Last month, I was interested in visiting Cotonoha Art Space to see an exhibition of paintings by Okinawan artist 宮城オサム (Osamu Miyagi) that were on display. I was checking out the Cotonoha website for more info on the exhibition, when I noticed that a live performance event was booked at the gallery. I immediately recognized the musician’s name from the year I spent on Ishigaki island. Yuusuke Maehana and his wife and manager Asako were introduced to me by a mutual friend. While I was living on Ishigaki, they took me around the entire island on a tour and invited me to numerous music events whenever they happened on the island. Yuusuke often performed at a hidden Jazz space. His music is a combination of traditional Yaeyama-Okinawan folk music, complete with sanshin and modern rock with acoustic guitar. He often performs with a band. Because his family is involved in their town’s cultural heritage, Mr. Maehana also speaks Ishigaki Uchinaaguchi, which is increasingly rarely heard anymore. He also sings in this language in some of his original songs. His music is very beautiful and its refreshing to see a young Okinawan artist combining both traditional elements of his culture and updating them to keep them relevant in this era. He also puts his heart and soul into his music, with the subtle elements of Okinawan culture weaved throughout his work. It also appears that he might just be Okinawa’s answer to Dave Matthews. Check out a performance of his that happened on Iriomote Island earlier this year.