"Lay Down Your Weapons, Take Up Musical Instruments," the song that Okinawan guitarist, vocalist, and composer Shoukichi Kina chose to perform at the Cultural Olympiad at the Olympics in Atlanta in July 1996, summed up his philosophy. Since 1968, when he formed his band Champloose, Kina has provided a musical voice for Okinawan and environmental concerns. One of the first to combine traditional Asian music with rock and reggae influences, Kina continues to use his music to bring the Asian and Western worlds closer together.
The son of a traditional shamisen player, Kina has been embraced by musicians from around the globe. His 1980 album Bloodlines was recorded in Hawaii with Ry Cooder on mandolin, slide, and electro-acoustic guitar. The Celebrations, released two years later, represented a collaboration with Japanese ambient keyboardist Makoto Yano. Kina's album Earth Spirit featured guitarist Yves N'Djock of Salif Keita's band.
Kina's hook-laden songwriting has also enabled his music to be heard far beyond the Okianawan borders. His song "Haisai Ojisan (Hello Uncle)" was covered by the international supergroup of John French, Fred Frith, Henry Kaiser, and Richard Thompson. "Hana (Blooming Flowers in the Hearts of All)" was covered by Henry Kaiser and David Lindley. "Subete No Hito No Konoro Ni Hana O (Flowers for Your Heart)" was recorded by Detty Kurnia of Indonesia and Caravan of Thailand.
Kina's best-known work has come as leader of Champloose, the only garage rock band in Okinawa. The group's album The Music Power From Okinawa, recorded during a performance at Kina's nightclub in 1977, was released in 1991 and became an international hit. Kina has continued to alternate solo projects with albums recorded with the group. According to David Byrne, whose label Luaka Bop released a 15-tune compilation of Kina's work with Champloose, a concert by the band is "an experience that is almost more a rally or a celebration than a formal concert." ~ Craig Harris