Transpacific Musiclands

 Quetzal performing at Transpacific Musiclands, 2017

Quetzal performing at Transpacific Musiclands, 2017

For the past 17 years, my friend in Tokyo, Shin Miyata, has been running an independent music label called Barrio Gold Records, distributing Chicano music from East LA. He also brings bands from East LA to Japan to perform live.

Nobody else in Japan is doing this kind of work.

 El Haru Kuroi

El Haru Kuroi

I met Shin back in 2000, when I went with Quetzal to Tokyo to document their tour. I learned that Shin had lived in East LA as a college student in the mid-80s, doing a study-abroad home stay. He had been inspired by Chicano books, films, and music—specifically 1970s bands like El Chicano and Tierra—and he had come to LA because he wanted to experience the Chicano culture first hand. He even took Chicano Studies classes at East LA College.

On a recent visit to LA, Shin told me that it was his dream to bring over musicians from Japan so they could perform with musicians from East LA. Specifically, he wanted to bring Japanese musicians that play different types of Latin music. He believed that audiences would appreciate the heart and soul they put into the music, and that it would be amazing to see this sort of collaboration.

Thus, the idea for TRANSPACIFIC MUSICLANDS was born.

 Conjunto J (from Japan), with Tex Nakamura and El Haru Kuroi

Conjunto J (from Japan), with Tex Nakamura and El Haru Kuroi

The Japanese American National Museum, located in Little Tokyo just across the bridge from Boyle Heights and East LA, became the venue. Shin curated the event, drawing on some of the many Chicano bands he has worked with, and also selecting musicians from Japan to participate. The event was a celebration of his work as a cultural ambassador while also encouraging unity and collaboration during a time of great political and ideological division.

 East LA Taiko

East LA Taiko

Featured acts included Quetzal, El-Haru Kuroi, and La Chamba. Conjunto J, a group from Osaka that plays Mexican border music, joined in, along with Tex Nakamura, East LA Taiko, and poets Luis J. Rodriguez and Rubén Funkahuatl Guevara. DJ sets by Gomez Comes Alive and the man himself, Shin Miyata.

 LA's 2014 Poet Laureate, Luis J. Rodriguez performing with Quetzal

LA's 2014 Poet Laureate, Luis J. Rodriguez performing with Quetzal

Each of the featured artists has benefited from Shin’s work, but they also share a deep affection for him. He's worked to create cultural exchanges and understanding between East LA and Japan for many years, and in doing so, has built a strong network of loyal friends.

group shot

Transpacific Borderlands

Here's a short documentary I worked on about Kenzi Shiokava, a Japanese Brazilian artist who works out of his studio in Compton, California. It was made as part of the exhibition Transpacific Borderlands: The Art of Japanese Diaspora in Lima, Los Angeles, Mexico City, and São Paulo at the Japanese American National Museum.

The exhibition "examines the experiences of artists of Japanese ancestry born, raised, or living in either Latin America or predominantly Latin American neighborhoods of Southern California. It is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a Getty-led initiative exploring Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles, and is made possible through grants from the Getty Foundation."