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Neo-Traditional Ensemble Drumming in the Amami Islands: Mapping New Performance Traditions


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This article maps neo-traditional drumming in the Amami islands. Over the past two to three decades, a number of ensemble drum groups have emerged throughout the Amami islands. These drum groups cover three main styles of drumming: eisā, wadaiko and shimadaiko. With influences from Okinawa, mainland Japan and Amami respectively, and acknowledging that cultural flows are sometimes more complex, such styles of performance have captured the Amamian imagination and have been adopted by many community and school groups alike. This article maps the breadth of such drumming by classifying the performance styles across the Amami islands, while also exploring ideas pertaining to how and why these new styles of performance have gained in popularity in the Amami context.
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South Pacic Studies Vol.34, No.1, 2013
Neo-Traditional Ensemble Drumming in the Amami Islands:
Mapping New Performance Traditions
JoHnson Henry1, 2, * and KuwaHara Sueo3
1: Research Center for the Pacic Islands, Kagoshima University,
Korimoto 1-21-24, Kagoshima, 890-8580 Japan
2: Department of Music, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, 9054 New Zealand
3: Kagoshima University Graduate School of Humanistic-Sociological Sciences,
Korimoto 1-21-30, Kagoshima, 890-0065 Japan
*Corresponding author
This article maps neo-traditional drumming in the Amami islands. Over the past two to three
decades, a number of ensemble drum groups have emerged throughout the Amami islands. These drum
groups cover three main styles of drumming: eisā, wadaiko and shimadaiko. With influences from
Okinawa, mainland Japan and Amami respectively, and acknowledging that cultural ows are sometimes
more complex, such styles of performance have captured the Amamian imagination and have been
adopted by many community and school groups alike. This article maps the breadth of such drumming
by classifying the performance styles across the Amami islands, while also exploring ideas pertaining to
how and why these new styles of performance have gained in popularity in the Amami context.
Key words: chijin, eisā, shimadaiko, taiko, wadaiko
An inter-island drum festival in the Amami islands (Amami-guntō) in the southwest of
Japan was a well publicized and publically supported event that brought diverse ensemble
drum groups from these islands together on an annual basis throughout the rst decade of
the twenty-rst century. Since its inaugural event in the year 2000, over a twelve-year period
the Amami Taiko Matsuri (Amami Drum Festival) was held on a different island each year
Received: 23 August, 2013
Accepted: 18 September, 2013
14 South Pacic Studies Vol.34, No.1, 2013
(a festival was not held in 2012 or 2013).1 Each of the islands of Amami Ōshima, Kikaijima,
Okinoerabujima (also known as Okierabujima), Tokunoshima and Yoronjima (also known
as Yoron-tō) have hosted the festival (Tables 1&2).2 The existence of such a festival raises
questions about its raison d'être. “Why is there a festival that celebrates ensemble drumming
in Amami?” “What type of drumming is included in the festival?” “Why was the event
initiated so recently?” and “Why is the event rotated around different islands?” While
1 One of the key organizers of the festival expressed that while the event was not held in 2012 or 2013, he hoped
to hold further festivals in the future.
2 These islands represent the larger islands in Amami, and the ones that have neo-traditional drum groups (the only
island with a drum group not to have hosted the festival is Kakeromajima, which has one eisā group based at an
elementary/junior high school).
Table 1. Amami Taiko Matsuri (Amami Drum Festival) (2000-2011).
Year Island
2000 Kikaijima
2001 Tokunoshima
2002 Amami Ōshima
2003 Okinoerabujima
2004 Amami Ōshima
2005 Yoronjima
2006 Kikaijima
2007 Amami Ōshima
2008 Tokunoshima
2009 Amami Ōshima
2010 Kikaijima
2011 Tokunoshima
Table 2. Amami Taiko Matsuri held at Tokunoshima Town Cultural Center in 2008.
Island City/District/Town Group Genre
Kyūshū1Kagoshima-shi Kagoshima Uruma Eisā Eisā
Kikaijima Kikai-chō Kikaijima Uruma Eisā Eisā
Kikaijima Kikai-chō Kodomo Eisā Eisā
Amami Ōshima Kasari-chiku Amami Michi no Shimadaiko Wadaiko
Amami Ōshima Tatsugo-chō Amami Ōshima Uruma Eisā Eisā
Amami Ōshima Setouchi-chō Honohoshi Daiko Wadaiko
Okinoerabujima Wadomari-chō Ryūkyū Koku Matsuri Daiko Eisā
Yoronjima Yoron-chō Yunnu Eisā Eisā
Tokunoshima Tokunoshima-chō Tōgyū Daiko Eisā/Wadaiko
Tokunoshima Tokunoshima-chō Mai Yū-kai Eisā
Tokunoshima Isen-chō Kuroshio Daiko Wadaiko
Tokunoshima Isen-chō Senkobō Wadaiko
Tokunoshima Isen-chō Kurogumi Daiko Eisā
Tokunoshima Isen-chō Nanshū Eisā Eisā
Tokunoshima2Isen-chō Dansu Sutajio CORE Dance
1 Not in Amami, but Japan’s third largest island. Amami is part of Kagoshima prefecture to the south
of Kyūshū. A guest group from Kagoshima city visited the festival.
2 This group is not a drum group, but a dance company from Tokunoshima.
and K
: Neo-Traditional Ensemble Drumming in the Amami Islands
using such questions as the basis for undertaking research on ensemble drumming in this
part of Japan, this article is a preliminary investigation that maps neo-traditional ensemble
drumming in the Amami islands.
The article offers a broad approach and includes a number of drum groups that have
not yet taken part in the festival, on one level showing the location of the main drum groups,
and on another discussing cultural ows that are associated with them (i.e., roots and routes
– cf. clifford 1997). In this article, the type of drumming identied for discussion has been
labeled “neo-traditional” (cf. HarPer 1969, KuBiK 1974). This style of music, along with the
use of “traditional” Japanese instruments (wagakki), gives the impression that the groups
have a long history in Japan, when in actual fact they are recently invented traditions, or
cultural transformations, the concept of which has been transmitted to, or conceived on,
the Amami islands (cf. HoBsBawm and ranger 1983). One style of drumming, shimadaiko
(“island drum” referring to an instrument called chijin), has been culturally transformed
in some contexts in Amami, while another two styles of drumming, eisā (with roots in
Okinawa) and wadaiko (“Japanese drum”, with roots in “mainland” Japan [i.e., Japan’s
largest islands of Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū and Shikoku]), have been transmitted to and
adopted in Amami as part of contemporary cultural flows to the islands (cf. eisentraut
2001). In this milieu, new Amamian culture is constructed and extends traditional styles of
music or recontextualizes traditional instruments.
The drums studied in this article are part of the globalization paradigm (e.g., Hannerz
1996, clifford 1997) and are located in “contact zones” (Pratt 1991). They offer a conduit
for highlighting local, regional and national cultural flows and the fashioning of new
culture. While not drawing directly from diffusionist ideas such as those offered by Japanese
folklorist, Yanagita Kunio (1875-1962), who focused on center and periphery connections
where the periphery was seen as an earlier form of culture (see morse 1990: 164), this paper
necessarily includes discussion of cultural transmission and degrees of cultural flows to,
across and within the Amami islands:
From the late 1920s onward . . . his [Yanagita’s] approach shifted to
one that dened difference increasingly as a product of time rather than
space. The central areas of Japan now came to be seen as representing
the most modern forms of Japanese society, and the periphery as
containing remnants of more ancient linguistic and social structures
(morris-suzuKi 1998: 31).
