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The 1980s saw the beginning of a new style of Eisa, called “creative Eisa” or “club team Eisa,” which holds many distinctions from traditional forms of Eisa. Whereas traditionally Eisa groups consist of people from a village or community due to the sacredness of the activity in honoring the ancestors of a specific community, creative Eisa teams are usually independent of local communities, and admit anyone regardless of their heritage. Creative Eisa is characterized largely by its song selection, with groups usually choosing to dance to newer songs, rather than the traditional standards. Hidekatsu, a Taketomi-born Ryukyu music artist, has become one of the most popular artists that creative Eisa groups dance to. His hit song, Mirukumunari, has become one of the most frequently performed creative Eisa dances. Hidekatsu is unique in that his songs are almost entirely sung in the Ryukyu languages, which is a marked departure from most modern day Ryukyu pop singers, who sing primarily in Japanese, making Hidekatsu’s music a vital link for young modern Ryukyuans to the languages of their ancestors, who otherwise receive little exposure to the languages. All of the Ryukyu languages are endangered due to over a century of social and political prejudice against the Ryukyu languages by the Japanese government.
Some examples of creative Eisa clubs include Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko and Chinagu Eisa (based in Hawaiʻi). Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko, formed in 1982, was one of the first creative Eisa clubs, and has since expanded to form chapters in mainland Japan, Hawaiʻi, the mainland United States, and other locations with Okinawan populations.Whereas traditionally men would dance Eisa utilizing drums, while women would dance drumless, creative Eisa features many females who choose to dance with drums.
Since its formation, creative Eisa has been hugely popular in Okinawa, and has also been exported to the Miyako and Yaeyama Islands, Yoron Island(1992) Okinoerabu Island (1993), Kagoshima Prefecture, and to the Kantō and Kansai regions, where people of Okinawan descent concentrated.Creative Eisa has also been exported internationally to virtually anywhere with sizeable Okinawan populations, such as Hawai’i, the continental United States, and South America.
For many young Ryukyuans in the 21st century, creative Eisa has become an integral part of their cultural identity, providing a vital link between tradition and modern creativity.
One consequence of the rise of creative Eisa is a crisis in authenticity. In response, youth associations increasingly see their community-based Eisa as Okinawan tradition although the perceived tradition is a result of “growing pains” up to 1970s.
From RKMD Tokyo