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How is it possible that a people who have experienced poverty, famine and discrimination, outlasted efforts at cultural annihilation and suffered the indignities of occupation can manage to celebrate life in song and dance with a passion and joy that belies everyday reality?

Music for Okinawans is, perhaps, an alternative reality, one that is no less authentic than the roar of fighter jets over residential districts, or the sense of entitlement that characterizes Tokyo and Washington’s dealings with these southern islands. Like the swallowtail butterflies that flutter above the razor wire surrounding the U.S. base camps, Okinawans have learned to coexist with menace without being ensnared by it.

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