On Sunday, May 19, at 2 p.m., the Okinawa Association of America (OAA) will bring the sights, sounds, and spirit of the Ryūkyū Islands to the James R. Armstrong Theatre in Torrance.

Titled “Utayabira, Wuduyabira” – which means “let’s sing, let’s dance” in Uchinaaguchi (the native Okinawan language) – this biennial concert is one of the only recurring events in the Los Angeles area that focuses on the performing arts of Okinawa.

This is also one of the rare opportunities locally to see Ryūkyūan performing arts in a theater setting. The opening numbers are set against a grand image of Shuri Castle – the central headquarters of the former Ryūkyū Kingdom – while other performances utilize the theater’s beautiful lighting and backdrops. The dancers will be in full makeup and wardrobe and musicians will don their finest kimono.

The central instruments will be the sanshin, kutu, and deeku. The sanshin (“shamisen” in Japanese) is a three-stringed lute that is commonly recognized for its snakeskin covering. The kutu (“koto” in Japanese) is a 13-stringed zither known for its harp-like sound. The deeku (“taiko” in Japanese) are drums used in various styles of music, from classical and folk performances to the dynamic modern dances of the Ryūkyūkoku Matsuri Daiko group.

The rustic sounds of these ancient instruments along with the dancers’ resplendent costumes perfectly capture the essence of Okinawa’s scenery: its lush forests, vast farmlands, and gorgeous blue waters.

The majority of the songs are written and sung in the Uchinaaguchi. The six Ryūkyūan languages were designated as “definitely” and “severely” endangered by UNESCO. While the majority of native speakers in Okinawa are seniors, there are language revitalization efforts by young people in and outside of Okinawa.

“Utayabira, Wuduyabira” is organized by the OAA’s Geinō-bu (Performing Arts Committee), a group that was formed by Okinawan immigrants who wished to perpetuate the traditional performing arts for future generations. Even though Okinawan performances in Los Angeles date back to the early 1900s, the official group was formed in 1987 and united over 20 groups and schools at the time.

The James R. Armstrong Theatre is located at 3330 Civic Center Dr. Doors open at 1:30 p.m. Tickets (general admission) are $20 each and can be purchased through performers or at the OAA office (weekdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), 16500 S. Western Ave., Suite 203, Gardena, CA 90247. Payment can also be mailed to the OAA office; include a self-addressed, stamped envelope or indicate that you would like to pick up your tickets at will call. Any remaining tickets will also be sold at the door from 1 to 2 p.m.

For more information, contact the OAA office at oaamensore@gmail.com or (310) 532-1929.

The Okinawa Association of America, Inc. (OAA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Okinawan culture in the greater Los Angeles area. Formed by Okinawan immigrants (Issei) 110 years ago, the OAA has grown into a multi-generational organization hosting numerous events throughout the year including cultural lectures, performances, social gatherings, and senior-focused activities.

For updates about SuperCentennial events, including the Sept. 1 concert by the renowned Okinawan band Begin (ビギン), visit http://oaamensore.org or http://facebook.com/oaamensore.

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