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Rinken Band


Photo: TARUMI Kengo

In 1990, Rinken Band’s cassette album Arigato (Maruteru Recordings) was converted to CD and released on the mainland. That CD in turn triggered a boom in Okinawan music.

Rinken Band originally formed as the backing band for singer China Sadao, but eventually they went independent. The leader, Rinken Teruya (1949- ) was born and raised in Koza. His grandfather, Rinzan (1892-1976), was a master performer of traditional Okinawan music. His father, Rinsuke Teruya (1929-2005), was popular as one half of the Okinawan ballad-comedy duo Watabū Show. The Teruya family ran a store specializing in instruments and records, so both Okinawan songs and Western-style music flowed through their household every day. This ideal environment became the foundation for Rinken’s musicianship. 

Lead vocalist Tomoko Uehara (1958- ) is from Itoman. She was involved with shimauta (Okinawan songs) even before she entered elementary school, giving public performances as a member of the family band Itoman Yakarāzu. Her sense of pitch is perfectly Okinawan. Rinken Band married her Okinawan sensibility with Western-style pop music. By using synthesizer, bass, and drum, Rinken Band drew out a new appeal for Okiwanan music. Rinken’s father, who systematically drew from Western music and made it Okinawan, probably also had an influence on them. That flexibility is still a major part of the allure of Okinawan music today. 

Lastly, the three male members of the band, trained in Rinsuke’s pleasant vocal aspects, provided backing vocals as they played with all their hearts. The contrast between them and the elegant Tomoko Uehara gave Rinken Band’s performances a broad appeal. 

Back in the day, on the corner of the major Goya intersection in Koza, there was a run-down two-story building, and Rinken Studio occupied the second floor. The best work from Rinken Band’s early days was born in this tiny studio. Currently Rinken Teruya runs a major recording studio furnished with cutting-edge equipment and located in Mihama in Chatan, Nakagami, Okinawa. But without the unique atmosphere of Koza, with its art scene and position as a post-war gateway to the American occupying military forces, Rinken Band’s music would never have been birthed into that tiny studio at Goya.

(Revised Sept. 2022)