download (4:16 / mp3 / 5.30MB)

words + music (Kankara Sanshin) by Wesley Ueunten
Japanese lyrics from Okinawan folklore

recorded at annen annex, oakland ca.
mixed by shing02 + shuichi sugimoto
illustration by urban demographics


Everywhere that I can see
Are chain link fences, barbed wire
Are we inside, are we outside
I can't tell, can you?

Overseas bases, internment camps
Prison industry, Gatekeeper
Guantanamo, Henoko
Security, not for you and me

I've learned to close my heart
To shut myself in, shut myself out
I've build my own fence
I don't feel, but yet I bleed

Umuti kayuraba
Shinrin ichiri
Awan muduraba
Mutu nu shinri

Tukee yo hijamitin
Tiruchichi ya, hituchi
Aman nagayura
Kiyu nu suru ya

Even in these darkest times
Love will shine, shine through
No fence can hold us in
What goes up must come down,
what goes around comes around

If our thoughts are connected
a thousand miles become one
If I come back without seeing you
you will be a thousand miles away

We are apart with a sea between us
but the same moon shines upon us
we are gazing up
at the same sky tonight

Kankara Sanshin

Sanshin is a Shamisen-like three-string instrument mainly played in or around Okinawa. Kankara means cans.
It is a bit difficult to tune the Kankara Sanshin, however that gives it a distinct, melancholic sound.
The emotional folk songs of Okinawa represent the blues of Japan.

Most People associate the Kankara Sanshin with the period right after the Battle of Okinawa (April to June 1945), when Okinawans had no materials to make sanshin and used cans cast off by the American military.
However, according to oral histories, early immigrants to Hawaii, as well as internees in Japanese Latin-American internment camps, created sanshins using materials similar to the kankara.

Wesley Ueunten Profile
Wesley is an Okinawa Sansei (third generation) born in Kauai, Hawaii.
He lived in Okinawa and Japan for 10 years and learned Sanshin while he was living in Kawasaki, from Kenichi Nadoyama Sensei.
He now lives with his family in Albany, CA and takes part of a sanshin group called GenYuKai.
He is also completing a Ph.D. in ethnic studies at University of California at Berkeley.

contact wesley

special thanks to Gina Hotta (RIP) for playing the song on Radio Apex, KPFA 94.1 !

in Japanese