Ryukyu Classical Music: The Voice of Our Ancestors and Our Identity

"Yanaji" A lesson for life
"Yanaji" A lesson for life

“Yanajiwa miduri, Hana wa kurinayi, fwitu wa tada nasaki, nmi wa niwui”

Such simple words form the classical song “Yanaji”, but as many “ufu bushi”, classical music pieces, this Ryukyu poem expresses deep meaning that is so simple to understand if we look at the symbols it envokes.  In these words, we can basically find so many answers to our problems and misunderstandings.  Our ancestors understood this and have passed this down to us through the songs and dances, but due to the modern and technical interference, our sublime senses have been shut down and our human pride has taken over.

As we enter the new year of 2010, “Yanaji” holds answers to facing the new year, and to reconnect to our identity.  It shows us our path and helps in making decisions.  The words use nature to symbolize and remind us that we are part of a natural cycle.  “The deep green of the willow as it bends and sways shows values of humility and beauty.  The deep red of the peony shows the aesthetic beauty which extends to our identity.  As people, we must show compassion as a vital virtue, and the subtle but sweet smell of the plum blossom extends an invitation to be humble”

If we look around, nature responds to its natural cycle everyday.  Even the smallest blade of grass, with the morning dew shining with the reflection of the sun, shows joy in the return of the morning and gives thanks to another day.  We are not machines, but a being of nature that has a connection to our ancestors.  I compare it to the 200 year old “matsu” or pine tree that stands strong on the cliff and grows greener every year as it endures winds, rain , heat and cold. It drops its seeds to create new generations which in turn become other pine that have the same identity of its parent.  Its only when the identity through tampering from the outside is introduced , that the identity changes and sometimes leads to the demise.  Each part of nature has its own identity and treasure to contribute to the world.  If we can understand to keep connected and always refer to our roots, we may find it easier to cope, although we may find it hard at times since this is not the act of the majority.  However, this is our contribution, and our natural obligation.  “Wakamatsi ya miduri, kugani hana sachuru, tani kara nmariti, yugafu churasa”  The young pine is so green, the beautiful flower(child) blooms, from the seed we are born, how beautiful it makes the world.