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Performing Okinawan : bridging cultures through music in a diasporic setting

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Item Summary

Title: Performing Okinawan : bridging cultures through music in a diasporic setting
Authors: Teruya, Lynette Kiyomi
Keywords: Okinawans in Hawaiʻi
diasporic studies
Issue Date: May 2014
Publisher: [Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [May 2014]
Abstract: Okinawan music and dance have become part of Hawaiʻi's multicultural soundscape that continues to evolve. Through performing arts, Okinawans in Hawaiʻi have created a vibrant ethnic community that is a unique piece in the multicultural patchwork known as "local" that is Hawaiʻi's society. Okinawan music, particularly as a transnational product, is a vessel into which fluid, intangible, and transforming elements of Okinawan culture can be infused. It flows through a diasporic community, as it flexibly reaches out to all who choose to listen. It evokes emotions or sentiments that are interpreted as feeling connected with Okinawa or things "Okinawan" in some people, despite the fact that they might not even understand the Okinawan language in which the songs are sung. Some describe feeling melancholy when listening to certain songs, while others describe an exuberant feeling of wanting to dance when listening to other songs. Still others say that it brings back fond memories of Jiji or Baban (grandparents), memories of the now-departed issei. It is a kind of memory device or tool as well as a vehicle through which the younger generations explore their cultural heritage and identities. Thus, music, as a form of expressive culture creates diasporic citizenry of people of Okinawan ancestry in Hawaiʻi by infusing sounds, practices, and aesthetics defined as "being Okinawan" (that is, creating a tangible link to Okinawa as homeland) as a means of inventing and circumscribing community.
Okinawan music has become a symbolic marker of Okinawan culture and studying uta-sanshin 歌三線 teaches that it is not only about learning how to play an instrument or sing a song. It is also about learning the meanings, symbolisms, and cultural elements tied to or embedded in the music. In order to create the aforementioned diasporic citizenry, it takes people who have a body of knowledge, skill sets, and experiences to teach especially the younger people. It is through the knowledge, skills, and understanding of the importance of creating these connections that these teachers are able to develop in their students a cultural awareness and a sense of a collective identity, a sense of belonging, in the diasporic community.
But how was it possible for the "traditional" performing arts of Ryukyu to be "replanted" and "re-generated" in a location thousands of miles away? How is it possible for it to continue to have an influence on the sansei, yonsei, and younger generations many years later, even shaping their thoughts or imaginings on the maintenance of an "Okinawan" identity and whatever that means? In other words: What are the transmission processes by which something labeled "Okinawan identity" develops in a musical diasporic setting of 21st century Hawaiʻi, and what follows from these transmission processes? More specifically, how do the particularistic life experiences of one teacher of Okinawan music in Hawaiʻi become a generalized reference to an "Okinawan identity"?
Description: M.A. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2014.
Includes bibliographical references.
Rights: All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections:M.A. - Asian Studies

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