Kevin Kawamoto
Commentary
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

Organizers had to clear more space in front of the Kapi‘olani Park Bandstand stage to accommodate the throng of fans who turned out to see and hear Rimi Natsukawa perform at the Okinawan Festival, presented by the Hawaii United Okinawa Association, on Sept. 3. And the popular singer from Okinawa did not disappoint. From the moment she walked onto the open-air stage, she had the enthusiastic audience in rapt attention, even in the punishing Sunday afternoon heat.

Backed by a small, but accomplished band of musicians, Natsukawa wasted no time in entertaining her audience, which consisted of people of all ages, Hawai‘i residents and visitors alike. When she made small talk between songs, she spoke mostly in Japanese.

She had no trouble communicating her feelings and passion through her music, however. Her distinctive voice evoked emotion with every note and phrase. Her vocal range remains remarkable, confident and pitch-perfect. For some songs, she played the sanshin — the three-stringed snakeskin-covered Okinawan musical instrument, highlighting her Okinawan roots and foundation in minyö, or Okinawan folk music.

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