Hiroshima’s ‘Legacy’ lies with the spirit, impact of the music

Published on March 23rd, 2021

Hiroshima’s ‘Legacy’ lies with the spirit, impact of the music

By Jim Dail

Two years ago, the members of Hiroshima got an interesting idea.

“We decided to go back and redo some of the old songs that we get requests for,” he said. “We get a lot of requests because the labels don’t make the songs available. So, the only way to hear them is if we happen to play them live.”

The result is the band’s latest album, “Legacy,” which was more successful than they imagined, even earning a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album.

“It was a total surprise to us,” said band leader Dan Kuramoto, who brings Hiroshima to Thornton Winery as part of the 2010 Champagne Jazz Concert Series on Sunday. “We are members of the academy and we didn’t even vote for ourselves.”

Although the album is a retrospective of the bands career, it is not exactly a greatest hits album.

“’Legacy’ is about the albums we recorded in our first ten years,” he said. “We did songs that we felt were important to us as individuals and as a band.”

The band is made up of saxman Dan Kuramoto, koto player June Kuramoto, keyboardist Kimo Cornwell, drummer Danny Yamamoto, percussionist Shoji Kameda and bassist Dean Cortez.

“We really are a collection of styles that come from the various cultures that we come from,” he said. “We have urban, Japanese, funk, R&B, you name it.”

The songs are a collection of well-known live and radio staples, for the most part, such as “Room Full of Mirrors,” which was used as the theme song for “Bean Sprouts,” an Emmy winning PBS children’s series.

“’Dada’ was one of the songs that got us off the ground so we knew we had to have that one on the record,” he said.

Some of the songs sound almost identical to the original versions, but the band let loose on some others.

“With the song ‘Another Place,’ the initial version was about 3 minutes, but now there are two major solos in the song,” he said. “Kimo and June both have long solos. It’s absolutely open-ended and now 9 minutes long.”

However, as with any retrospective collection, some songs had to be left out.

“You get attached to the songs and it’s difficult to ignore them but you have to leave some of them off the record,” he said. “Some radio hits we didn’t put on the record. For example, ‘Lion Dance’ didn’t get on. The first album had 5 radio hits but we couldn’t get them all on. You have to pick.”

They had some help.

“Some were influenced by the Web site where we let fans vote,” he said. “After all, it was people coming up to us and asking where we could get some of the songs they heard and us telling them they couldn’t that was a big reason for the record.”

The top getter was “One Wish.”

“That song is from 1985 and it is still played every day around the world,” he said. “You just never know how much a song will last.”

Then again, the music and what it can do for people is the reason the band exists.

“Music is a quality of life issue,” he said. “At the end of the day, few things are as rewarding as music.”

However, he is concerned about the state of music.

“It’s a tough business these days,” he said. “Our bookings are good because we’re not labeled in the smooth jazz categories, so we get more work.  We also have an embedded audience.”

Even more so is his concern for recorded music.

“Things are becoming monopolistic,” he said. “There are so few companies anymore to put out product and a few are having total control. I’d rather see the demise of labels rather than them having that control because it doesn’t serve art well.”

So what is his definition of music as art?

“It’s when people can say ‘Wow, I’ve never heard that before,’” he said. “That’s when it becomes art.”

Even the band’s name was chosen to represent something beyond just entertainment.

“For the name, we thought we wanted to make a statement about humanity,” he said.   “June’s uncle died in the war and did what everyone sees in the movies. He took all the ammo and held a position to hold off the enemy troops so others could get away. The rest of our families were in prison camps.”

Growing up it was hard for him to find anything positive when it came to exposure about Asian-Americans.

“As a kid I saw so many negative stereotypes,” he said. “I never saw anything in the media that was positive about Asian-Americans. So the name is about recognizing the heritage and a movement toward peace.”

As for the shows this summer in celebration of “Legacy,” there is a special surprise.

“We will have a young girl with us Yvette Nii who has just a great, pure voice,” he said. “I think people will be delighted.”

Kuramoto is convinced that the album will live up to the expectations of the band’s fans. “For those who like Hiroshima live, they will like this as it totally revisits what we do live,” he said. “It’s our message, our expression, our creativity.”

And what the music means to the band is so important.

“It’s a lot about who we are and what we are about,” he said. “And there could be more albums looking at the second and third decades. It’s hard to believe we have that long of a legacy.”



Comment guidelines, edit this message in your Wordpress admin panel