Hiroshima's distinct sound makes the band hard to pigeonhole


Not much thought went into the band Hiroshima's fusion of traditional Japanese music with American jazz and Latin pop.

In fact, band leader Dan Kuramoto didn't even have to leave his house in East Los Angeles for the inspiration, which came to him as a teen in the '60s.

The Japanese wafted from his grandparents' hi-fi upstairs, the jazz from his piano-playing older brother and the Latin pop from just about any opened window.

"It became the framework that Hiroshima has always been about," says Kuramoto, 64. "That, to me, was normal."

The group's hauntingly unpinnable rhythms are commonly called New Age these days, which Kuramoto says makes him "unbelievably uncomfortable."

"Just like when they call us smooth jazz," he says. "I'm not trying to put anyone down. But we don't feel we're anything about those things."

Hiroshima formed in 1974 and retains three of its founders: Kuramoto, who plays sax; his ex-wife, koto player June Kuramoto; and drummer Danny Yamamoto. They perform at Santa Fe Station on Saturday.

Naming itself after the site of the most deadly nuclear explosion in history was an attempt to provoke, Kuramoto says, and it still does.

"In Japan in particular, they don't like that we named the band Hiroshima," Kuramoto says. "There's been continual resistance to what we do there. It brings up a very dark part of Japanese history, because of what they had to endure."

Kuramoto explains the name simply as a proclamation of its pacifistic ideals.

"In our generation, there were people talking about 'What's Going On?' and 'Someday We'll All Be Free,' " he says. "What we wanted to do is let our generation raise up a voice that war is madness.

"It's just like John Lennon said: If we don't talk about peace, we'll never have it."

Several of the band's albums found mild success at easy-listening radio over the years, notably its self-titled 1979 debut and 1985's "Another Place." However, Hiroshima's inability to fit a format probably cost it some audience.

It definitely cost it at least one vote in this year's Grammy Awards. The band received its second career nomination for "Legacy," a retrospective of favorites it rerecorded with its current lineup.

But Kuramoto, who is a voting member of the Recording Academy, didn't vote for it in the early ballots. He didn't notice it.

"I didn't look for us in pop," he says. "I was looking at jazz."

Contact reporter Corey Levitan at clevitan@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0456.

 

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