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Rites of Blind Biwa Players


Khalmirzaeva, Saida (2017). Rites of Blind Biwa Players. Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques, 71(2):567-583.

Abstract

Not much is known about the past activities of blind biwa players from Kyushu. During the twentieth century a number of researchers and folklorists, such as Tanabe Hisao, Kimura Yūshō, Kimura Rirō, Nomura (Ga) Machiko, Narita Mamoru, Hyōdō Hiromi and Hugh de Ferranti, collected data on blind biwa players in various regions of Kyushu, made recordings of their performances and conducted detailed research on the history and nature of their tradition. However, despite these efforts to document and publicize the tradition of blind biwa players and its representatives and their repertory, it ended around the end of the twentieth century. The most extensively documented individual was Yamashika Yoshiyuki 山鹿良之 (1901–1996), one of the last representatives of the tradition of blind biwa players, who was known among researchers and folklorists for his skill in performing and an abundant repertory that included rites and a great many tales. Yamashika was born in 1901 in a farmer family in Ōhara of Tamana District, the present-day Kobaru of Nankan, Kumamoto Prefecture. Yamashika lost the sight in his left eye at the age of four. At the age of twenty-two Yamashika apprenticed with a biwa player named Ezaki Shotarō 江崎初太郎 from Amakusa. From his teacher Yamashika learned such tales as Miyako Gassen Chikushi Kudari 都合戦筑紫 下り, Kikuchi Kuzure 菊池くづれ, Kugami Gassen くがみ合戦, Owari Sōdō 尾張騒動, Sumidagawa 隅田川 and Mochi Gassen 餅合戦. After three years Yamashika returned home. He was not capable of doing much farm work because his eyesight had deteriorated further by then. Yamashika decided to become a professional biwa player and dedicate his life to storytelling. However, in order to do so he had to increase the number of pieces in his repertory. For about a year Yamashika followed a performer named Mori Yoichi 森与一. Yamashika learned from him such tales as Ichi no Tani 一の谷, Ko-Atsumori 小敦盛, Azekakehime あぜかけ姫, Shuntokumaru 俊徳丸 and Oguri Hangan 小栗判官. Yamashika learned hashira-date 柱立て, which is performed during the Watamashi わたまし, from a performer named Kyōbutsu 教仏, and sanjū-butsu (or sanjū hotoke) 三十仏 from Sakamoto Saichi 坂本さいち. Yamashika kept learning stories and pieces for ritual performances from other biwa players and ritualists throughout his early performing life. From around 1970, he became one of the most popular biwa players from Kyushu due to his many public performances organized by local and central organizations, and publications that elucidated some aspects of the performer’s life and the tradition he represented and practiced throughout his life. The translation of one ritual piece from his repertory, Watamashi わたまし, is presented in this paper.

Abstract

Not much is known about the past activities of blind biwa players from Kyushu. During the twentieth century a number of researchers and folklorists, such as Tanabe Hisao, Kimura Yūshō, Kimura Rirō, Nomura (Ga) Machiko, Narita Mamoru, Hyōdō Hiromi and Hugh de Ferranti, collected data on blind biwa players in various regions of Kyushu, made recordings of their performances and conducted detailed research on the history and nature of their tradition. However, despite these efforts to document and publicize the tradition of blind biwa players and its representatives and their repertory, it ended around the end of the twentieth century. The most extensively documented individual was Yamashika Yoshiyuki 山鹿良之 (1901–1996), one of the last representatives of the tradition of blind biwa players, who was known among researchers and folklorists for his skill in performing and an abundant repertory that included rites and a great many tales. Yamashika was born in 1901 in a farmer family in Ōhara of Tamana District, the present-day Kobaru of Nankan, Kumamoto Prefecture. Yamashika lost the sight in his left eye at the age of four. At the age of twenty-two Yamashika apprenticed with a biwa player named Ezaki Shotarō 江崎初太郎 from Amakusa. From his teacher Yamashika learned such tales as Miyako Gassen Chikushi Kudari 都合戦筑紫 下り, Kikuchi Kuzure 菊池くづれ, Kugami Gassen くがみ合戦, Owari Sōdō 尾張騒動, Sumidagawa 隅田川 and Mochi Gassen 餅合戦. After three years Yamashika returned home. He was not capable of doing much farm work because his eyesight had deteriorated further by then. Yamashika decided to become a professional biwa player and dedicate his life to storytelling. However, in order to do so he had to increase the number of pieces in his repertory. For about a year Yamashika followed a performer named Mori Yoichi 森与一. Yamashika learned from him such tales as Ichi no Tani 一の谷, Ko-Atsumori 小敦盛, Azekakehime あぜかけ姫, Shuntokumaru 俊徳丸 and Oguri Hangan 小栗判官. Yamashika learned hashira-date 柱立て, which is performed during the Watamashi わたまし, from a performer named Kyōbutsu 教仏, and sanjū-butsu (or sanjū hotoke) 三十仏 from Sakamoto Saichi 坂本さいち. Yamashika kept learning stories and pieces for ritual performances from other biwa players and ritualists throughout his early performing life. From around 1970, he became one of the most popular biwa players from Kyushu due to his many public performances organized by local and central organizations, and publications that elucidated some aspects of the performer’s life and the tradition he represented and practiced throughout his life. The translation of one ritual piece from his repertory, Watamashi わたまし, is presented in this paper.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:Journals > Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques > Archive > 71 (2017) > 2
Dewey Decimal Classification:Unspecified
Language:English
Date:27 January 2017
Deposited On:13 Jan 2020 11:16
Last Modified:28 Jul 2020 14:15
Publisher:De Gruyter
ISSN:0004-4717
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1515/asia-2017-0034

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