Rather than following Yanagita’s line of approach, this article shows that while the
Amami islands are on the periphery of Japan and Kagoshima prefecture (Kagoshima city
is about 400 km to the north of Amami), as well as bordering Okinawa, through a study
of drumming on the islands, cultural transmission can be seen in connection with identity
construction in this archipelagic context. This article builds on the work of taKaHasHi
(2004) on eisā on Okinoerabujima, whose research looked at the creation of new identity
for this island; it extends music research on Amami more broadly (e.g., KYūgaKKai rengō
16 South Pacic Studies Vol.34, No.1, 2013
amami cHōsa iinKai 1982, niHon Hōsō KYōKai 1989-1993, atumi 2002, tHomPson 2008,
2013), which has often focused on shimauta (island song) (see ucHida 1977, 1983, 1989,
Yamamoto 1980, saKai 1996, 2002a, 2002b, HaYward and KuwaHara 2008a, 2008b, gillan
2012); and is the first paper to address new styles of drumming throughout the Amami
islands (cf. JoHnson and KuwaHara forthcoming).
While contributing to the fields of island studies and ethnomusicology in terms
of providing a contemporary ethnography of new drumming traditions in Amami, the
theoretical orientation of this research also draws from human geography, anthropology and
cultural studies. Mapping culture has long been a tool in the social sciences for showing
the distribution of culture (i.e., culture areas) (e.g., KroeBer 1925, gell 1985, nanda and
warms 2007, ferraro and andreatta 2010, Kriz et al. 2010, roBerts 2012), and in this
article the method is used to show the distribution of neo-traditional drum groups, while
sometimes demarcating sub-political, cultural, ethnic and linguistic boundaries. Cultural
ows are mapped as a way of showing distribution patterns and the location of drums, drum
groups and styles of drumming. The article extends the mapping notion with a discussion
of new performance traditions and the consolidation or construction of identity through
certain types of drumming at cultural sites where cultural ows are at the core. As Hall
(1996: 4) has commented, “we need to understand [identities] . . . as produced in specic
historical and institutional sites within specific discursive formations and practices, by
specic enunciative strategies”. However, the present article is a preliminary investigation
and acknowledges the need for further ethnographic research on the islands.
The idea of using mapping as a tool in music research has been articulated by many
music scholars, from the early years of ethnomusicology, often through the classication
of culture, and especially in comparative musicology and organology (the study of musical
instruments) (e.g., HornBostel and sacHs 1914, freeman and merriam 1956, lomax
1968). More recently, coHen (2012) has used conceptual mapping (or cultural mapping
cf. unesco 2013) as a way of analyzing maps drawn by her informants in order to
understand “multiple relations” (p. 135) connected with music: genre, society, economics,
history and sites. For Cohen, the maps are about movement and help show musical journeys
or pathways and the “negotiation of boundaries” (p. 168) across “musical landscapes [that]
are diverse and contested, multilayered and intersecting” (p. 169). Such an approach asks
insiders to draw maps, although in this paper it is ethnographic or social mapping by the
researchers – albeit based on insider cultural knowledge – that forms the basis of the visual
representations, classications and discussion (cf. lasHua et al. 2010). In offering a series
of maps and tables on neo-traditional drumming in Amami, the article presents a way of
representing the location of specic drum types, as well as offering a discussion on cultural
ows connected with these new traditions in Amamian culture.
The research is based on two key methods: ethnographic eld research and secondary
research. Some of the research was undertaken during ethnographic fieldwork in Amami
in 2012, on Amami Ōshima and Kikaijima. Most of the main drum groups on these two
islands were studied, with knowledge about drum groups elsewhere in Amami being gained
through key informants. On this occasion, drum groups were observed either in rehearsal
and K
: Neo-Traditional Ensemble Drumming in the Amami Islands
or performance, and informal and formal interviews were undertaken with key members
of those groups. Secondary research has been undertaken since that field trip, especially
through library research and by using internet materials (especially the websites of city,
town and village offices, as well as schools and community drum ensembles).3 One of
the authors of this article, Kuwahara, is from Amami and regularly returns for research
purposes. Further knowledge about the islands and its drum groups has been gained
informally through key contacts and acquaintances.
The neo-traditional drum groups that are included for discussion represent the most
active and visible ones in the Amami islands at the time of undertaking this research,
and especially during the first decade of the twenty-first century. While the eisā and
wadaiko drum traditions of Japan have received some scholarly attention elsewhere (e.g.,
nelson 2008, alaszewsKa 2010), and also in international context (e.g., Bender 2012), as
lancasHire (2011: 15) points out, wadaiko, or kumidaiko (ensemble drumming), “has yet to
draw the attention of folklorists”. That is, in Japan in general, ensemble drum performance
of a neo-traditional style has risen in popularity especially since the 1950s, and in particular
after a performance by Oguchi Daihachi (1924-2008) on wadaiko at a festival of arts at
the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, which inuenced the birth of many similar groups in
Japan and overseas (see ogucHi 1987, 1993). In such a national context that experienced
the growth of neo-traditional drumming more broadly, as well as the success of new styles
of eisā in Okinawa, the development of new drum groups in Amami demands study. Just as
finnegan (1989) has pointed out in connection with the “hidden” musicians of an English
town, the drum groups discussed in this article are foregrounded as a way of highlighting a
phenomenon of contemporary Japanese culture in one archipelagic setting where traditions
are created as a result of cultural ows and local transformation.
The original aim of the research was to document community groups, but numerous
visibly active school groups (elementary, junior high school and high school levels)
have been included because of their frequent engagement in performing to the wider
community, often in a local setting. Just as community groups come and go depending
on the circumstances of the players, so too do school groups. For the latter, while the
inclusion of eisā, wadaiko and shimadaiko performance might sometimes help form part
of the school curriculum, some schools have particularly active teachers of one or more of
these performing arts, hence the increased awareness of their activities to the wider public.
However, school teachers often move to different locations, and in the Amami islands are
usually required to do so every three years, so a school with a drum group that is active for
several years might soon become inactive as teachers move to another location. However,
some teachers are able to work for longer periods at a specific school depending on the
terms of their contract. Also, some drum groups might be one-off or short-lived projects, or
be formed from youth groups for special occasions (e.g., China-chō Seinen Renraku Kyōgi-
kai and Aikō-kai Kodomo Eisā-tai eisā groups on Okinoerabujima), in which case they have
3The authors are not aware of any commercially available recordings of the drum groups studied in this paper, but
some of the groups have received media coverage by appearing in local publicity videos or by posting recordings
of their performances on websites such as YouTube.
18 South Pacic Studies Vol.34, No.1, 2013
not been included as primary groups for study in this paper.4
Following this introduction, the article divides into three parts. The first situates
Amami as an archipelago within the Nansei islands (Nansei-shotō), Kagoshima prefecture
and Japan. When considering the location and flows of drums to this island setting, it is
important to understand not only the geography of the islands, but also their cultural and
political history. The second part of the article denes the types of drums under study and
addresses questions such as: What form do the drums have? and What performance genres
are the drums used in? Drums are made and played in various ways, and in the Amami
context there are drums that relate to similar instruments and practices elsewhere in the
Nansei islands, as well as drums that are specific to this part of Japan. The third part of
the article focuses on locating (mapping) Amami’s neo-traditional ensemble drum groups.
