琉風 is the name of the classical music group of the Okinawa Cultural Association of Texas.
琉(Ryu) 風(Fu) = Ryufu… meaning “Let’s blow the Ryukyu wind (spirit) here.”
On the morning of Sunday 5-6-2012, Albert and Jim met at RMDTexas’s dojo to practice their sanshins. Ordinarily this would have meant they were getting ready to appear at the Japan Festival as part of RMDTexas’s performance. But this was no ordinary meeting because the Japan Festival had already taken place four weeks earlier.
Establishing a music group within the Okinawan Cultural Association of Texas was the last piece of the puzzle needed to complete their dream. To share all of the Okinawan performing arts in their new home of Texas had been the goal of the five founding members since they first met. Now some five years later, the eisa and classical dance pieces of the puzzle are in place through OCAT’s involvement with RMDTexas and Miyagi Ryu. So there was just one more piece floating around.
As Albert and Jim finished their practice and started to pack their sanshins, the last piece of OCAT”s original dream was put into place; Ryufu had taken its first step as the Okinawan music group for the Okinawan Cultural Association of Texas.
A little about Ryufu;
Albert is an avid and very proficient sanshin player. Being a native Houstonian; it was during his military service while stationed in Okinawa that he became enthralled with the culture and sanshin.
Jim is a novice player. A native Houstonian also, his first contact with the Okinawan culture came when a music friend invited him to be part of the festivities surrounding the U.S. mainland premier of the stage musical “Pigs from the Sea” in Torrence, California. With a background in professional music, Jim was first drawn to the sanshin more as a musical curiosity. But through his association with Albert has become equally enthralled with the instrument.
When asked about trying to get Ryufu off the ground at this time in OCAT’s development Jim said, “It is going to very challenging considering all that is going on within the organization; but OCAT’s growth is on a roll right now, and as my Daddy always told me, “Strike when the iron is hot, son.” So that’s what we intend to do and then just see what happens.”
Right now Ryufu’s plans are to practice and develop a play-list that includes all of the old standard Okinawan songs. Then maybe by the end of year they will hold a sing-a-long gathering where anyone can bring their sanshin and join in - an Okinawan hootenanny as Jim calls it. Eventually they want to grow to where all of the classical Okinawan instruments are included and do performances of all kinds.
This is an exciting time for the Okinawan Cultural Association of Texas; a time where puzzle pieces are starting to fit and dreams are becoming reality. They have some very big, wonderful and exciting plans in the works for the near future… plans, that if successful, will show a side of Japan to Houston the likes of which they have never seen before. Albert and Jim are just hoping Ryufu and their sanshin playing can be a part of it all.