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.
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.
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.
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.
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.