Where are the drums located in Amami? and Have any drums been transmitted to, within
or from Amami? In this part of the article, the discussion shows the location and cultural
ows of drums and drumming in this island setting. Some groups are not always as active
as others, and the ones discussed in the article are representative of a snapshot of neo-
traditional ensemble drumming in Amami in the early years of the twenty-rst century.
Situating Amami
The Nansei islands (Nansei-shotō; also called Ryūkyū islands [Ryūkyū-shotō]) to the
southwest of Japan form an arc of about 90 islands over 1,400 km long between Japan’s third
4While this research did not include a survey of all schools in Amami, it has become apparent that this subject
would well suit further study.
Fig. 1. Map of Japan. Adaptation of a map produced by sanKaKuKei (2013).
and K
: Neo-Traditional Ensemble Drumming in the Amami Islands
Fig. 2. The Nansei Islands. Adaptation of a map produced by sanKaKuKei (2013).
largest island, Kyūshū, and the Asian mainland (via Taiwan) (Figs 1&2). This aquapelagic
(HaYward 2012) region of Japan includes Japan’s southernmost prefecture, Okinawa, which
is a cluster of three main archipelagos (Okinawa-shotō, Miyako-shotō and Yaeyama-shotō)
and several outlying islands, and part of Kagoshima prefecture, which includes several
island groups within the Satsunan islands (Satsunan-shotō) (the prefecture also comprises
part of southern Kyūshū): Amami-guntō, Tokara-rettō and Ōsumi-shotō. Occupying a
central part of the Nansei islands, as does Okinawa-hontō (Okinawa island), the Amami
islands exist as several distinct island, administrative and cultural entities.
There are eight main Amami islands: Amami Ōshima, Kakeromajima, Kikaijima,
Okinoerabujima, Tokunoshima, Yoronjima, Ukejima and Yoroshima (Table 3). In terms of
population, Amami Ōshima is the most populated, with the small islands of Ukejima and
Yoroshima each having less than 200 people. There are several smaller unpopulated islands
in the group.
The most southerly of the Amami islands, Yoronjima, is geographically very close
to Okinawa-hontō, at just over 20 km away. The Amami islands are a part of Kagoshima
prefecture, and, as shown in Table 3, there are several administrative units on the islands.
The largest of these is Amami-shi (city), which is a part of the island of Amami Ōshima (the
second largest island of the Nansei islands). The term Ōshima-gun (district) is used to group
Minami Satsuma-shi
Amami Ōshima
20 South Pacic Studies Vol.34, No.1, 2013
each of the other towns and villages in all the Amami islands. The divisions are important
factors when mapping drum groups on the islands, especially in terms of the size of the
population of each island, the distribution of the population across the administrative units,
and the number of drum groups on each island or in each city, town or village.
The Amami islands occupy a somewhat ambiguous place in Japanese history. The
division between the Amami islands and Okinawa (especially Okinawa-hontō) is one that
in the present day divides two of Japan’s neighbouring prefectures, Okinawa prefecture
and Kagoshima prefecture, and historically relates to political allegiances. Kikaijima was
seen as a western frontier in ancient Japan (nelson 2006: 387), and also one of the outer
islands when it was part of the Ryūkyū Kingdom (Kerr 2000: 123). The Amami islands are
known to have traded with the Yamato5 rulers since the Nara period (nelson 2006: 372-
373), and while the islands were once controlled by local chiefs, they became part of the
Ryūkyū Kingdom by the sixteenth century, which dominated most of the Nansei islands at
this time. In 1609, however, the Amami islands became part of Satsuma, which dominated
the southern part of Kyūshū and nearby islands. At this time, Satsuma also conquered the
Ryūkyū Kingdom, although the Ryūkyū Kingdom continued to administer the south of the
Nansei islands, with the Amami islands being controlled directly by the Satsuma clan (see
further matsusHita 1983).
The Nansei islands are far from being a single culture historically connected by sea
5The Yamato rulers were based in the Yamato province, which corresponds approximately to present-day Nara
Table 3. Amami Islands1.
Island Administrative Unit2Town/Village Population Size (km2)
Amami Ōshima Amami-shi 45,688 308.15
Ōshima-gun Tatsugō-chō 6,161 82.08
Yamato-son 1,647 89.60
Unken-son 1,894 103.02
Setouchi-chō 10,7823239.894
Kakeromajima Setouchi-chō 1,547 77.39
Ukejima Setouchi-chō 161 13.34
Yoroshima Setouchi-chō 137 9.35
Kikaijima Kikai-chō 7,657 56.94
Tokunoshima Tokunoshima-chō 11,666 104.90
Amagi-chō 6,532 84.80
Isen-chō 7,114 62.70
Okinoerabujima Wadomari-chō 6,992 40.37
China-chō 6,522 53.31
Yoronjima Yoron-chō 5,471 20.49
1 Most recent data from respective town or village ofce website (as of 4 August, 2013).
2 Amami-shi (city) is an independent administrative entity within Kagoshima prefecture. Ōshima-
gun (district) is term that refers to a collection of towns and villages in the Amami islands that each
have an administrative sub-political ofce.
3, 4 Including all the islands in the town.
and K
: Neo-Traditional Ensemble Drumming in the Amami Islands
(and nowadays by air to some of the islands). The archipelago has a history that includes
contested sovereignty, subjugation and occupation, and comprises many diverse island
cultures, which sometimes show evidence of cultural flows within, between and across
small and large distances in this part of Japan. As well as the cultural differences that
are found on many of the Nansei islands (e.g., language/dialect and performing arts), the
historical division between the Ryūkyū Kingdom and the southern Satsuma islands (i.e.,
Satsunan-shotō) contributed to the development of distinct cultural traits. For example, the
sanshin (three-string lute) found in Okinawa is slightly different to the one found in Amami
(see JoHnson 2010); the chijin is predominant in Amami, especially in Amami Ōshima and
Kikaijima (see gunJi et al. 1980), while almost unknown in Okinawa; and traditional forms
of the performing arts called eisā have cultural roots in Okinawa and not in Amami (see
nelson 2008).
In this context of the nation state, borderlands, peripheries and cultural distinction,
there have been and still are numerous cultural ows between Amami and Okinawa to the
south, and the Japanese mainland to the north. More recent cultural ows in the sphere of
group drumming have shown how culture not only moves to local and distant regions, but
also how music is adopted, transformed or localized in its new setting. The foregrounding
of neo-traditional cultural forms also helps show how islanders use music as a way of
expressing, consolidating and creating an island or Amamian identity in an age when
Japan is celebrating local culture on the one hand and national identity on the other. Just
as taKaHasHi (2013: 383) notes that the island of Okinoerabujima in the Amami islands
has a complex identity in terms of place and identity, so too do the other Amami islands:
“Okinoerabu Island is geographically located in the Ryukyu archipelago and has borders
overlapping multiple boundaries of ‘Okinawa/Amami’, Ryukyu/Satsuma’, and Uchina/
Yamato [Okinawan/Japanese]’. Due to its unique circumstance, the islanders of Okinoerabu
hold ambiguous and complex ethnic identity.”
Dening Island Drums
Japan has a variety of drums (see further gunJi and JoHnson 2012). There is much
historical evidence of drums of various types, and they are found in diverse genres and
contexts, including Shintō ritual (Japan’s indigenous belief system), Buddhist ritual
(transmitted to Japan by the sixth century), gagaku (court music dating from at least the
eighth century), theater (dating from the fourteenth century), kabuki theater (dating from
the early seventeenth century), and numerous folk performing arts (on such music styles see
malm [1959] 2000). In the Amami islands, the diversity of Japan’s drums is represented in a
number of traditional, neo-traditional and contemporary genres.
