sanshin.html
The most famous artist in Okinawa is, maybe, Shokichi Kina. He was born as a son of a great folk singer, Shoei Kina, and created many great songs which are famous across the nation such as Haisai Ojisan (Hello, mister!) and Hana (flower). Particularly, Hana is played by many Asian musicians in recent years. Shokichi also leads his own energetic worldwide peace movement. Besides him, there are a lot of great artists in Okinawa. For example, Nenes and Rinken-Band are very popular and have had long careers. Various great artists are introduced in this disc; The Rough Guide to the Music of Okinawa (Respect Records).
Japanese Site http://3rdwave.jp/cshop/o/om_conpi.html
Shokichi Kina Nenes
Ryukyu-underground is also a very interesting unit. They are from England and America. They combine Okinawan music with other kinds of music (dance, fusion, dub, etc), and are creating very exciting sounds.
Okinawan music is a very exciting world. It links up the great past heritage of Okinawa, peoples normal lives of today, and many possibilities in the future. I hope you will experience the great world of Okinawan music.