Since the early 1990s, Okinawan music has experienced an extraordinary boom in popularity throughout Japan. Musicians from this island prefecture in the very south of Japan have found success as performers and recording artists, and have been featured in a number of hit films and television dramas. 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. This popularity of Okinawan music represents only the surface of a diverse and thriving musical culture within modern-day Yaeyama. Traditional music continues to be an important component of traditional ritual and social life in the islands, while Yaeyama's unique geographical and cultural position at the very edge of Japan have produced varied discourses surrounding issues such as tradition versus modernity, preservation, and cultural identity. Songs from the Edge of Japan 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.
Dr Matthew Gillan, Department of Art and Music, International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan
'... this is an important publication and is still very relevant in a field where book-length studies in English on Okinawan music are rare indeed.' Asian Ethnology 'Gillan does a fine job of conveying the overall vitality of Yaeyaman musical life, but also voicing the various sides of localised disputes... [a] timely and valuable work.' Social Science Japan Journal 'Songs from the Edge of Japan [...] makes important contributions to Asian studies and ethnomusicology, especially in the areas of identity, island studies, music and ritual, and musical transmission. Because of the book's engaging style, Songs from the Edge of Japan would be useful as an undergraduate or graduate text for a class on Okinawan or Japanese culture or music.' Notes 'Songs from the Edge of Japan is a welcome addition to ethnomusicological scholarship on Japanese music. The author has undertaken extensive field research on the music of the islands, as well as music of Okinawa Prefecture more broadly, and has assembled a book with much historical and ethnographic information that offers insight into island cultures, southwest Japan, and the local/regional/national nexus. The book extends current knowledge on the scope of Japanese music and contributes to a growing number of studies of Japan's peripheral, regional, minority; and hybrid forms. It is very well researched and written, and contributes valuable new knowledge on traditional music practices in everyday, ritual, and popular music settings, each of which has significance within and beyond the Yaeyaman and Okinawan cultural settings.' Journal of Japanese Studies