At each of the Amami Drum Festivals, a variety of drum types has been presented
(Table 2). As well as some non-Japanese styles that have been adopted in Japan, such as
djembe (with African roots), which has received much interest in Japan in recent years and
helps show a global cultural perspective, overall, three main types of drumming have been
especially visible, each of which has showcased a type of neo-traditional performing art:
22 South Pacic Studies Vol.34, No.1, 2013
eisā, wadaiko and shimadaiko. In Amami, these drums have become symbols of place and
identity, and offer a conduit for understanding the island cultures that make up the Amami
archipelago. Indeed, as dawe (2001: 220) has noted, “musical instruments are viewed as
objects existing at the intersection of material, social and cultural worlds, as socially and
culturally constructed, in metaphor and meaning, industry and commerce, and as active in
the shaping of social and cultural life” (cf. dawe 2003).
Eisā is a performing art involving music and dance in a colorful display of cultural
symbols that has distinct roots in Okinawa, where it is predominant in traditional and
neo-traditional forms; wadaiko means Japanese drum”, and is a term that is often used
interchangeably with kumidaiko (“ensemble drumming”) and refers to a style of group
drumming that developed in mainland Japan from the 1950s, and popularized more widely
from the 1960s (see Bender 2012); and shimadaiko means “island drum” and refers to the
Amami drum called chijin. While each style of drumming might be referred to by other
names, the ones mentioned in this article are often used in the Amami islands (Table 4).
Eisādaiko (eisā drum) is a term used to refer to several types of drum found in the
Table 4. Drum types and denitions.
Drum Categories Denition
Eisādaiko Group of drum types
Shimadaiko (Chijin) Single drum type
Wadaiko Ensemble drumming (often barrel drums)
Fig. 3. Eisā. Ryūkyū Koku Matsuri Daiko, Kagoshima city (photograph by Henry Johnson, 2012).
and K
: Neo-Traditional Ensemble Drumming in the Amami Islands
drum/dance/vocal/visual genre called eisā (Fig. 3). Three main types of drum are used in
eisā: eisā ōdaiko, eisā shimedaiko and pārankū. Eisā ōdaiko (also called eisā nagadō daiko)
are double-headed barrel drums with skins tacked onto the wooden body. The drums range
from around 37 to 48 cm high (between the two drumheads) and about 18 to 45 cm wide.
Makers sometimes classify the drum into three types according to size: small (ko: around 18
cm wide at the drum heads), medium (chū: around 30 cm wide) and large (ō: around 45 cm
wide). Each type of drum is usually painted bright red and has a ring-handle on each side
of the body (around the central part by the bulge). In connection with performance practice,
unlike wadaiko, which are normally played with two wooden drumsticks (bachi), with the
eisā ōdaiko the normal playing technique is with a single drumstick. With the lighter type
of eisā ōdaiko, the player straps the drum around their body and dances while playing the
drum, usually on one side only, and often chanting at the same time.
Eisā shimedaiko are very similar to shimedaiko as used elsewhere in Japan, except they
are usually slightly shallower and lighter so they can be easily played while the performer
holds the instrument and dances. This type of drum consists of a shallow barrel drum
with a drumhead at each end, which are positioned by using cord tied between each head
and pulled very tight to increase tension on the drumheads. The width of each drumhead
is usually between 25 and 35 cm. As with the eisā ōdaiko, the body of the drum is often
painted bright red, and the lacing on these drums is also often red. A single drum stick
is used to strike the drum when the player is dancing, and sometimes the drum rests in a
small stand on the oor when the player might use two drum sticks (as with the shimedaiko
elsewhere in Japan).
Pārankū (also pronounced pāranku) are very small hand-held drums with a diameter
of about 15 to 21 cm. The drum is usually about 4 cm high. The drum has a single skin
covering and tacked onto a very shallow wooden body that is usually painted bright red. The
underneath of the drum is almost “donut” shape, with a wide perimeter between the side of
the drum and a large central opening (sound-hole). The large hole and wide perimeter make
the drum easier to hold when playing and dancing. As with the other eisā drums, pārankū
are held while playing and dancing, and are struck with a single wooden drumstick.
Wadaiko (literally “Japanese drum”) is a term used to define Japanese drums and a
type of neo-traditional Japanese drum ensemble (Fig. 4). Several different types of drum
are grouped together under the term wadaiko, but the most frequently used type of drum is
a nagadō daiko, which is a double-headed barrel drum with skins tacked onto the wooden
body (the same form of drum as the eisā ōdaiko, as discussed above). The diameter of each
drumhead ranges from about 30 cm to 136 cm; the wooden body is usually varnished; and
the instrument is played with two wooden drumsticks, sometimes on both sides of the drum
by different players. There are a number of other drum types that are sometimes included
in the wadaiko ensemble, including shimedaiko (double-headed barrel drum with skins
either attached to a metal frame and then laced to the drum, or by a brace device) and okedō
daiko (double headed cylindrical drum with skins attached to a metal frame and then laced
to the wooden body the body is usually very light so the drum can be carried), which is
played using two wooden drum sticks. The width of the skins of the okedō daiko ranges
24 South Pacic Studies Vol.34, No.1, 2013
from around 36 cm to 75 cm for an instrument that could also be strapped around a player’s
body, but some larger drums with a similar structure are also made and rest on a stand so
that the drum heads are perpendicular to the ground. The drum is characterized by its skins,
which overhang the body, as well as the lacing, which is often highly stylized in terms of
the pattern formed around the drum. A drum with heads with a diameter of 48 cm would
typically be attached to the instrument’s body that is around 52 cm long and 48 cm wide.
Some other barrel drums are occasionally used, which differ primarily in terms of their
height (e.g., hiradaiko).
The term shimadaiko (“island drum”) refers to the chijin, which is Amami’s own small
drum (Fig. 5). The drum is similar in size and shape to the shimedaiko (i.e., slight barrel
shape), although with the chijin the two skins slightly overhang the wooden body (they
are sometimes attached to a metal ring), and are secured by crisscross lacing that passes
between each skin and all around the body. The skins are made either of horse, goat or cow
Fig. 4. Wadaiko. Kikaijima Daiko (photograph by Sueo Kuwahara, 2012).
Fig. 5. Shimadaiko. Amami Kōkō Kyōdo Geinō Bu “Tida nu Kwa” (photograph by Henry Johnson, 2012).
and K
: Neo-Traditional Ensemble Drumming in the Amami Islands
hide, and wooden wedges are inserted all around the outside of the body, between the two
skins, as a way of stretching the skins so they produce a higher pitch. The diameter of the
drum is usually around 20 to 36 cm. In its traditional settings such as “Hachigatsu Odori”
(“August Dance”), the chijin is played with a single wooden drum stick, and it is usually
held and played while the player dances, although in shimauta (“island song”), which
includes sanshin (three-string lute), and in the neo-traditional ensemble drum context, the
drum is normally played with two drum sticks in a similar way to the shimedaiko. The chijin
is considered a unique instrument to Amami, although similar types of instrument can be
found elsewhere in Japan and nearby cultures (KagosHima-Ken reKisHi sHirYō sentā reimei-
Kan 2002). Chijin are also used in a number of other festivals and events in the Amami
islands (e.g., cheerleading [ōendan] and rice-planting festivals [taue matsuri]) (cf. Kumada
1989, 1991, Kumada and teraucHi 1992, nisHimoto 2006).
