Japan’s leading female rapper makes haunted and angry music that could only come out of Okinawa.

Okinawa has been reluctantly Japanese since the island was conquered way back in 1609. It sits 1,554 kilometres south of Tokyo. And its sub-tropical climate could not be more different than the north.

Ancient traditions are strong here. But so too is the influence of the six American military bases, scattered across the island. 

Local rapper, Awich, is the embodiment of that dichotomy.

Awich spent most of her childhood exploring the island’s beaches and jungles.

But she also discovered and absorbed the culture of hip hop from the American soldiers stationed there.

In ‘Nebuta’, Awich fuses traditional Okinawan culture with the modern influence of those American bases. 

That high-pitched melody? That’s a fansō, a traditional Okinawan flute made from local bamboo.

The attitude? That’s Okinawan too. The islanders are more gregarious than other Japanese. But they’ll also express their anger more openly too.

By harnessing her Okinawan outspokenness with the angry hip hop beats of the bases, Awich has created a song that could only come straight outta Naha.

Awich taught herself English by listening to a Tupac CD she picked it up from a rental shop, close to one of Okinawa’s American military bases.

Main image: Awich in the music video for Nebuta (© Yentown)