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Hai Sai! Welcome to my Blog.

Hello, my name is Tom Corrao and I am the blogger behind the Okinawaology Blog. I created this blog to share and discuss all things Okinawan. I’m also the Public Relations Officer and Minkan Taishi to the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai. My experience with Okinawa is derived from the time I spent there during the 1980's and 90's (10 years) when serving in the United States Air Force. I've also been married to an Okinawan woman for 30 years now and have been immersed in many things Okinawan through both friends and family. I do not claim to be all knowing about everything Okinawan but I try hard and study the history and culture. I welcome everyone that is interested in Okinawa and hope that I can provide useful information to those uchinanchu that may be curious about their culture and heritage. I also welcome those who are not of Okinawan heritage but have experienced, or are experiencing, the islands culture while stationed there with the United States Military. Comments are welcomed and will be published as long as they are in good taste and on track with the purpose of this blog. My hope with this blog is to bring Uchinanchu people around the world a little closer to their cultural roots by expressing information that has started to fade in light of a more modern world. We should never forget our culture or the people who came before us and through the Blog my intentions are to meld the old with the new and implant knowledge that will help maintain the traditions and culture of an island people.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sanshin Etiquette for the Beginner

Etiquette is a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group. This post is about some sanshin etiquette I found online. Apparently there are rules to learning this instrament. Here are a few tips from a book of Okinawan Poetry written by Naganori Komine (1995).

  • The shortest way to master a song is to repeat not the whole song but short phrases within the song. Don't rush to play the entire song until you have mastered each individual part completely.

  • The movement of your hands is critical to keeping the tempo of the song. Imitate the movements of your teacher.

  • Move your bachi (pick) within a circle around the sanshin head. Don't raise your bachi higher than the edge of the sanshin.

  • Don't sing louder than your teacher until you become familiar with the melody of the song you are learning. Once you are familiar with the song, then try to sing louder than your teacher. Komine sensei recommends you sing solo in front of your teacher to allow for announciation correction.

  • Don't open your mouth too much when you sing. Okinawan articulation differs from western speech.

  • Don't stick out your chin and keep your body strait upright.

  • Set your gaze to a point about 270 centimeters ahead of you when you play. That's about 8 feet for you westerners.

Then finally,

  • Don't open your knees to much. Keep your knees about a fists width apart.

This is good information to know if you also want to look like your formally trained when you play in front of people. I however have been teaching myself how to play sanshin and have my own sort of unorthodox style now. I have been teaching myself by practicing pieces of songs until I basically have memorized them. I play them over and over again until I have played them hundreds if not thousands of times.

My wife tells me that Okinawans say that once you have played a song a thousand times the fingers will remember where to go on their own. This appears to be true in my case because sometimes I play faster than I can read the Kunkunshi. Of course I speak very little uchina guchi and have not been able to bring myself to sing it yet. I have been intrigued by the video I previously posted though where Blondie sings an english song called Magic to the melody of Asadoya Yunta. A song that I am currently teaching myself. I'm thinking I will create my own poetic words to describe my feelings while playing this wonderful melody of shima yuta.

Here is a sample of my playing. It's not great but I am having fun learning and enjoy it very much.

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