Locating Amami’s Neo-Traditional Drum Cultures
The neo-traditional drum ensembles of the Amami islands discussed in this part of
the article have been identified based on performing groups that have been especially
active over the past decade, particularly in the Amami Taiko Matsuri and other public
performances. There are undoubtedly some drum groups that have not been mentioned in
this discussion, as well as others that are no longer active, but the ones that are discussed
represent visible cultures of group drumming in the Amami islands primarily in the first
decade of the twentieth century. While exact information for some of the groups still needs
to be verified, most were established over the past two or three decades, and some more
recently, and thus represent a new trend in ensemble drumming in this part of Japan that has
received very little scholarly attention.
The extent of neo-traditional ensemble drumming in Amami is shown in Table 5 and
Fig. 6. In total, 40 such groups have been identied. Acknowledging that the life of drum
groups may vary, and that some of the ones identied in this research may not be as active
as others, the drum groups included in Table 5 help show the spread and extent of neo-
tradition drumming in the Amami islands. Of these 40 groups, 17 are based at schools (seven
elementary schools, one combined elementary and junior high school, three junior high
schools, and six high schools),6 one is for elementary school children in general (Kikaijima
Kodomo Eisā), one is for children (Yō Shunkanekkwa Daiko), one is based at a shōchū
(distilled liquor) factory (Kaiun Daiko), one is primarily for graduates of Okinoerabu High
School (Buyū Beat) and 19 are for the wider community.7
In addition to these neo-traditional groups, which are identied as more recent additions
to the islands’ performing arts, there are some older performance traditions that sometimes
6One of the high-school groups, Kohaku Daiko, actually comprises players from Tokunoshima’s three high
schools: Tokunoshima Kōtō Gakkō, Tokunoshima Nōgyō Kōtō Gakkō and Shōnan Daini Kōtō Gakkō.
7In addition to such neo-traditional drum groups, there are also hybrid groups such as Itsubu Shōgakkō’s (Itsubu
Elementary School) “Saza Nami Bando” in Naze on Amami Ōshima, which includes wadaiko, chijin and san-
shin. This group often uses drums to accompany sanshin playing.
26 South Pacic Studies Vol.34, No.1, 2013
Table 5. Neo-traditional drum groups in the Amami Islands.
Group/School Name Genre Island Location (city
[-shi], district
[-chiku], town
[-chō] village
1 Amami Michi no Shimadaiko Wadaiko Amami Ōshima Kasari-chiku Community
(2)1Ōshima Kitakō Taiko-bu Chijin/
Amami Ōshima Kasari-chiku High school
(3) Setta Amandī Daiko Chijin/
Amami Ōshima Kasari-chiku Elementary school
4 Yō Shunkanekkwa Daiko Chijin Amami Ōshima Kasari-chiku Community children
5 Aranami Daiko Chijin Amami Ōshima Tatsugo-chō Community
(6) Amami Kōkō Kyōdo Geinō
Bu “Tida nu Kwa”
Chijin Amami Ōshima Amami-shi (Naze) High school
7 Amami Ōshima Uruma Eisā Eisā Amami Ōshima Tatsugo-chō Community
8 Kaiun Daiko Wadaiko Amami Ōshima Uken-son Shōchū factory
9 Honohoshi Daiko Wadaiko Amami Ōshima Setouchi-chō Community
10 Kikaijima Daiko Wadaiko Kikaijima Kikai-chō Community
11 Kikaijima Kodomo Eisā Eisā Kikaijima Kikai-chō Elementary school
12 Kikaijima Uruma Eisā Eisā Kikaijima Kikai-chō Community
(13) Shodon Shō-Chū Gakkō Eisā Kakeromajima Setouchi-chō Elementary/Junior
High school
14 Tōgyū Daiko Eisā/
Tokunoshima Tokunoshima-chō Community
15 Mai Yū-kai Eisā Tokunoshima Tokunoshima-chō Community
(16) Shinrei Daiko Wadaiko Tokunoshima Tokunoshima-chō Elementary school
(17) Tokunoshima Kōtō Kurakoshi
Eisā Tai
Eisā Tokunoshima Tokunoshima-chō High school
18 Kuroshio Daiko Wadaiko Tokunoshima Isen-chō Community
(19) Kohaku Daiko Wadaiko Tokunoshima Isen-chō High schools
20 Kurogumi Daiko Eisā Tokunoshima Isen-chō Kindergarten to High
(21) Tiko Warabe Eisā/
Tokunoshima Isen-chō Elementary school
22 Nanshū Eisā Eisā Tokunoshima Isen-chō Community
(23) Senkobō Wadaiko Tokunoshima Isen-chō Junior High school
(24) Amagi Shōgakkō Eisā Tokunoshima Amagi-chō Elementary school
(25) Amagi Chūgakkō Eisā/
Tokunoshima Amagi-chō Junior High school
26 Ryūkyū Koku Matsuri Daiko Eisā Okinoerabujima Wadomari-chō Community
27 Erabu Yonunushi Uruma Eisā Eisā Okinoerabujima Wadomari-chō Community
(28) Wadomari Shogakkō Eisā Okinoerabujima Wadomari-chō Elementary school
29 Nanshū Daiko Wadaiko Okinoerabujima Wadomari-chō Community
30 Buyū Beat Eisā Okinoerabujima Wadomari-chō Community (high
school graduates)
31 Naruko DE Seryōsa Eisā Okinoerabujima China-chō Community
32 China-chō Eisā Aikō-kai Eisā Okinoerabujima China-chō Community
(33) Okinoerabu Kōkō Eisā-tai Eisā Okinoerabujima China-chō High school
34 Yunnu Eisā Eisā Yoronjima Yoron-chō Community
35 Yunnu Daiko Wadaiko Yoronjima Yoron-chō Community
(36) Yoron-chō Tachi Nama
Eisā Yoronjima Yoron-chō Elementary school
(37) Yoron-chō Tachi Yoron
Wadaiko Yoronjima Yoron-chō Elementary school
(38) Yoron-chō Tachi Yoron
Yoronjima Yoron-chō Junior High school
(39) Kagoshima Kenritsu Yoron
Eisā Yoronjima Yoron-chō High school
40 Yoron Bugenkō Eisā Yoronjima Yoron-chō Community
1 Parenthesis indicates a school-based group.
and K
: Neo-Traditional Ensemble Drumming in the Amami Islands
Amami Ōshima
Tokunoshima Okinoerabujima Yoronjima
16 17
18 19
20 22 23
31 32 33
34 35 36
37 39 40
10 11 12
26 27
28 29 30
25 38
Fig. 6. Distribution of drum groups in the Amami islands based on Table 5.
28 South Pacic Studies Vol.34, No.1, 2013
include ensemble drumming. While drums such as wadaiko and chijin are found in a range
of performing arts and performance contexts, their use in group drumming is outlined here
in terms of new performance traditions that have been “invented” or transformed in the
Amami islands over the past two or three decades (cf. HoBsBawm and ranger 1983). The
distinction between “old” (e.g., “Hachigatsu Odori”) and new” (e.g., eisā and wadaiko)
performance contexts is sometimes broken down with the use of chijin in some of the more
recently established drum groups. For example, while the shimedaiko is often used as a
small type of drum in many wadaiko groups, several drum groups in Amami (especially
on Amami Ōshima and Kikaijima) include the chijin as an instrument that has a similar
function to the shimedaiko in terms of instrument size and sound. Groups such as Amami
Michi no Shimadaiko (on Amami Ōshima) and Kikaijima Daiko (on Kikaijima) follow such
a practice. Furthermore, some groups use primarily chijin in a type of contemporary chijin
ensemble, and sometimes include wadaiko in varying numbers to provide lower sounds
(e.g., Ōshima Kitakō Taiko-bu, Setta Amandī Daiko, Amami Kōkō Kyōdo Geinō Bu “Tida
nu Kwa” and Aranami Daiko – each located on Amami Ōshima).
