Okinawan rock star closes his live music club in front of Kadena Airbase

Okinawan rock star closes his live music club in front of Kadena Airbase

Late at night on February 26, at the final performance in Jack Nasty, Okinawa City, Katchan showed his rock-music spirit and brought the curtain down on three decades of music at the club.

March 4, 2012 Ryota Shimabukuro of the Ryukyu Shimpo

After three decades, 67 year-old Okinawan rock musician Katchan, or Katsuhiro Kawamitsu, closed his live music club “Jack Nasty” in Gate Street in Okinawa City (formerly Koza City). He was a popular vocalist in the rock group “Condition Green” which was organized in 1971 and went on to dominate the Okinawa music scene. Their radical and skilful performances attracted many American soldiers and young hot-blooded locals to his club, once a symbol of Koza Rock and Roll. Looking back, he said, “I have done well performing here. I have no regrets. The rock musician spirit is part of the essence of my soul. A musician can play his music wherever he goes, and I will now move on to the next stage.”

On the night of February 26 at Jack Nasty, Katchan’s last performance of the usual music and a humorous talk show attracted his close friends and followers. He performed slow tempo songs such as “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong, “The Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding and other songs with the feeling of time passing by in leisurely fashion amid scenes of natural beauty. During the performance, he even enjoyed smoking a cigarette that he had wrestled from a guest. He used to play fierce songs and did radical things such as swinging a snake around as he walked through the American soldiers seated in the audience, but he said, “I have fallen in love with gentler songs during the past ten years.” The old rock & roll musician opened up and said, “The world is full of contradictions, and we have so many difficult problems to resolve. There seems no end to people seeking revenge. We should appeal to their senses without rejecting them, even though there may be soldiers out there killing their enemies, or people who belong to other races who speak different languages. We should feel what is around us. We are able to communicate with them.”

During the days when it was 300 yen to one U.S. dollar, Katchan said that he earned enough money from the club in one month to build a house, but the situation for musicians has changed in Koza, because in addition to the high value of the yen against the dollar, young people’s tastes in music have become more diverse. “If you get to the top of a mountain you have to come down. We just repeat that cycle, like the waves that lap on the shores of Okinawa,” he said. The old musician has no idea of quitting rock music quite yet.

He spent most of his music career at the club now packed with memories. One day, when young people with hearing difficulties came to the club he inspired them with his performance. He was also reunited with a young man visiting Koza, whom as a baby the young Katchan had held on the stage of a concert at the Nakano Sun Plaza in Tokyo in 1972. The old musician stated, “I will play rock & roll to appeal to people’s senses.” Sweat glistened on his face as he finished his performance at Jack Nasty.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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