Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – A day after a series of powerful earthquakes struck northeastern Japan on Friday, I surfed YouTube looking for video clips of the aftermath. The scene is awful. But I came across a clip of a familiar song by Japanese American jazz group Hiroshima with a footnote appealing for help for the earthquake and tsunami victims.
The song is “One Wish,” and the appeal reads:
“Please, Japan needs your support. Not just in finances but in your thoughts and prayers. The land of the rising sun shall see the sun again, but it needs your help desperately.”
The carefully selected 1985 hit song injects more passion into Asian-Americans in general and second and third generation of Japanese Americans in particular. The name, One Wish, is telling, and the simple message is: Japan needs you.
One Wish is part of the popular album Best of Hiroshima. It mirrors Hiroshima’s musical philosophy, blending Asian and North American music to reflect both cultural and spiritual undertones.
Hiroshima, one of the most popular jazz-fusion groups in the U.S. has been making music for 30 years. The group was formed in the early 1970s by saxophonist Dan Kuramoto, famed koto player June Kuramoto (koto is a string instrument – and yes, Dan and June are married), percussionist and taiko player Johnny Mori, keyboardist Dave Iwataki and drummer Danny Yamamoto. June is the only band member not from the US, she was born in Saitama Prefecture around Tokyo and grew up in Los Angeles. The group bears the name of the Japanese city that became the first in history to be destroyed by an atomic bomb at the end of World War II.
Hiroshima attracts many Asian-Americans who identify with the group’s colorful mix of Eastern tunes and melodically rich American smooth jazz. Among their many career highlights are: being featured in the 1976 documentary Cruisin’ J-Town and opening for late jazz legend Miles Davis during his 1990 world tour.
The Asian American and Japanese American communities consider Hiroshima as a musical pioneer. The group is widely believed to be the first to introduce distinctively Japanese instruments, including koto and the taiko drum, to the world of jazz music. More on Hiroshima here.
For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America