Strings of the Okinawan Soul

Japanese folk music encompasses four main types of songs: work songs, religious songs, songs used for gatherings such as weddings, festivals and funerals, and children’s songs. The tradition is strong throughout Japan, especially on the once-independent island of Okinawa, whose folk music differs from that on the mainland in several ways. For example, while mainland Japanese folk uses the shamisen, Okinawan folk music uses the shansin, as well as the sanba, which produce a clacking sound similar to castanets, as well a sharp form of whistling known as the “finger flute.”

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