Since the early 1990s, Okinawan music has experienced an extraordinary boom in popularity throughout Japan. In particular, the Yaeyama region in the south of Okinawa has long been known as a region rich in performing arts, and Yaeyaman musicians such as BEGIN, Daiku Tetsuhiro, and Natsukawa Rimi have been at the forefront of the recent Okinawan music boom.
In his new book Songs from the Edge of Japan, Matthew Gillan explores some of the reasons for the high profile of Yaeyaman music in recent years, both inside and outside Yaeyama. Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork carried out since 2000, the book uses interviews, articles from the popular media, musical and lyrical analysis of field and commercial recordings, as well as the author’s experiences as a performer of Yaeyaman and Okinawan music, to paint a picture of what it means to perform Yaeyaman music in the 21st century.
To complement the book, Matthew Gillan has set up a website which contains links to video clips and other material that he describes in Songs from the Edge of Japan.