Voices from the Canefields: Folksongs from Japanese by Franklin Odo

By Franklin Odo

Folks songs are brief tales from the souls of universal humans. a few, like Mexican corridos or Scottish ballads, remodeled within the Appalachias, are tales of tragic or heroic episodes. Others, just like the African American blues, achieve from a tricky current again into slavery and ahead right into a stricken destiny. jap staff in Hawaii's plantations created their very own models, in shape extra similar to their conventional tanka or haiku poetry. those holehole bushi describe the studies of 1 specific staff stuck within the international routine of capital, empire, and hard work through the overdue 19th and early 20th centuries. In Voices from the Canefields writer Franklin Odo situates over 200 of those songs, in translation, in a hitherto principally unexplored old context.

Japanese employees speedy comprised nearly all of Hawaiian sugar plantation employees after their large-scale importation as agreement staff in 1885. Their folks songs offer stable examples of the intersection among neighborhood work/life and the worldwide connection which the staff basically perceived after arriving. whereas many are songs of lamentation, others mirror a fast version to a brand new society during which different ethnic teams have been prepared in untidy hierarchical order - the origins of a distinct multicultural social order ruled by way of an oligarchy of white planters. Odo additionally acknowledges the impression of the immigrants' speedily modernizing fatherland societies via his exploration of the "cultural luggage" introduced by means of immigrants and a few in their risky notions of cultural superiority. eastern immigrants have been therefore concurrently the goals of severe racial and sophistication vitriol at the same time they took convenience within the increasing eastern empire.

Engagingly written and drawing on a mess of resources together with relations histories, newspapers, oral histories, the expressed views of ladies during this immigrant society, and bills from the prolific jap language press into the narrative, Voices from the Canefields will communicate not just to students of ethnomusicology, migration historical past, and ethnic/racial activities, but in addition to a normal viewers of eastern americans looking connections to their cultural prior and the reviews in their so much lately previous generations.

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Extra resources for Voices from the Canefields: Folksongs from Japanese Immigrant Workers in Hawai'i

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1894 Immigrants were contracted to the Hawaiian government’s Board of Immigration through its agent in Japan. Upon their arrival in Hawai`i their contracts were reassigned by the Board to various plantations. By 1890, 12,610 Japanese immigrants composed 14 percent of the kingdom’s population. The average wage was $15 per month for men and $10 for women. Source: Adapted from Bishop Museum’s Hawai`i Immigrant Heritage Preservation Center, in Odo and Sinoto 1985: 49. 2 Japanese Immigration to Hawai`i, 1894–1908 Private Contract Period Approximately 57,000 Arrivals 1894 Free Immigration Period Approximately 71,000 Arrivals 1900 In April 1894 the Japanese government turned over immigration authority to government-licensed private companies.

After cutting the tall cane, both men and women gathered the loose stalks into bundles weighing as much as eighty to a hundred pounds, in a process Native Hawaiians called liliko hapai. The next step involved one of the most arduous tasks: carrying the bundled cane to waiting flumes, carts, or temporary rail cars for delivery to the mill. Rapid transport of the stalks was critical because, once cut, the cane lost its sugar content quickly. Here too we know of women carrying these massive bundles on their shoulders, including some who participated in competitions with men to determine who could carry the most cane in a specified time.

The burning also endangered the lives of workers in the fields and, as the feature film Picture Bride dramatically highlighted, the infants who had been brought there by mothers unable to afford child care. 2 Carrying cane (happai ko) on Oahu, ca. 1896. Cut stalks were hauled and loaded onto carts, flumes, or trains headed for mills. Once harvested, sugar cane quickly loses moisture and sugar content, so rapid delivery was crucial. Photographer unknown. After cutting the tall cane, both men and women gathered the loose stalks into bundles weighing as much as eighty to a hundred pounds, in a process Native Hawaiians called liliko hapai.

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