Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Classical, Contemporary and Surreal: The JACCC's 30th Anniversary Gala Celebration

Last night, I had the privilege to experience the wide variety of performances at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC)'s 30th Anniversary Celebration. It was a night of traditional Japanese music, contemporary jazz and a deliciously surreal moment that renewed my love of "mixing cultures" in L.A.

The night opened up with a classical Japanese set with Kenny Endo and Kaoru Watanabe. As I listened to the traditional flute and drum music, I was transported back to Japan and all I loved about the culture when suddenly the two bullseyes were pierced with arrows. A uniquely Japanese opening.

Then, Abe Lagrimas, Jr. joined them as Kenny Endo pounded away at the Odaiko. While there are many types of drum beats, taiko drumming has two levels. On the first level, there is the neat, clean and controlled feel trying to hold back the fiery energy below.

The show continued with performances by contemporary jazz pianist Keiko Matsui. One of the songs from her 23 albums, Deep Blue, was inspired by the fact that the oceans of the world connect all the continents like music connecting people. Not only music, but cultural experiences of all kinds connect us.

We were also treated to happy-go-lucky Hawaiian music from five-time GRAMMY Award winner Daniel Ho. If ever one needs a quick pick-me-up from a stressful day, his music would do the trick.

The show ended with the west coast debut of Jero, the first African-American enka singer. Closing my eyes, I felt like I was back in Japan listening to those romantic Japanese ballads (think of the ending song on Kill Bill Vol. 1) at a karaoke bar or on Kohaku Uta Gassen, the traditional Japanese New Year's music program. Opening them up, there was a young, handsome Black man on stage in a tux and baseball cap (tilted to the side). It was the surrealist moment of the night, and one in which made me appreciate living in Los Angeles.

After the show, was a reception on the plaza with delicious hors d'oeuvres and desserts. The 30th Anniversary Gala Celebration was compliation of the great performances at the JACCC and Aratani Theatre. Jero is performing tonight to a packed house, and Kenny Endo will be performing this Saturday. After this great evening, I look forward to other events that the JACCC have to offer.

-Tiina Vuorenmaa

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