Nishie designated a Living National Treasure for Kumi Odori Ongaku-uta Sanshin
July 16, 2011 Ryukyu Shimpo
On July 15, the Cultural Affairs Council (headed by Suzuko Nishihara) recommended to Yoshiaki Takagi, the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology that 70 year-old Kishun Nishie (originally from Iheya Village, but currently residing in Nakaima, Naha City), the head of Afuso Ryu Genseikai, a classical Okinawan music group, and the holder of the Kumi Odori Ongaku-uta Sanshin, one of the Important Intangible Cultural Properties, be nominated as a Living National Treasure.
There are three types of certification for holders of the Important Intangible Cultural Properties: individual certification, collective certification and preservation group certification.
Among the three types, generally only those who have received “Individual Certification,” the designation for individuals who “have attained high mastery” of an art or craft, are referred to as Living National Treasures.
Nishie is the 11th person in Okinawa to be designated as a Living National Treasure.
In the performing arts, he is the sixth person in the prefecture, following Masao Shimabukuro, Choichi Terukina in classical Ryukyuan music and the late Mitsufumi Shimabukuro in Kumi Odori Ongaku Taiko, Tokutaro Shiroma in Kumi Odori Ongaku-uta Sanshin and Noho Miyagi in Kumi Odori Tachikata.
On this occasion, Nishie and 67 year-old Kichiemon Nakamura (real name: Tatsujiro Namino), a Kabuki Tachiyaku residing in Tokyo, were newly recommended for the nomination.
Their nomination will be formally recognized when it is announced in a government gazette in late September.
With regard to the prefectural and city governments that have living national treasures who are still active, Tokyo has 49, Kyoto 14 and Ishikawa 9, followed by Okinawa, which has 8 ranking fourth in Japan.
Kumi Odori is a form of narrative traditional Ryukyuan dance. In Kumi Odori Ongaku-uta Sanshin, performers sing songs that explain the background behind each scene and the characters’ feelings in Kumi Odori, to the accompaniment of the sensitive sound of the Okinawa sanshin.
For instance, the singer starts to sing a song that overlaps with the end of a dialogue delivered by an actor or actress.
Making slight changes from one movement to the next, the singers sing songs matching the progression of the story, the acting and the dialogues.
A spokesperson of the Agency for Cultural Affairs said, “Nishie succeeded in skillfully embodying the traditional performance of Kumi Odori Ongaku-uta Sanshin after many years of practice. He is credited with powers of expression by which he could delicately sing songs imbued with meaning that depict both the characters’ feelings and the background to each scene in Kumi Odori. Nishie is also acclaimed for his elegant artistry and his sense of stability. He has worked hard to open a path for the young and to promote Kumi Odori.”
“I still have many things to learn”
Kishun Nishie says, “I still have many things to learn. This designation gives me the opportunity to start over from scratch. I would like to sing songs for Kumi Odori in various events or wherever the opportunity may arise. I feel enormous pressure and responsibility, and know that when I receive the ‘Individual Certification’ I will have to study accordingly.”
Profile of Kishun Nishie: Born in Iheya Villege in 1940, in 1963 he studied classical Ryukyuan music under the late Haruyuki Miyazato of Afuso Ryu.
In 1996 Nishie was designated as the holder of Intangible Cultural Properties of Okinawa Prefecture for Okinawan classical dance. He was designated as the holder of classical Okinawan music Afuso Ryu in 1999.
Nishie was then designated as the holder of the Important Intangible Cultural Properties (collective certification) for Kumi Odori in 2001 and Ryukyu Buyo in 2009.
He worked as both an associate professor and professor at the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts, contributing to the teaching of young people.
Nishie has been the executive director of Traditional Kumi Odori Preservation Society and the head of Afuso Ryu Genseikai from 2008.
(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey）
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