Their Song Remains the Same

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The members of Hiroshima pose on First Street in Little Tokyo, which remains at the heart of their music. (Jaimee Itagaki)

By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Entertainment Editor

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Any musicians whose careers span decades would likely find a way to put their work into a historical as well as artistic context, with hindsight illuminating what it all meant.

For Hiroshima co-founder Dan Kuramoto, it all means the same as it did on Day One.

“When we came into the industry more that 30 years ago, we had the goal of making a point about Asian American performers,” said Kuramoto, 64. “It was a socio-political statement. We were, and are, trying to create a perspective of who we are, and to lift ourselves up, collectively, as a community.”

The band continues its Legacy tour this Friday, with a performance at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. The one-night only concert will feature selections from the latest latest album, “Legacy” which was nominated for a Grammy earlier this year.

Hiroshima will also roll out some of the more popular songs from their earlier work, vocal cuts such as “Winds of Change,” “Roomful of Mirrors,” “Dada,”  “A Thousand Cranes,” and “One Wish.” A group of guest artists is scheduled to join the band on stage, including vocalists Terry Steele, Jim Gilstrap and Yvette Nii, all of who sang on “Legacy.” “People have been asking for the early vocal stuff,” Kuramoto explained, “So we decided to go back, revisit those songs and retell those stories.”

Since forming in 1974, Hiroshima has seen the music business undergo constant transformation, but none as sweeping as the present state of the industry. The core concepts of recorded music and how it is distributed are in a state of flux, with the very nature of how people obtain music experiencing fundamental change, from physical media to digital downloads.

“What do physical records or CDs mean anymore?” Kuramoto pondered. “We, like anyone else, are trying to figure out where this all lands. I mean, the record companies didn’t help themselves when they made CDs without copy protection, and then charged 18 or 20 bucks for a CD. It’s rough when the better  option for a lot of people is to download a file for free.”

Kuramoto also weighed in on the pending closure of the Aratani Japan America Theatre in Little Tokyo. The facility in Little Tokyo is where Hiroshima stages its annual holiday concert, “Spirit of the Season,” set this year for Dec. 5. The JAT is slated to be shuttered at the end of January for an undetermined amount of time, to address structural and renovation issues.

“For Asian Americans, we’d like to grow our art, community and politics, and to create a base, a physical meeting place for us to get together,” he said. “What worries me is the idea that they won’t have funds to finish all the work that is needed and that it won’t reopen. I hope that it gets done soon, and that it has an internal energy that transcends the physical space.

“The Spirit of the Season was conceived to get people to come back to Little Tokyo, our cultural and spiritual base, to have a meeting place. I want people to think about that a little bit.”

Kuramoto warned that losing the JAT could initiate a disastrous domino felling of institutions that have been cornerstones of the Japanese American community.

“If the JAT goes down, can we not see JANM, Visual Communications, East West Players, even the Rafu, could be next? Can we not realize it and circle the wagons a bit?”

Hiroshima’s original mission, Kuramoto said, is perhaps more relevant now than when the band formed.

“It was great art and people tuned in and in the end, it all speaks to humanity. After 30 years, that’s the message we’re still pursuing,” Kuramoto explained. “Really, how we as artists create perspective on our own history is pretty damn important.”

Hiroshima returns to the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m. Tickets $67, $52 and $37. To purchase tickets call (800) 300-4345 or visit www.cerritoscenter.com.

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