Pandemic ruins festival in beautiful Okinawa

Evan Murray spoke to Ryuji Noda, Director and Producer of Sakurazaka theater / Music from Okinawa, Japan.

Sakurazaka Theater is a cinema, but organizes about 50 live concerts in one year and produces the annual music festival called Sakurazaka ASYLUM. He is currently, promoting Okinawan music overseas and building a music network with Asian countries.

Music label Music from Okinawa started in 2015 and releases CDs and distributes Asian indie music in Japan. A music conference Trans Asia Music Meeting is held once a year which aims at building a music network in Asia and introducing Asian music in Okinawa and Japan. Since April 2020, he started managing Okinawan biggest live house Music-town Otoichiba.

Hope all is well with you and everyone around. What is the current status for the festival at this point in time? Do give us an insight on how things have been progressing at your end ?

Our annual festival and international music conference is usually held towards the end of February. By that time, the pandemic had already started doing the rounds across the world. 

We had invited about 30 international delegates, however due to strict quarantine and immigration issues, some of them couldn’t make it to Okinawa. So, we had to change some programs. We did think of a live streaming session, but we didn’t have the time to prepare.

During the week after the festival, almost all international flights were cancelled. We were able to hold this event at the very last minute! It was really lucky.

What are some of the biggest challenges faced by the festival curators now ? 

We start planning for the next edition scheduled for January or February 2021. But as of now everything seems uncertain, hence we will be keeping an eye on the situational progress of other festivals and conferences.

Basically, we are going to plan in the direction of holding the event. However, working in a very ambiguous situation is a great stress. There are other ways to hold the event online, but I also have a strong desire to stick to the original format. 

I have a strong desire to meet and talk to many musicians and music professionals in person and introduce them to new music. We will explore all the available possibilities until the very last minute.

Are there any plans in place now incase the scenario repeats ? 

I would like to stick to directness as much as possible.  I am indeed looking forward to the development of a vaccine.

What are the changes, you see happening in the music industry with the impact this virus has had in the global scenario? 

The wave of change is coming, with live distribution and other activities already being actively undertaken. However, the quality hasn't quite caught up with it yet, and it does not match to the live and festival experience we've had so far.

I think this is something that should be created as a new field of entertainment, rather than something that can be managed through technological innovation. It may be closer to an innovation similar to the transition from records to CDs, or CDs to streaming.

As music trends roll, do you have any predictions of what's coming next? 

I'm sure many musicians would have ventured into various musical endeavors during the lockdown period. There's also great music that comes out of these hard situations. I look forward to such new work, coming our way. 

Innovation will also occur in many ways, as I mentioned earlier. I hope that the music industry will move in a more prosperous direction through these tough times.

From your point of view, what do you feel is the future for the live music industry ?

Live, directness is paramount. You won't feel the heat or the groove in the delivery.

The other day, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters commented, "We have no choice but to do it live. That's exactly what I'm saying, and I'm hopeful that once the social distance issues are resolved, the basics will return to normal. That's where I think everyone in the world should share their wisdom."

Any final comments or open thoughts? 

I think it's very important to share different opinions and perspectives this way. I am doing a series of interviews with Asian music professionals who are living through these hard times in the same way. It would be great if you could take a look at it when you have time.

Living with music

Sakurasaka Asylum 2020

EVAN MURRAY is Event Co-ordinator at Live at Heart, Newfoundland, Export Development Officer at Vision 360 (Canada) and Canadian Coordinator at Live at Heart, Sweden. He is also International Music Consultant at Wonderwall Media, India.