2014 Kume Island Folk Song Competition

IMG_1378This past Saturday on Kume Island was the 5th annual Folk Song Competition (古典民謡大会). Music is one of the keys to maintaining tradition and culture. Encouraging people to not only listen but create music helps keep local culture alive. Sponsored by the local Board of Education, this year’s event has grown to include competitors from around Japan and even the world.

Participants register in advance for this competition, choosing one of 3 songs. With only one chance at their performance before a board of seven judges the participants must sing AND play accompanying music with the sanshin.

IMG_1047The evening began with the elementary and junior high group with six performers. The students had the same choice of three songs and were graded based solely on their performance. As with the adults later in the evening they wore traditional clothes as well.

One of the aspects of the competition that makes it more challenging is that the songs are all sung in hogen, the local dialect, rather than Japanese. This helps perpetuate not only the culture but language as well, since students must study and practice to perfect their performances prior to the competition.

Fifteen adults also competed, hailing from Kume Island, Kyoto, and Osaka, with one gentleman being the first foreign competitor. In addition to gift bags for all competitors there were many prizes up for grabs including hand-made sanshin, round trip airfare, gift certificates and local delicacies.

IMG_1318Special congratulations to Tamura Keisuke, this year’s winner! Though from Gunma prefecture, Keisuke has lived and worked on Kumejima for several years, studying and singing with the sanshin.

After the main competition, guests were also treated to 3 performances by locals and past winners prior to the award ceremony. Start practicing and join us next year!