Let’s sing Uchinaguchi
January 20, 2012 Yuki Nakasone of Ryukyu Shimpo
Brandon Ing, a fourth-generation Okinawan from Hawaii, teaches English in Kanagusuku Elementary School in Naha. He wrote a song called “Let’s sing Uchinaguchi!” that has attracted some attention lately. The song includes Uchinaguchi (the Okinawan language) expressions such as chu uganabira (hello) and kwachi sabira (let’s eat) in the lyrics and explains the meaning in English. He plays the sanshin and students sing the song at the beginning of their class. The song has been posted on a video-sharing website and became popular among Okinawans living overseas.
Ing finished writing the song last November, and when he first sang it to his students, they cheered and said, “This is the language that my grandmother used.” He said, “I was moved to see the children begin dancing kachashi to the song. I realized that Okinawan blood runs through our veins.”
Ing came to Okinawa to learn the sanshin in 2009 and started teaching English from April 2010. He decided to write the song after he heard a teacher saying, “I would like to teach our pupils Uchinaguchi but we don’t have any time for that.” He was shocked that pupils do not understand the language.
On one occasion, when a student jokingly asked him for some pocket money Ing replied “Nerando (I don’t have any),” but he only got blank stares in response. It was a surprise for him that they didn’t know any Uchinaguchi. He also felt uncomfortable when he asked his students in English, “Where are you from?” because all the students answered, “I’m from Japan.” None saw themselves as being from Okinawa.
When he was growing up, his grandmother, a second generation Okinawan, taught him that “Okinawan is different from Japanese.” He started to learn the sanshin at the University of Hawaii in 2005 and discovered the difference between Okinawa and Japan, realizing that there is rich history and culture in Okinawa.
He sent the song to his cousin back in Hawaii, who sang it to their grandmother. He said, “I am so happy because my grandmother now speaks to me in Uchinaguchi, whereas before she used to only use English.”
Ing asked two Okinawan friends living in Brazil to add an animation to his song. After he posted it to a video sharing website he received many requests from Okinawans in Hawaii and Brazil who want to use the song in various events.
He is now working on a follow-up song and is also translating the lyrics into Portuguese. He said, “I hope the song makes Okinawans living overseas think about their roots.”
(English translation by T&CT, Shinako Oyakawa and Mark Ealey)
Let’s sing Uchinaguchi（Youtube）
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