We are quite a diverse group, and we will be adding some short biographies about our members over the coming weeks.
David Hughes, the founder of the SOAS Min’yō Group, taught music at SOAS from 1987 until his retirement in 2008, and is now a Research Associate of the Department of Music and the Japan Research Centre. His contributions to Anglo-Japanese relations and understanding through traditional music activities earned him the Order of the Rising Sun from the Japanese Emperor in 2017 and the annual Japan Society Award in 2011.
The SOAS Min’yō Group and David’s other main ‘baby’, the London Okinawa Sanshinkai, are the major groups performing and teaching traditional Japanese folk music in the UK. Both groups meet to practice at SOAS on many Saturdays. David has also been involved with events featuring over 200 visiting performers from Japan.
David has lived for over ten years in Japan, his main research area, but has also written about aspects of music in Java, Thailand and Korea, as well as about musical grammars, oral mnemonics and music archaeology. His major publications include the books Traditional Folk Song in Modern Japan (2008) and the co-edited Ashgate Research Companion to Japanese Music(2008).
In Japan, David has performed min’yōover 60 times on television, stage and radio, and has sometimes (to his embarrassment) served as a judge at min’yōcontests.
George Nummelin is a shamisen player, and sometime singer (and when bribed, a taiko player). She first met David when he taught her during her degree in Music and Japanese at SOAS from 2001-2005, and somehow he convinced her to try the shamisen (it is just so cool!). After a shamisen hiatus, she started playing again after joining a min’yo summer school at SOAS, and has been impossible to get rid of ever since. George has lived in Japan for around 5 years in total; as a child, a university student, and as a music teacher. She’s now doing a PhD related to Ainu music and language, and is planning on getting some tunes into the group’s repertoire along with a tonkori eventually!