Grant “Sandaa” Murata, longtime Okinawan sanshin sensei (teacher) as well as advertising and promotions manager for The Hawai‘i Herald and Hawaii Hochi, has been selected as a judge for next month’s Geinou Konku-ru proficiency test in the Afuso Ryu style of uta-sanshin (playing sanshin and singing simultaneously) in Naha, Okinawa. The day-long proficiency examination is sponsored annually by Okinawa’s Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper and will be held in the Ryukyu Shimpo Hall in Ameku. This will be the first time in the examination’s 51-year-history that an Afuso Ryu uta-sanshin teacher from outside of Okinawa has been selected, or even considered, to serve as a judge.
Sandaa-Sensei will join four other Afuso Ryu uta-sanshin sensei from Okinawa in evaluating 45 students, including three from his own school in Hawai‘i, who have been practicing to earn their shinjinsho, or beginner’s-level certificate, this year. Each of the 45 students will perform either of two classical Ryukuan songs — “Nuhwa Bushi” or “Inimajin Bushi” — that are six and a half to seven minutes long for the panel of judges. They will be evaluated on pitch, memorization, musical execution and pronunciation, among other criteria.
Other Afuso Ryu sensei will judge the yuushuusho and saikoosho, second and third levels, respectively.
“I am ecstatic about this unexpected honor,” Murata wrote in an email to Afuso Ryu’s students and supporters in Hawai‘i and on the continental U.S. “This is all possible because of our students, who have diligently traveled to Okinawa and participated in Konku-ru, and all our supporters who believe in us. To all of you, I convey my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation.”
Sandaa-Sensei will also be rooting for one of his own top students, uta-sanshin sensei June Nakama, who is hoping to earn her shinjinsho in hwanso, or Okinawan flute.