US contestants receive traditional Ryukyu music awards

US contestants receive traditional Ryukyu music awards

From left, Grant Sadami Murata; Yuko Yamauchi, who was awarded Distinction; living national treasure Choichi Terukina, who was happy to receive the news; and Ryan Yasuaki Nakamatsu, who took first place, pose for a photo on Aug 3, at Terukina’s residence.

August 5, 2019 The Ryukyu Shimpo
Sanemichi Kinjo

Two fourth-generation Okinawan-American performers from the Los Angeles branch of the Afuso School of Classical Ryukyu Music Association (Koten Afuso-ryu Ongaku Kenkyuu Choichi Kai USA), Ryan Yasuaki Nakamatsu, 35, and his apprentice, Yuko Yamauchi, 48, were awarded first place and Distinction, respectively, in the Afuso-style sanshin (Okinawan banjo) category of the 54th annual Ryukyu Koten (traditional arts) competition, hosted by the Ryukyu Shimpo.

Nakamatsu and his master, Grant Sadami Murata, 57, shared the news with the 87-year-old living national treasure, Choichi Terukina, at his residence in Naha City. Terukina happily offered his praises.

Nakamatsu hails from Honolulu, Hawaii. He joined the Hawaii branch of the Afuso School of Classical Ryukyu Music Association in 1998, taking the Newcomer and Distinction awards over the years, as he developed his skills.

He earned his instructor license in 2010, and currently teaches young performers in Los Angeles.

Yamauchi was born in Naha City, Okinawa, and grew up in Los Angeles. As a student, Yamauchi was invited to visit Okinawa on a prefectural scholarship in 2000, and trained under Terukina.

Even after returning to the U.S., she continued to study the Afuso-style sanshin.

The two award-winners were inspired to enter the competition for the first time in over a decade, after seeing Terukina’s performance during his birthday concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall in April.

Yamauchi, who was overjoyed with her Distinction award, said, “I didn’t place last time, so it was especially great to receive the award this year.” Nakamatsu said, “My students compete too, so I felt I had to win first place.

Everyone’s support made this achievement possible.” Determined, he added, “This award is like a spring board for me; I want to ride this momentum and take on new challenges.”

Terukina told Nakamatsu, “Strike the iron while it’s still hot—do a solo concert soon.” Nakamatsu sheepishly but positively responded to the master’s request.

The music association’s Los Angeles branch currently comprises 30 performers. Nakamatsu said, “Some of our members are interested in competing next year. I encourage them to just go for it.”

(English translation by T&CT and Monica Shingaki)

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