A Three-Stringed Instrument that Heals the Okinawan Heart- the Sanshin
It is said that every house in Okinawa has at least one sanshin.
For a long time, the sanshin has followed the Okinawans on the path that they’ve walked. At times it providing joy and laughter to the Okinawans. At other times healing the sorrow in their hearts.
Not only is the sanshin played in Ryukyu Buyo (Okinawan Traditional Dance) and Okinawan folk songs, but also plays a big role in Okinawan rock and pop nowadays. As you may know, the sanshin is the lead instrument played in the song “Shima Uta,” which has become world famous.
Originally, it was used for court music. However, it gradually transitioned its way to festival music, and now it is played regularly in local homes.
The sanshin has three strings (the word “sanshin” meaning three lines).
It is usually played by the right hand with the left hand pressing on the strings, but unlike the guitar, there are no frets.
A standard sanshin body is typically covered by snake skin.
The quality of the snake skin is an important factor that changes the sound of the sanshin.
There are many different types of sanshin- some with artificial snake skin, some covered with textiles and fabrics, and even some made with wood.
There are some cheaper than standard ones, usually called “Kankara Sanshin,” and are very popular as souvenirs.
What’s gaining popularity these days is the electric sanshin. You might want to check those out when you visit.
If you wish to enjoy more of the sanshin during your visit, folk song bars are recommended.
You will definitely enjoy the song and dance that go with the sanshin performance.
You can join the Kacha-shi (improvised Okinawan dance) at the climax and have a memorable night in Okinawa.
For information on sanshin class and performance.
For information on restaurants with live sanshin concerts.
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