Ryukyu performance arts win national arts awards

Ryukyu performance arts win national arts awards

A scene from the Gungwachi Kungwachi performance on October 16, at ZA-KOENJI Public Theatre. The play was awarded Grand Prize in the Popular Entertainment category of the ACA National Arts Festival.

December 26, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo

The play Gungwachi Kungwachi (Okinawan for May and September) by the Ryukyu Art Embassy was awarded Grand Prize in the Popular Entertainment category of the 2019 74th annual ACA National Arts Festival, organized by the Japanese government Agency for Cultural Affairs. Gunwachi Kungwachi entered in the Kanto Region division, and took the single Grand Prize out of the total 53 entries combined with the Kansai Region division. In the Kanto Region Music category, Tomokuni Terukina’s solo recital won the Excellence Award. It is the first time since Living National Treasure, Choichi Terukina won in 1979, for a traditional Ryukyu musician to win the Excellence Award in the Music category (formerly the Traditional Music category.)

Gungwachi Kungwachi is a comedy packed with a diverse array of performance art elements, including snippets of traditional Ryukyuan dance, the theatric kumiodori dance, and Sakishima islands-style dance. It was the first time the play was performed in Tokyo since its launch in Okinawa in 2013. Gungwachi Kungwachi was awarded Grand Prize for providing a “high level-composition that makes the traditional Ryukyu dance highly entertaining.” The judges praised the play for its cultural significance: “It provides an experience in the rich and unique Okinawan culture, which was borne out of its maritime trade.”

Tomokuni Terukina (right) performing Juu-shichi Hachi Bushi at the Kioi Hall in Tokyo on November 8. His solo recital won the Excellence Award in the Kanto Region Music category.

Tomokuni Terukina’s solo performance was awarded the Excellence Award for its “Wealth of inventiveness in the composition,” which combines the traditional Ryukyu folk solo song Juu-shichi Hachi Bushi with Kumiodori, Mo Ashibi, and even traditional Ryukyuan dance. The judges said his performance “Fully conveyed the allure of Okinawan music and performance arts. [Terukina’s] beautiful voice has both softness and bounce, [and he] delivered the wide-ranging melody with vibrance. Coupled with the rich sound of the sanshin, the performance took on a multi-faceted expressiveness, which conveyed the varying emotions of each song and enraptured the audience.”

The awards ceremony will be held on February 13, 2020 in Tokyo.

(English translation by T&CT and Monica Shingaki)

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