Monday, April 19, 2010

Music in Japanese Internment Camps

Reading Kristine Kuramitsu's article on art in Japanese internment camps, I thought that she made very good points in connecting visual art with the social impliations of interment. However, I thought that there were other forms of art besides visual art that Kuramitsu omitted in her article, such as music, that had a profound influence on Japanese-Americans in the camps.

You see, I am half-Japanese and my maternal grandparents were interned during World War II. However, it seemed that my family never talked about the subject, and it was only after my grandfather passed away that I learned of intermnent - for the majority of the Japanese-American community that I lived in, internment was a silent subject, memories of which were not passed on to younger generations.

To help my generation learn about internment and to keep these memories, which still have social, political and cultural implications, I co-founded and played the bass in a community organization called the Minidoka Swing Band throughout high school. The Minidoka Swing Band is based on the Harmonaires, a band that played in the Minidoka internment camp. The Harmonaires, among other bands, played swing music at camp dances and concerts and boosted the internees' morale during the three years they spent in camps.

The Minidoka Swing Band plays at concerts throughout the Pacific Northwest at both cultural and music events, and even performed at the Minidoka Pilgrimage, an annual trip that many internees and civil-rights activists take to the site of the Minidoka Camp in remote Southern Idaho. Recently, the band was featured in the Wall Street Journal for keeping memories of internment from being lost(the link is below).

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