Eisā is a style of ensemble drumming that has its roots in Okinawa (an island prefecture
to the south of the Amami islands see oKaze 1992, JoHnson 2008, nelson 2008). In its
“home” setting, eisā is known as a traditional performing art that combines drumming and
dance, which is primarily performed during the Bon festival in the summer months.8 In
addition to this traditional style, since the 1950s, a modernized version of the genre was
created that moved the performance style out of its ritualistic setting and into a different
type of creative and usually secular context. Such was the popularity of this new form of
eisā that it soon spread throughout the Ryūkyū islands, Nansei islands, Japan and beyond.
While ritualistic eisā performances “are elegiac accounts of the past, narrating what could
be called Ryūkyūan mythic time, a powerful fusion of time and space” (nelson 2008: 188),
the modern style of eisā “dealt with the past by creating something in the present” (nelson
2008: 20). It is this modern type of eisā that has been transmitted to some of the Amami
Contemporary eisā is dominated by several organizations. The largest of these is
Ryūkyū Koku Matsuri Daiko, which is based in Okinawa and has numerous branches in
the Nansei islands, around Japan and overseas. Another organization is Uruma Eisā, which
also emanates from Okinawa, is much smaller than Ryūkyū Koku Matsuri Daiko, and has
branches outside of Okinawa in Kagoshima (in the city and in the Satsunan islands) and
Tōkyō. A further organization, Yoron Bugenkō, is much smaller still, and has just three
branches: in Kantō (around Tōkyō), Kansai (around Ōsaka) and Yoronjima. The branch on
Yoronjima was established in 2011 and is the most recent eisā group on the island.
Ryūkyū Koku Matsuri Daiko was founded in 1982 and has 47 branch groups around
Japan and 11 overseas (rYūKYū KoKu matsuri daiKo 2013). In the Nansei islands the
organization has branches in Okinawa prefecture (eight branches on Okinawa island in
Nago, Uruma, Okinawa, Nishihara, Yonabaru, Naha, Tomigusuku and Itoman; one in
8A Buddhist festival remembering ancestor spirits.
and K
: Neo-Traditional Ensemble Drumming in the Amami Islands
Miyako-shotō [Miyako islands]; and one on Ishigakijima in Yaeyama-shotō [Yaeyama
islands]), one on Okinoerabujima (Okinoerabu island) and one on Tanegashima
(Tanegashima island). It also has many branches throughout Japan and as far away as
Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Argentina (some of the main destinations of an early
Japanese diaspora).
The distribution of Ryūkyū Koku Matsuri Daiko in the Nansei islands is across ve
smaller archipelagos: Okinawa-shotō, Miyako-rettō, Yaeyama-shotō, Amami-guntō and
Ōsumi-shotō. There is just one group belonging to this organization in the Amami islands,
on Okinoerabujima, and this branch was established in 1999 (rYūKYū KoKu matsuri daiKo
2013). The existence of a branch of Ryūkyū Koku Matsuri Daiko on Okinoerabujima is
partly explained by the island’s geographic proximity to Okinawa, at about 60 km (about
31 km from Yoronjima). This degree of geographic cultural inuence and transmission is
strengthened by the island having several other eisā performance groups: four community
groups, one elementary school group, one high school group and one group that exists
mostly for graduates of Okinoerabu Kōtō Gakkō (Okinoerabu High School).
The other Amami islands that have eisā groups are Tokunoshima, Amami Ōshima,
Kikaijima, Kakeromajima and Yoronjima. In connection with geographic proximity of the
Amami islands to Okinawa, the closest island, Yoronjima, which is just over 20 km away
from Okinawa-hontō, has several eisā performance groups (two community groups and
three school groups). There are eight eisā groups on Tokunoshima (three community groups
and four school groups) (the island is just over 100 km from Okinawa), and a further group
that is only for children up to high school. Further north, there is only one eisā organization
on Amami Ōshima (around 175 km from Okinawa), which has sometimes had two rehearsal
locations to include different performers (in Tatsugō-chō and Yamato-son), one group on
Kakeromajima (an island administered as part of a town in Amami Ōshima), which is at a
combined primary and junior high school, and two groups on Kikaijima (an organization
that divides into two groups: adults and children, with the latter sometimes performing
separately), which is an Amami island the furthest away from Okinawa (over 225 km).
While Tokunoshima has several eisā groups, the number on Amami Ōshima is much fewer,
especially when considering the difference in populations (Table 3). Amami Ōshima and
Kikaijima are at the northern end of the Amami islands, and the smaller number of eisā
groups on these islands might reect the islands’ relative distance from Okinawa, although
Amami Ōshima has a much larger population than all the other Amami islands, and one
might expect to see more eisā groups as a result of this.
Uruma Eisā is a much smaller organization in comparison to Ryūkyū Koku Matsuri
Daiko. It was established in 1992 by Okinawan musicians and peace activist Kina Shōkichi
(b. 1948) and currently has branches on Amami Ōshima (Amami Ōshima Uruma Eisā),
Okinoerabujima (Erabu Yonunushi Uruma Eisā) and Kikaijima (Kikaijima Uruma Eisā
and Kikaijima Kodomo Eisâ). Like Ryūkyū Koku Matsuri Daiko, Uruma Eisā is based in
Okinawa and has branches further aeld, although only two outside the Nansei islands: one
in Kagoshima city on Kyūshū, and one in Tōkyō, Japan’s capital city on Honshū. The spread
of Uruma Eisā to some of the other Nansei islands and elsewhere in Japan is explained in
30 South Pacic Studies Vol.34, No.1, 2013
part by Kina’s performances in Okinoerabujima in 1993, when he promoted eisā (taKaHasHi
2002, 2004), and his 1995 “Sabani Peace Connection” (Sabani Pīsu Konekushon), which
was a sea journey of 1,400 km in a traditional Okinawan canoe (sabani) from Yonaguni
island in Okinawa prefecture to Hiroshima city in Honshū (also visiting the other A-Bomb
city of Nagasaki, and thus emphasizing the “peace connection” via sites of mass destruction)
and calling at 23 islands on the way (see sato 1996). Some Uruma Eisā groups were
established as a result of key personnel being involved in one way or another in this peace
movement. For example, the founder of Kikaijima Uruma Eisā, Sakae Tadanori, was deeply
moved by the event and not only took up eisā as a result of this, but also established a
branch organization on Kikaijima, which divides into one group for adults and another for
children (saKae 2012). Also, along with the leader of Amami Michi no Shimadaiko, which
is based in Amami Ōshima, Sakae was pivotal in helping to establish the Amami Taiko
Matsuri (see JoHnson and KuwaHara forthcoming).9
A total of 24 eisā groups have been identied in the Amami islands. Of these, 10 are
located at schools, and 14 are community groups, although sometimes having a specific
type of membership. Most of the groups are located in the southern Amami islands (i.e.,
Yoronjima, Okinoerabujima and Tokunoshima), and the most populated island, Amami
Ōshima (to the north of the archipelago), has just one eisā group. The geographic proximity
of these southern islands to Okinawa helps explain the reason for some of these cultural
ows, although historically there are many other types of Okinawan performing arts that
have not been transmitted to the Amami islands (even traditional eisā is not practised in
Amami). Another way of helping to understand the presence of neo-traditional eisā in
Amami is that some Amamians, and especially those on islands that are close to Okinawa,
may identify with Okinawa as part of a new Amamian identity that positions the Amami
islands culturally closer to Okinawa than they have been in the recent past. Furthermore,
contemporary cultural ows have much to do with the transmission of eisā to Amami in its
modern-day form. After all, the genre is visually, audibly and physically dynamic and is one
of a number of global performing arts that has attracted attention as part of a globalization of
music styles. The presence of three eisā organizations also contributes to the dissemination
of eisā within the Nansei islands and beyond. In a similar way to the transmission of
tradition through music institutions as discussed by coHen (2009), eisā organizations also
transmit tradition, but in this context it is neo-traditional music through their social and
cultural networks in Japan that help create real (i.e., local) and imagined communities (i.e.,
across sites and islands) (cf. anderson [1983] 1991). Neo-traditional eisā performance is an
adopted intercultural music/dance tradition in Amami that helps Amamians consolidate their
island identity within the Nansei islands and Japan more broadly. The genre may have its
roots in Okinawa, but has been adopted further aeld, and especially in the islands close to
Okinawa. The inbetweeness of Amami helps in the appropriation of this Okinawan-rooted/
routed music genre, and, in this context, the notion of “community could be said to have
9Four of the groups noted in Table 5 perform both eisā and wadaiko, although separately, and three of these
groups are based at schools.
