Songs, Circle Dances and Sustainability at FandangObon and Mottainai Eco Fest


A scene from the first FandangObon in 2013. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

A scene from the first FandangObon in 2013. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

Join the circle, dance and learn about sustainability at the 2015 FandangObon and Mottainai Eco Fest on Sunday, Oct. 25, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. in the Noguchi Plaza of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, 244 S. San Pedro St. in Little Tokyo.

This event is presented by the JACCC, Great Leap and Quetzal and includes Sustainable Little Tokyo and LA Commons as community partners.

Nobuko Miyamoto of Great Leap and Quetzal Flores of Quetzal brought the Japanese American Obon and the Latino fandango together to create a new music and dance tradition called FandangObon in 2013.

Fandango is a music/dance tradition from Vera Cruz, Mexico, with Spanish, African and indigenous roots. Flores and other musicians have helped to create fandango groups throughout the U.S.

Obon is a Japanese Buddhist tradition in remembrance of ancestors. Miyamoto has created several new Obon songs in English, including the popular song/dance “Mottainai” (no waste), to deepen a useful cultural tradition among Japanese Americans. Last year, they brought in a African traditional dance called egungun.

FandangObon begins at 1 p.m. with the call of the taiko and African drums, welcoming all to bring their feet and instruments into the circle to share in the music and dances that help to celebrate and sustain Mexican, Japanese and African American cultures.

FandangObon is a participatory process that involves workshops where people can become familiar with the traditional dances of the three communities prior to the event. In the weeks leading up to the event, free dance workshops for all ages were held at El Hormiguero in San Fernando, Floricanto Performing Arts Center , Senshin Buddhist Temple, U Space at JACCC, and Higashi Honganji.

This process culminates in a new dance integrating all three cultural forms, celebrating everyone’s connection to each other and to the environment. One example is “Bambutsu no Tsunagari” with Japanese, English and Spanish lyrics, which has become a favorite at Obon festivals throughout Southern California.

This third annual FandangObon welcomes into the circle Le Ballet Dembaya and Francis and Omowale Awe, who will share drum and dance from Guinea and Nigerian traditions.

At 3 p.m. the dancing ends and the Mottainai Eco Fest becomes the focus. In 2014, Sustainable Little Tokyo helped spearhead the Mottainai Eco Fest to increase understanding of the themes of sustainability and water conservation through hands-on activities and information tables. The Mottainai Eco Fest will highlight the ways that Little Tokyo organizations, churches and businesses are practicing sustainability by keeping the arts, culture and history alive as well as creating gardens, composting and replacing Styrofoam cups and plastic with reusable dishes and chopsticks at their festivals and programs.

Many of these projects will be displayed in a visual gallery and representatives will be on hand to explain what they are doing now and in the future. A plastic bottle sculpture, created by the Camp Musubi youth, with facts about bottled water and tap water will be displayed along with other sustainable art. A special exhibit, which takes “reduce, reuse and recycle” to a new high, is African American artist Dominique Moody’s Nomad Project, a mobile dwelling assembled from materials salvaged and repurposed, which serves as her residence and workplace.

The ambassadors from the Sanitation Department of the City of Los Angeles will again be on hand to provide information about recycling. If you have questions about where to put your trash, Clean and Green youth from the L.A. Conservation Corps will provide assistance. There will be information about greywater (water from washers and showers) from Greywater Action, a group that gives workshops on how to set up a greywater system.

There will be information on how to set up your own garden. Rain barrels will be distributed on the plaza for those who have pre-ordered and Tree People will be on hand to explain how to set them up. Food and Water Watch with its “Taking Back the Tap” campaign has also been invited to participate.

Finally, Sustainable Little Tokyo will have a table with information about water conservation tips from the LADWP and about how you can be involved in helping to sustain Little Tokyo.

A bike ride from Boyle Heights to Little Tokyo with stops along the way is being organized by Asian Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance. Start at Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights at 11:30 a.m. with a stop at Mariachi Plaza at 12 p.m. and arrive at the JACCC at 1 p.m.

FandangObon/Mottainai Eco Fest is partnering with Rain Barrels International and Tree People to host a rain barrel sale. Pre-order and pay for your barrels online at by Oct. 23 and pick them up at the Eco Fest between 3 and 5 p.m.

These are the same barrels sold at local retailers for $130-$150. For the Eco Fest, you will be able to purchase barrels at cost, just $85 each. LADWP customers can use a $100 rebate through the Metropolitan Water District, and get up to four free rain barrels. Learn more here:

All these events are free and open to all ages. Funding has been provided by the Calfornia Arts Council, Artivist Entertainment and Pacific Commerce Bank. A brief video about last year’s workshops and event is available at:

FandangObon/Mottainai Eco Fest is a “no waste” event. Attendees are invited to bicycle, take the Metro, walk or carpool. And bring your own water bottle. There will be water stations and food on the plaza. For more information, email [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]



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