NPR logo Hiroshima, 'The Bridge'

Hiroshima, 'The Bridge'

Surprising New Directions for the East-Meets-West Jazz Combo

Dan and June Kuramoto, front, with current members of the band Hiroshima hide caption

Enlarge photo
toggle caption

From 'The Bridge'

Hear samples from Hiroshima's latest CD:

Listen "Caravan of Love"

Listen "Shaka Phonk"

Listen "Seven Rivers"

Cover for the Hiroshima CD The Bridge (Heads Up, 2003) hide caption

toggle caption
Available Online

For nearly 30 years, the members of the jazz band Hiroshima have been creating their own distinctive "East meets West" style of music — a blend of soulful rhythm and blues, jazz and traditional Asian music.

Their songs have topped the Billboard contemporary jazz charts, and they've won a Soul Train Award for Best Jazz Album — evidence of the band's continued popularity among African Americans.

With the 2003 release of their new CD The Bridge, the band continues to add new layers to their sound. NPR's Tavis Smiley recently spoke with Hiroshima founder Dan Kuramoto and his musical partner June Kuromoto about where the band has been, and where it's headed. (The two were once married, but after the divorce remained music partners and best friends.)

Many of the songs from The Bridge are radically different than in past albums. There's even a hip-hop-flavored tune, "Skana Phonk." The band also covers an old Isley Brothers tune, "Caravan of Love."

Keeping a band together for 30 years is impressive enough. But the band members also represent a bridging of cultures — the founding musicians first got together in East Los Angeles, which is mostly Latino.

June Kuramoto was born in Tokyo and raised in inner-city Los Angeles in the 1960s, and says she was "constantly straddling cultures." Her mother was sent to an internment camp during World War II — an experience that inspired "Manzanar," a song on The Bridge.

Dan Kuramoto is third-generation Japanese, and grew up in East L.A. The other members of the band have backgrounds as diverse as Los Angeles itself — African-American, Latino, Asian and all the colors in between.