In 1971, Duke Ellington recorded an album entitled The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse. As part of that work, Ellington proclaimed “that whole world was going [Asian],” and that no one would know “who was in the shadow of whom.” The celebrated ensemble known as Hiroshima is the fulfillment of Ellington’s prophecy. In the three decades since they first convened, the L.A.-based quartet of Dan Kuramoto (keyboards/woodwinds/composer/producer), June Okida Kuramoto (koto), Johnny Mori (taiko drum) and Danny Yamamoto (drums/percussion) have blended jazz, pop, and rock with traditional Japanese folk music and instruments. The resulting sound was a pioneering voice in the world music movement of the late 20th century.

Twenty four years after their debut album on Arista, Hiroshima joins the Heads Up label with the 2003 release of The Bridge, a recording that extends their unique and universal artistry into the 21st century. “On this CD, we wanted to try and do something different, a little more open-ended,” Dan Kuramoto says. “Usually we have a very direct sense of where we want to go. On this project, we’re along for the ride, and I think that’s exciting.”

For Hiroshima – which takes its name from the Japanese city that sustained a nuclear blast during World War II, yet rose phoenix-like from its own ashes – the “ride” began in the polyglot metropolis of Los Angeles. Of all of the members, only June Kuramoto was born in Japan. She arrived in Los Angeles when she was six and lived in an African-American neighborhood. As Dan Kuramoto, her ex-husband recalls, “When she came here from Japan, she couldn’t speak a word of English. As is by providence, the leading koto player of Japan needed a place to teach. This madam Kazue Kudo taught at June’s house in the ghetto. In exchange, June got free koto lessons. As June grew as a classical prodigy, so did the influence of her life in America. By junior high school she asked her teacher if she could play songs by the Temptations on the Koto. "She’s always had a soulful feel in her playing.” Dan Kuramoto, who sang in a Baptist church choir during his youth, also grew up with an interest in African-American music and multi-culturalism. 

Dan and June formed Hiroshima in 1974, with Johnny Mori, a master of the Japanese taiko drums and trap drummer Danny Yamamoto. Their self-titled debut on Arista in 1979 spawned the hit single, “Roomful of Mirrors” and the intense showstopper, “Da Da.” They quickly developed a loyal following among cities with  African-American audiences – particularly Philadelphia and Washington, DC – and they enjoyed radio airplay on black and contemporary jazz radio stations nationwide. 

Their subsequent albums were equally successful. Odori, released in 1980, earned a Grammy nomination. In 1983, they signed with Epic and released Third Generation.  Two years later, Another Place generated the popular single, “One Wish,” and became their first gold record. Go, released in 1987, sat at the top of the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart for three months, and the album won a Soul Train Award for Best Jazz Album of 1987. 

East, released two years later, contained music from Sansei, Hiroshima's critically acclaimed play that was performed at the Los Angeles Music Center’s Mark Taper Forum. Providence (1992) featured “Time on the Nile,” a tribute to Miles Davis (with whom they’d toured before his death in 1991), and a inventive rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon in the Sky.” After their stint with Epic, Hiroshima signed with Quincy Jones’s Qwest label and released LA (1994), an album that encouraged healing in the aftermath of the L.A. race riots, and Urban World Music (1996), which featured Quiet Storm sounds with Average White Band vocalist Hamish Stewart.

Voted top ten record of the year by The Network, Between Black and White followed in 1999 on the Windham Hill Jazz imprint.  

Other highlight recordings in the Hiroshima catalog include Ongaku (1986); a Christmas collection entitled Spirit of the Season (2002); and June Kuramoto’s solo CD, Spirit and Soul (2002). June’s koto playing stole the show on Taste of Honey’s 1980 remake of “Sukiyaki.” Separate and apart from his work with Hiroshima, Dan Kuramoto wrote music for the Showtime miniseries Home Fires, the Oscar-nominated The Silence, and won a music emmy for the series, Bean Sprouts.  He was also the musical arranger for the play Zoot Suit

While Hiroshima have sold more than three million records in their career, they’ve done something even more important in the process: they’ve introduced a variety of traditional Asian instruments to a global audience, and integrated them seamlessly into a new music and art form. The Japanese koto, a zither-like, 13-stringed instrument, shakuhachi, a five holed bamboo flute, and the powerful taiko (which literally means drum) combine with instruments with the western hemisphere to create their unique musical palette. 

Today, Hiroshima’s current lineup includes the Kuramotos, the brilliant Hawaiian keyboardist Kimo Cornwell, drummer Danny Yamamoto, bassist Dean Cortez, vocalist Terry Steele (who penned Luther Vandross’ “Hear and Now”) and guitarist Fred Schreuders. With their new release on a new label, Hiroshima continues to inspire the world with their all-embracing musical message, which stems from their Asian-American experiences against the multicultural backdrop of the United States. “Every Hiroshima record is an attempt to reflect the diversity of our society," says Dan Kuramoto, “ that diversity is the heart and soul of our music." 


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