Obokuri Eeumi おぼくり ええうみ (from the anime: Samurai Champloo) by Ikue Asazaki 朝崎郁恵

This is a traditional folk song by Japanese folk singer and legend from Kagoshima, Ikue Asazaki 朝崎郁恵 entitled: Obokuri Eeumi おぼくり ええうみ, (Obtain Our Bearings). The song proved to be quite popular amongst anime fans the world over after it was featured in one of the most touching scenes (scene #14) in the anime Samurai Champloo サムライチャンプルー . The anime television series was broadcast from May 2004 to March 2005 on Fuji TV network.

As one can tell from the music, it is a song of sadness, poverty and longing.

Asazaki-san sings this in her traditional Kagoshima/Okinawan/Japanese style, accompanied by piano. Some say that Ikue Asazaki is Okinawan and from Okinawa. Some say she’s from Kyushu, the southernmost large island of Japan, where Kagoshima, her birthplace is. This is a testament to the complexity of history and who claims what. Some say she sings in Okinawan. Some say she sings in the Kyushu dialect. Both and none may be true. Most mainstream Japanese do not understand what she is singing. Dialect? Another language? Okinawan? Japanese? Kyushu language or dialect? In the end, we listen to the beautiful language and song, to reflect, enjoy, feel.

As in most nation-states, the dominant state language is demanded. When I was growing up in Japan, those who spoke the language that she speaks, were ridiculed and often called stupid and primitive and unsophistocated. Nowadays, the young Japanese are more fascinated with these languages. The stigma of it has changed. In destruction, while languages and cultures become museum pieces for us, are we then appreciative? Let us listen and appreciate.

For the BEST ONLINE SELECTION in the English language, of Ikue Asazaki recordings go to:

Farside Music located in the UK.

Lyrics are below the video.

The video contains mostly photos/images of mainland Japan and should not be confused with indigenous Okinawan/Ryukyu culture.


Arayashikiku no dei
Harasaku baku no dei
Hare fushigyurasa nejyuku
Surajifushiro yondo
Hare fushigyurasa nejyuku
Fushigyurasa nejyuku
Surajifusero yondo

Kirishigaki ku no dei
Kuganeya be tatei tei
Hare momo tobyuru wakya
Ya uriba yuwa o yondo
Hare momo to byuru wakya
Momo to byuru wakya
Ya uriba yuwa o yondo

Hateigachi ya naryuri
Tobibani ya neranu
Hare utou katabani
Ya karachitabore
Hitotsu aru bani ya
Kanasha se ni kusuitei –
Hare wanu ya okuyama
Nu kazuradasuki –

Ojyuugoya no teiki ya
Kami gyurasa teryuri
Hare kana ga jyo ni tataba kumo tei taborei

Translation:

In search of new lands, I build a new house
I thatch the house with reed stalks, gathered neatly in bundles
I thatch the house with reed stalks, gathered neatly in bundles
At the stone wall, let us celebrate the golden house, that was built by a hundred carpenters.
At the stone wall, let us celebrate the golden house, that was built by a hundred carpenters.
Let us celebrate the golden house, that was built by a hundred carpenters.

The eighth month is fast approaching, and yet I have nothing to wear
I want to dress up, so brother, will you lend me just one sleeve?
I wish to dress my children and loved ones… in the one kimono that I own
As for me, I will wear vines… that I plucked deep in the mountains

The light of the full moon shines down,
illuminating the world with its divine light
When my lover sneaks in to visit me,
I wish that the clouds would hide that light just a little.

Lyrics translated by silmanaro on YouTube and myself

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Itsuki no Komoriuta 五木の子守唄 – by Ikue Asazaki 朝崎郁恵

This is a ‘traditional Japanese’ lullaby that many people around the world are familiar with, especially played by some high school bands in the United States and Europe.

This is a lullaby my mother used to sing to me. My mother and I have talked about our memories of this song. Nowadays she doesn’t want to think about it. It is a lament, in the days when little girls were sold to others by their families. The song is believed to be originating from the Heian period of Japan, where the people of the Heike were made extremely poor after the Genji-Heike War (1180-1185).

Because these lullabies are steeped in cultural histories, and because they are about legacies, and leaving emotional legacies as they are sung, my personal feelings when singing this or listening to this, is one of comfort because of its ties to being safe with my mother before memory, along with sadness as we realize the continued suffering of gendered violence in our world, either through its actions, or its memories which have gone un-mourned and are relegated to the private. Also, it is a song of loneliness and longing, knowing that our child or sibling is torn away from us through necessity.

Translation:

1.

I will be here (with you) until the Bon Festival.

After the Bon Festival, I shall not be here.

If the Bon Festival were to come earlier,

I could return home earlier.

2.

I am from the poor families

They are from the rich families.

The rich people wear good belts,

and wear good clothes.

The song originates from the Kyushu Islands of what is now Japan. Here, Ikue Asazaki 朝崎郁恵, an elder and famous traditional singer from the Kagoshima islands, which has had a long history with the Ryukyu (Okinawa) islands, sings in the traditional language and indigenous style of delivery/expression. The Kyushu region of what is called ‘Japan’ today, has traditionally birthed singers that sing the Amami style Okinawan songs. Accompanied by piano, she renders it in mournful and hopeful beauty, as it was intended.

The photo accompanying the song, is from the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha” and entitled “Sayuri’s Dance.” Of course, that movie was a creation steeped in what our teacher and friend Edward Said has called “orientalism.” that discussion we can have later. For now, the song.