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Meet Dan & June Kuramoto, founding members of the Grammy-nominated jazz group Hiroshima

Posted on | February 15, 2010 | 16 Comments

Dan Kuramoto, founding member of the Grammy-nominated fusion jazz group HiroshimaUPDATED FEB. 27: JUNE KURAMOTO IS JOINING THE CALL! We’ve taken several months off, but Erin and I are ready to resume our series of interviews with inspirational Asian Americans for 2010. We’re especially proud to be able to speak with Dan and June Kuramoto, two of the founding members of the fusion jazz group Hiroshima, because the group has been nominated twice for a Grammy award! We’ll be speaking with Dan and June on Tuesday, March 2 at 6 pm PT (9 pm ET). You can register now for the call and submit questions for Dan on our webcast page.
June Kuramoto, founding member of the Grammy-nominated fusion jazz group Hiroshima
Only a few Asian Americans have been nominated for a Grammy Award over the years, and Hiroshima has managed the feat twice — once in 1980 for “Winds of Change,” a track off the groups second album, “Odori.” Hiroshima was nominated again for their latest album “Legacy,” a collection of re-recordings of songs from the band’s first ten years together. The band has been together for over 30 years, and have become an institution on the fusion jazz and R&B scene.

SIGN UP FOR DAN AND JUNE KURAMOTO’S FREE LIVE INTERVIEW AT 6 PM PDT (9 PM EDT) TUESDAY, MARCH 2! You can listen to the live interview over the phone (long distance charges may apply) or FREE via a webcast. You can also submit questions for Dan and June before and during the interview. If you miss the live event, you can listen to the interview for a limited time online.

The group was formed by bandleader, saxophone and flute player Kuramoto in 1974 with his then-wife June on koto, a traditional Japanese harp on which she’s a master player, percussion and taiko drum player Johnny Mori, keyboardist Dave Iwataki and drummer Danny Yamamoto. The group has evolved over the years with different players as well as various R&B singers on some songs, but the core sound of the Kuramotos and Yamamoto has remained the same.

The group’s been consistent and prolific over its three-decade history, mixing traditional Japanese sounds and melodic and rhythmic sensibility with a soulful, contemporary R&B and jazz flair. Throughout, whether the music rocks out or is contemplative, there’s a foundation of Japaneseness that sets Hiroshima apart from other bands playing in the fusion groove.

“We’ve always stood apart from other instrumental groups of our time by taking the graceful classical sound of the koto and experimenting with varying American musical idioms around that,” says Dan Kuramoto on the band’s bio page on its website. “We create musically a cross-commentary about a multitude of cultures that comes from our backgrounds as Asian Americans growing up in a racially diverse America. The album title grew from the idea that as people of Japanese heritage, we are ethnically in the middle of black and white, drawing from the traditions of both races yet also creating an identity that is unique to our heritage.”

June Kuramoto, who’s the only member who was born in Japan (she moved to the U.S. as an infant) has released several solo albums as well as a duet album with Derek Derek Nakamoto.

Hiroshima’s other bandmembers have also been busy with other projects over the years:

Aside from touring with such greats over the years as Miles Davis, Hiroshima’s members have engaged in some interesting side projects between recording and traveling dates. Dan, June and Johnny Mori have played on numerous soundtracks together, including those for “Black Rain” and the Oscar nominated “The Thin Red Line,” while Kimo Cornwell has produced and played with top Hawaiian artists, including Randy Lorenzo.

In all, Emmy winner Dan Kuramoto has scored over 50 plays, films and TV shows including the Showtime miniseries, “Home Fires,” “Bean Sprouts” and the Oscar nominated “The Silence.” He also served as the musical arranger for the L.A. and New York productions of the play/musical, “Zoot Suit.” June Kuramoto was trained on koto by Madame Kazue Kudo, herself a protégé of Japan’s most famed kotoist and composer, Michio Miyagi. She’s played on countless recordings (including the #1 hit record, “Sukiyaki” by Taste of Honey), films, television and concert performances with artists like Ravi Shankar.

The full band was also featured in a 1976 documentary titled “Cruisin’ J-Town,” directed by Duane Kubo, and they’re part of a permanent video installation at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. The group also wrote an original song titled “The Moon is a Window to Heaven” for the 1989 film “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.”

They’ve been representing Asian Americans for 30 years in an industry that still has too few Asians in the spotlight — it’s not an overstatement to say that Hiroshima has broken new ground, and gone where no Asian Americans have gone before.

Here’s one of their most famous songs, “San Say,” in a decideldy 1980s video treatment:

SIGN UP FOR DAN AND JUNE KURAMOTO’S FREE LIVE INTERVIEW AT 6 PM PDT (9 PM EDT) TUESDAY, MARCH 2! You can listen to the live interview over the phone (long distance charges may apply) or FREE via a webcast. You can also submit questions for Dan and June before and during the interview. If you miss the live event, you can listen to the interview for a limited time online.


16 Responses to “Meet Dan & June Kuramoto, founding members of the Grammy-nominated jazz group Hiroshima”

  1. Edward Hidalgo
    June 2nd, 2010 @ 10:19 am

    Good morning Dan and June. When listening to one of your works on the WAVE yesterday(94.7 FM in Los Angeles)the DJ mentioned your band was from East LA? Is this true? I attended High school in ELA in the 60’s and am well aware of it’s rich cultural and historic diversity. Your loyal fan. Ed Hidalgo

  2. admin
    June 2nd, 2010 @ 11:39 am

    Hi Ed,

    Thanks for your comment! We’ll forward it to Dan and June.