and K
: Neo-Traditional Ensemble Drumming in the Amami Islands
been generated by the music” (eisentraut 2001: 102). That is, eisā has distinct Okinawan
roots, and the performers who have adopted this performance genre in Amami are outwardly
indexing Okinawa as a source culture to which they wish to identify and construct a sense of
cultural afliation as part of their musical identity. As Kartomi (1981: 245) has commented,
“the initial and sustaining impulse and impetus for musical transculturation is normally
There are a number of wadaiko groups in the Amami islands (school groups and non-
school groups). While Okinoerabujima has mainly eisā groups and just one wadaiko group,
which reflects the geographic proximity of the island to Okinawa (Yoronjima, which is
even closer to Okinawa, actually has a mix of ei groups and wadaiko groups), there
are several wadaiko groups in the other Amami islands. The next island to the north after
Okinoerabujima is Tokunoshima. There are seven wadaiko groups on Tokunoshima (five
of these are at schools), three of which mix eisā and wadaiko, a practice that reects the
island’s location near to Okinawa and also to other inuences from elsewhere in Japan. One
community wadaiko group, Kuroshio Daiko, was established in 1990, and is named after the
north-owing ocean current that passes by the Nansei islands, hence adding a distinct sense
of locality to the group. This group is typical of many other wadaiko groups in terms of
its drums and performance practice. Another wadaiko group on the island, Kohaku Daiko,
comprises students from the island’s three high schools, and shows the interest in wadaiko
amongst islanders from an early age.
Further north still, in Amami Ōshima there are five main wadaiko groups, two of
which especially mix shimadaiko (chijin) and wadaiko. The main wadaiko groups are
located in three different parts of the island: northeast (Kasari-chiku [a district in Amami
city]), southwest (Uken-son) and south (Setouchi-chō). There are no main wadaiko groups
in the island’s main urban center, Naze, and the distribution of the wadaiko groups in other
locations reects the distribution of the island’s population and its geography. The oldest
community wadaiko group on Amami Ōshima is Honohoshi Daiko, which is located in
Setouchi-chō and dates from 1984. Amami Michi no Shimadaiko is a community group
based in Kasari-chiku (Kasari district) and was founded in 1988 when it performed at the
opening of the island’s new airport. The group primarily uses wadaiko barrel drums, but
has several chijin and larger barrel drums that are tuned in the same way as chijin (i.e.,
wedge tuning). Kaiun Daiko was established in 2007 and is located in Uken-son (Uken
village) and belongs to a shōchū (distilled liquor) factory, Amami Ōshima Kaiun Shuzō,
where it performs at company and community events. In addition to these three main
wadaiko groups, two other groups focus on chijin but also include several wadaiko. These
groups, Ōshima Kitakō Taiko-bu and Setta Amandī Daiko are based in a high school and
primary school respectively. The use of chijin in the school context – several other schools
have chijin groups (discussed below) is possibly explained by the size and cost of the
instrument. The chijin is relatively small in comparison to eisā drums and wadaiko, and it
is also less expensive than larger drums. In a school context, more drums can be purchased
and more students can have access to them.
The geography of Amami Ōshima has much to do with the distribution of wadaiko
32 South Pacic Studies Vol.34, No.1, 2013
groups (JoHnson and KuwaHara 2013). In this part of Japan the term shima (“island”) is
also sometimes used to refer to one’s hometown, so that there may be a notion of different
shima” (hometowns) on the same “shima” (island). As noted by Suwa, “in Japanese . . . the
idea of shima always contains a double image: shima as a geographical feature and shima as
a community. In Okinawa ... shima was a political unit equivalent to a village and the term
still retains such connotations there” (suwa 2007: 7). On Amami Ōshima, the geography of
the island is characterized by a rugged coastline with the central part of the island dominated
by mountains. A narrow strip of land surrounds much of the island, and, in this context:
Rugged mountains and deep fjords offer thrilling scenery and
meager subsistence for the 110,000 people who eke out a precarious
livelihood from tiny valleys and crudely terraced mountainsides. Naze,
the capital, contains about 34,000 people and one other large town has
perhaps 10,000. The remainder dwell in tiny hamlets in isolated valleys
and sheltered bays, often accessible only from the sea (Haring 1952:
On Kikaijima, there is one wadaiko group, Kikaijima Daiko (the group includes a
chijin where it is used in a similar way to a shimedaiko), which was established in 2006.
This group and the island’s eisā groups, which were established in 1996, are prevalent
during general island festivities.
There are at least 17 wadaiko groups in the Amami islands. Nine of these groups
are located at schools, and eight are non-school groups. One of the non-school groups is
located at a shōchū factory on Amami Ōshima and is not intended for wider community
membership. There are more wadaiko groups toward the north of the Amami islands in
Amami Ōshima and Tokunoshima (seven and five respectively), with the other islands
having fewer wadaiko groups than eisā groups: Kikajima (one group), Okinoerabujima (one
group) and Yoronjima (three groups). The prevalence of wadaiko groups to the north of the
Amami islands reects the transmission of the genre from the Japanese mainland (there are
also a number of wadaiko groups on Okinawa, which holds an annual wadaiko festival),10
and the cultural ows of eisā from the south have inuenced the number of groups of this
type of drumming in the south of the Amami islands. Several of the wadaiko groups include
chijin and wadaiko, and these groups are on Amami Ōshima and Kikaijima, which reects
the importance of the chijin on these islands.
