Sanshin fans promote Okinawan culture in Paris

<em>Sanshin</em> fans promote Okinawan culture in Paris

On April 28, in Paris, (from right) Sylvain Berard, Florian Bricard, Seiko Suzuki and Aya Honma practicing the sanshin.

May 12, 2013 Sadaharu Shimabukuro of the Ryukyu Shimpo

French and Japanese sanshin fans living in Paris have been giving sanshin performances in events around France. Focusing mainly on folk songs, they have practiced once or twice a week since 2009. “Anyone can get into the sanshin‘s rhythm easily and enjoy its music,” said one about the appeal of the instrument. They work to promote Okinawan culture with the spirit of ichariba chode (which in English means “once we meet, we are all brothers and sisters”).

Near the end of April this year, they gathered at Florian Bricard’s home. They sang folk songs such as Asatoya-Yunta, Ashimiji-Bushi sometimes accompanied by the light clacking of an Okinawan instrument called the samba. Now, there are about eight people in the group, including an Iranian, so it has a decidedly international atmosphere. Some of the group’s members learnt the sanshin in Okinawa, but some of them touched one for the first time in Paris.

Bricard first encountered the sanshin when he visited Okinawa in 2002. During his two years in the prefecture, he learnt how to play the sanshin, Yaeyama folk songs from Tetsuhiro Daiku and Okinawan folk songs from Kenryu Higa, who is the manager of the sanshin shop Chindami-Kogei in Naha. Upon his return to France, he started working at the Japanese Embassy in Paris.

In 2006 Bricard invited his university friend Sylvain Berard, who works as a Japanese guide, to practice the sanshin with him. Berard then visited Okinawa in 2011 and even made a sanshin by hand. Other members of the group include Seiko Suzuki, from Tokyo, who started to learn the sanshin when she was in Japan, and Aya Honma from Miyagi, who started it in Paris.

So far, they have performed at the Japan Expo, an event held to showcase Japanese culture, at a charity event, and for local university students studying Japanese culture.

Suzuki said she remembers how pleased she was when participants in an anti-nuclear power event that she played the sanshin at began to dance the kachashi. She said, “I would like to help promote folk songs for peace, such as Yaka-Bushi (a song about experiences during the Battle of Okinawa).”

Bricard’s goal is to establish an association of sanshin fans in Paris. He said, “It’s difficult to practice classical songs without inviting teachers from Okinawa. I want us to formally organize ourselves so we are able to invite some sanshin masters over.”

(English translation by T&CT, Lima Tokumori and Mark Ealey)

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