Upopo: Performance by Marewrew with Oki


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As part of a series of events celebrating Ainu culture in contemporary society, Japan House London is delighted to welcome Marewrew, a group of female performers, in a special performance exploring upopo, songs that are sung and danced during ceremonies, with the support of the internationally acclaimed tonkori player Oki.

Music plays an important role in Ainu culture, accompanying the religious or social ceremonies of everyday life. Upopo are representative songs of Ainu music and in some regions this term refers to songs performed by singers sitting in circle while beating lightly on the lid of a shintoko (a lacquerware treasure box).

Upopo are characterized by the way they are sung, which is constructed around rhythmical patterns called ukouk leading the performers to a natural trance.

This concert is part of a season of events held in collaboration with Hokkaido Prefecture in conjunction with the opening of Upopoy, Japan’s new national museum featuring the history and culture of the Ainu, in Shiraoi, Hokkaido in May 2020.

About Marewrew

Marewrew, meaning ‘butterfly’ in the Ainu language, is a group of female artists working on the diffusion and renewal of the upopo songs of the Ainu people of northern Japan. In 2010, after launching their first mini-album ‘MAREWREW’, they started full-scale activities and were brought to the attention of local and international audiences thanks to their performances at the international world music festival Womad (UK) and other European venues. Their work, which incorporates a modern arrangement of upopo’s charm, has been highly praised.

About Oki

In 1992 Oki received his first tonkori- a stringed instrument developed by the Ainu of Sakhalin. Although the instrument was regularly displayed behind glass in museums, there were virtually no active tonkori players at this time. Oki devoted himself to studying the tonkori and soon began making his own. In 1996 he released his first album ‘Kamuy kor nupurpe.’ Shortly after he established Chikar Studio in order to encourage other Ainu artists and promote the music of Ainu artists to the world. Chikar Studio has presently released a total of 20 albums, including titles by the singer Andō Umeko and the all-female ensemble Marewrew, who sing Ainu dance songs called ‘Upopo’ with a modern sensibility. Oki Dub Ainu Band features the tonkori in a band setting with drums, bass, keyboard and dubwise. They perform often at festivals in Japan and overseas.


Upopoy Ftype color7 Hokkaido Japan-UK Season of Culture 2019-2020 at Japan House London