Ainu Songs by Ankes at Japan Matsuri, Trafalgar Square
Japan House London is delighted to take part in this year's Japan Matsuri, the UK's biggest annual festival of Japanese cultures and food which returns to Trafalgar Square on Sunday 1 October for the first time since 2019.
Ahead of the opening in November of the exhibition Ainu Stories: Contemporary Lives by the Saru River, a UK-first exploration of contemporary Ainu culture, Japan House London invites the singing duo Ankes to perform songs in the Ainu language in a special performance for Japan Matsuri.
Ankes (meaning ‘twilight’ in the Ainu language) was formed by Harada Rino and Shinmachi Seiya in Nibutani, a district in the town of Biratori, Hokkaidō, in northern Japan. In this a cappella performance, in which the voices of the singers overlap to create a musical harmony, Ankes introduces a variety of Ainu musical traditions from their local area, including epics from Ainu oral literature and celebratory Upopo group songs sung in ceremonies and daily life.
More detailed information can be found on the Japan Matsuri website.
About the performers
Ankes is a duo unit founded by Harada Rino and Shinmachi Seiya. Despite living in different places, they have known each other since their childhood and met again at the Urespa Club promoting Ainu culture in Sapporo University, Hokkaidō. After graduation, they started to work in Nibutani, in the town of Biratori and formed the musical duo Ankes, which means ‘twilight’ in the Ainu language. They mainly focus on oral literature and Upopo songs, which are passed down from generation to generation in their home area along the Saru River, and they are also exploring various regional music, drawing from their background experience from the Urespa Club.
Shinmachi Seiya was born in Tomakomai, Hokkaidō in 1998. At the age of 17, he learned that he was of Ainu descent. Despite losing sight of his identity, he enrolled in Sapporo University and felt that he could establish his own self during his time there. Although he usually prefers to be out of the spotlight, he is happy to be seen performing Upopo songs.
Harada Rino was born in Nibutani in Biratori, Hokkaidō in 1997, where she grew up surrounded by Ainu culture from an early age. She studied Ainu language and culture in Sapporo University in Urespa Club, a university organization where she became fascinated by and immersed in dances and Upopo songs. After graduation, she returned to her home village. While working for the administration of a project which fosters future leaders in the promotion of Ainu culture, she has been working to pass on the current Ainu culture through old dances and Upopo songs.