  3. Leslie Andrew
    December 3rd, 2010 @ 10:51 am

    I would like to say, Hiroshima put on one of the greatest ‘shows’ I’ve ever seen at the Universal Amphitheater in 1990 or 91. June was fabulous on the Koto; and Johnny Mori, dressed in full kabuki, was just extraordinary on the Taiko. Your music is dateless; and I will enjoy it forever.

  4. admin
    December 3rd, 2010 @ 11:20 am

    Thanks, Leslie! We’ll pass along your comment to Dan and June!

  5. Wendell Brown
    January 28th, 2011 @ 11:43 am

    Dan and June, i have been a fan for years and i have a 15 year old who has been practicing on the Koto for a couple of years. This year as a junior at her high school, she learned the bass clarinet in 1 month and was selected to play with the senior honors band. She had mentioned to Her instructor who handles several bands at her school. She’s playing all types of music but would like to play the KOTO with their Jazz band. Everything about her in her mindset is asian, but my daughter is black! She can speak some Japanese pretty good and also Korean and some Chinese, she loves her koto. They told her that if she could find some sheet music for the band and herself, they would love to have her play. She is very talented and loves your music. But she has looked everywhere. Is there someplace where she can buy some sheet music to a couple of your songs where June’s koto is preminent on the songs, like “Daydreamer” or “I remember”. She will flip out and be so excited. I do not know how else to try to get a hold of you. She wanted me to write you because your music might be easier, if it is changed i quess to numbers so she can play. She does know her strings. It would be a blessing to see a young beautiful person of color play such a blessed instrument. Much regards and blessing to you and June, and the band. We live in swedesboro NJ, if you are ever close this way, she would love to meet you. I love the words to your songs as i am a poet.

  6. admin
    January 28th, 2011 @ 12:25 pm

    Hi Wendell, we’ll forward your email to Dan and June and hopefully, they can help. Best of luck to your daughter — she sounds totally cool!

  7. Frank
    April 16th, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

    To the entire group of Hiroshima my heartfelt prayers to the country of Japan and you all individually and collectively, that you may have the blessings of the Lord to rise and stay united in the wake of the disastrous events of past. Musically, you have provided millions with a unique sound that has a song for every mood. God bless and keep your head to the sky.

  8. larry
    September 1st, 2011 @ 4:35 pm

    hi guys, i’ve been a fan of yours for many years and i just wanted to say that you guys are the greatest…i’ve always loved your music and have been truly inspired by your creativeness and not afraid to be different…i’ve seen you play numerous times in the LA area and have always come away with good vibes…lol…keep up the great work and give us more years of great music…take care…

  9. admin
    September 1st, 2011 @ 10:04 pm

    Thanks, Larry — we’ve forwarded your comment to Dan and June!

  10. Caesar Romero
    January 29th, 2012 @ 6:34 pm

    I had the privilege of attending the Hiroshima concert at Morongo Casino in Cabazon yesterday, my wife and I thouroughly enjoyed it. This is the third time I have watched you guys live in concert going back to the 80’s and you still have the passion and the vibe! It makes me proud to have emerged from the same East L.A. neighborhood. Peace.

  11. Dave Tansek
    November 21st, 2012 @ 6:13 pm

    Hiroshima has been one of my favorite bands since 1980. Having studied Aikido for four years, there can be no question that your music emulates the eternal journey of bushido. You are pioneers of introducing the world to the “Way of Spiritual Harmony”, 合氣道, with music, in the same way that O Sensei, Morehei Ueshiba, introduced Aikido to the world.
    The world has much to learn from the Japanese culture, especially in this day-and-age. As time goes on, I am continually more fascinated by the spirituality of the Japanese people.
    Because for me, spirituality is the opposite of government…and we need all of that we can get.
    My prayer is for ongoing good health and prosperity for June, Dan, and all the members of Hiroshima. Your work will never be done!

  12. Mark LLarenas
    June 5th, 2014 @ 3:44 pm

    I’m filipino and Black american and I’ve been listening to your music for over 30yrs. I’m 51yrs old now.. and have enjoyed it all and just love your instruments you use and your sound is the shit for real (ONE WISH) and wish you all well.I might be wrong did someone pass away some years back? Please let me Know THANK YOU LOVE YOU ALL SMILE…….

  13. admin
    June 5th, 2014 @ 7:34 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Mark! I’ve forwarded it to Dan and June…

  14. Charlsa McKinley- Cisneros
    February 12th, 2015 @ 8:04 am

    What Are The Words To One Wish

  15. admin
    February 12th, 2015 @ 8:08 am

    Hi Charlsa, I’ve forwarded your question to Dan Kuramoto! Thanks for reaching out!

  16. Aileen Walton
    June 7th, 2015 @ 4:10 pm

    I’ve been playing the harp for some time now. And ever since I heard One Wish as the theme music for Simply Ming, I know that’s how I like to veer off with my harp playing. Please, please, please let me know how I can get a hold of Hiroshima’s sheet music, especially for the Koto.

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