There are three main shimadaiko (chijin) drum groups on Amami Ōshima, with another
two groups, as noted above, that mix chijin with wadaiko. The three main shimadaiko
groups are Amami Kōkō Kyōdo Geinō Bu “Tida nu Kwa”, Aranami Daiko and Yô
Shunkanekkwa Daiko. The rst is located in Naze (the main urban center in Amami city) at
a high school, and has been active for about the past 15 years; the second is a community
10 The Nihon Taiko Renmei (Taiko Federation of Japan) does not list any taiko groups in Amami, but includes ve
groups in Okinawa (niHon taiKo renmei 2013). The Nihon Taiko Kyōkai (Japanese Taiko Association) has no
group listings for Amami or Okinawa (niHon taiKo KYōKai 2013).
and K
: Neo-Traditional Ensemble Drumming in the Amami Islands
group based in Tatsugo-chō and was established in 2004; and the third is a children’s group
based in Kasari-chiku. Shimadaiko are distinct to the Amami islands. Moreover, they
are known especially on Amami Ōshima and Kikaijima where they are used as the main
accompanying instrument of some traditional and neo-traditional ensembles, and some
wadaiko groups incorporate the instrument as an alternative to the shimedaiko, which is
about the same shape and size.
The distribution of chijin within the Amami islands shows the instrument as an emblem
of identity for some islanders, especially on Amami Ōshima and Kikaijima. For example,
the Shiritsu Amami Hakubutsukan (Amami City Museum) in Naze on Amami Ōshima has
several chijin that help show the importance of the instrument as part of the island’s cultural
heritage. Outside the museum there are several ornamental stone instruments, and inside
the museum a chijin is used by visitors to call staff to the reception area. In both traditional
and neo-traditional contexts, the chijin helps consolidate and construct a sense of musical
identity that is unique to Amami; it is a musical identity that is neither Okinawan nor a part
of mainland Japan, unlike the adoption of eisā with roots in the south of Japan, and wadaiko
with roots in the north.
Neo-traditional ensemble drumming has had a remarkable impact on Japanese culture
over the past 50 to 60 years. Not only have many new drum groups been established
throughout Japan, some being inspired by the now nationally and internationally well-
known groups such as Ondekoza or Kodō, but many new groups have emerged within the
Japanese diaspora, and styles of Japanese drumming have been adopted by performers
around the globe. In the context of the Amami islands, three main styles of neo-traditional
drumming have appeared over the past two to three decades: eisā, wadaiko and shimadaiko.
The rst two styles have distinct roots in Okinawa and mainland Japan respectively, while
the latter is a modernized version of chijin drumming that includes a cultural transformation
of traditional drum styles unique to Amami.
While attempting to comprehend and interpret the underpinning reasons for the
increased interest in these styles of drumming in Amami, two key points have emerged in
this article. The rst is that neo-traditional drumming of different types is a phenomenon
that has received widespread interest throughout Japan, and that its existence in Amami may
be explained as a part of the spread of such drumming styles in Japan more broadly. The
second point is that in Amami different styles of neo-traditional drumming have emerged as
a result of distinct cultural ows in a regional context, and that these cultural inuences are
in part the result of a changing sense of local identity.
Un derpinn ing the diss eminati on of some style s of ensemb le drumming are
organizations that have a base in Okinawa. These organizations practice eisā and have
contributed to the establishment of several eisā groups in Amami. There are other eisā
groups that are community or school oriented, and similarly a number of wadaiko and
shimadaiko groups. One sphere of neo-traditional performance that has been identified
34 South Pacic Studies Vol.34, No.1, 2013
throughout this research has been the large number of drum groups at schools at every level.
Acknowledging that further research in this area is necessary, the information that is offered
helps show the spread, interest and diversity of such drum styles in Amami.
The geographic flows of neo-traditional drumming show a mixed offering of three
contrasting styles of performance (including instruments, repertoire and performance
practice). The research has shown that the southern part of the Amami islands has more eisā
groups than the north of the archipelago, and that while wadaiko is found through Amami, it
seems to be more prevalent to the north of the islands. Also, shimadaiko seems to be mostly
found in Amami Ōshima and Kikaijima, where it expresses and consolidates local cultural
Neo-traditional drumming has been transmitted to Amami, as well as adopted,
transformed and reontextualized. Based on the presence of groups such as the ones outlined
in this paper, it is evident that Amami islanders in general celebrate such new styles of
drumming as part of their neo-traditional culture, which includes several forms of drumming
that are recognized in the broader national setting. The islands offer an inbetweeness of
cultures where new traditional genres have been localized and help strengthen cultural
identity. Through such practices, the people of Amami are consolidating their place in
Japan, both by looking to mainland Japan and to Okinawa, and also by transforming local
traditions in the modern era. Future research will undoubtedly uncover more information,
but the present article serves to provide a foundation for comprehending some of the aspects
of ensemble drum performance in this archipelagic part of Japan.
The authors are especially grateful to the members of each of the drum groups who
helped with this research, and especially the following for their help in offering information
on drum groups in the Amami islands: Arima Sunao, Asahi Jun, Atari Sayaka, Hanai Kōzō,
Ikeda Tadanori, Ikushima Tsunenori, Matsumura Satoko, Sakae Tadanori, Shimoirisa
Shūichi, Takarabe Megumi and Yasuda Kiko; Amami Shiyakusho, China-chō, Okinoerabu-
chō, Tokunoshima-chō and Wadomari-chō. The research would not have been possible
without the support of Kagoshima University Research Center for the Pacic Islands, and
the University of Otago.
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'Imagined Communities' examines the creation & function of the 'imagined communities' of nationality & the way these communities were in part created by the growth of the nation-state, the interaction between capitalism & printing & the birth of vernacular languages in early modern Europe.
This book is the outcome of the work of contributors who participated in the wo- shop “Mapping Different Geographies (MDG)” in February 2010, held in Puchberg am Schneeberg, Austria. This meeting brought together cartographers, artists and geoscientists who research and practice in applications that focus on enhancing o- to-one communication or develop and evaluate methodologies that provide inno- tive methods for sharing information. The main intention of the workshop was to investigate how ‘different’ geographies are being mapped and the possibilities for developing new theories and techniques for information design and transfer based on place or location. So as to communicate these concepts it was important to appreciate the many contrasting meanings of ‘mapping’ that were held by workshop participants. Also, the many (and varied) viewpoints of what different geographies are, were ela- rated upon and discussed. Therefore, as the focus on space and time was embedded within everyone’s felds of investigation, this was addressed during the workshop. This resulted in very engaging discourse, which, in some cases, exposed the restrictions that certain approaches need to consider. For participants, this proved to be most useful, as this allowed them to appreciate the limits and restrictions of their own approach to understanding and representing different geographies. As well, the workshop also was most helpful as a vehicle for demonstrating the common ground of interest held by the very diverse areas of endeavour that the workshop participants work within.
Prologue: In Medias Res TRAVELS Traveling Cultures A Ghost among Melanesians Spatial Practices: Fieldwork, Travel, and the Disciplining of Anthropology CONTACTS Four Northwest Coast Museums: Travel Reflections Paradise Museums as Contact Zones Palenque Log FUTURES Year of the Ram: Honolulu, February 2, 1991 Diasporas Immigrant Fort Ross Meditation Notes References Sources Acknowledgments Index
Liverpool is widely recognized for its iconic ‘Three Graces’—a trio of grand buildings that stand along the city’s River Mersey waterfront. In this article we argue that there are a similar kind of iconic ‘three graces’ in Liverpool’s popular music and heritage landscapes: the Cavern Club, Eric’s Club, and Cream. These three venues have taken on broader symbolic meanings as representative of entire musical styles and eras. As such they dominate the histories of the city’s music-making cultures, producing (and reproduced through) a variety of representations, texts and mappings of the city’s musical past. This paper draws from ethnographic materials gathered through a two-year research project to decentre this ‘master page’ or ‘master map’ of the three graces with a series of mappings of Liverpool’s popular music heritage that calls attention to hidden or alternative histories of the city that are less often mapped.