Language, music and cultural consolidation on Minami Daito
Keywords:cultural consolidation, Hachijo, language variation, Minami Daito, music, Okinawa, shima uta
The remote, southern Japanese island of Minami Daito was first settled in 1900. It is part of the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa but is geographically distant from the main Okinawan archipelago and displays many non-Okinawan linguistic, cultural and social characteristics. The island was settled by two culturally disparate groups: pioneers from Hachjio Island, 1150 kilometres to the north east, who established a sugarcane industry on the previously uninhabited island; and workers from Okinawa, some 450 kilometres to the west, who were brought in to work in the fields and refineries run by Hachijoan supervisors. Over the last century the island has experienced a process of rapprochement and consolidation between the two communities that has resulted in linguistic syncreses and, more recently, the incorporation of Hachijoan descendents into a local music culture that primarily derives from Okinawa. Since the late 1980s a small group of musicians have coalesced in a musical initiative that has, to date, produced several CDs, a number of original songs and a performing ensemble that has gained external concert and media exposure. This activity has created a sense of cultural cohesion and a distinct identity for contemporary Minami Daitoans. This article analyses the historical process of consolidation; the context and nature of the musical material performed in recent years (with particular regard to song texts); and the manner in which the island community inter-relates with other areas of Japan.
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