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A Fireside Chat With Toshiko Akiyoshi

AAJ Staff By

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TA: I know. This was a coincidence. Some people said as you just said that it is timely, but the fact is that a priest in Hiroshima asked me in 1998 and I was busy at that particular time doing San Francisco's commissioned piece. He said that he would wait. Meanwhile, I never thought about Hiroshima to tell you the truth. He sent me photo taken three days after the bomb was dropped and the photo is so awful, people losing skin and so on. It was a great shock to me because I had never seen anything like this and as I said before, I never thought about it. I was too busy in my little world and thought I didn't know if I could do this.

First of all, I really didn't see the meaning of writing about something so tragic and so horrible. What does that bring to anyone? I didn't really find something meaningful about doing this, so I was going to tell him that I would not be able to do this. Out from shock, I kept looking at it and three or four times later, I missed one photo, which was one woman who was underground and wasn't affected by the bomb and came out and this photo was beautiful. I don't know how I missed it, but when I saw it, I knew that I could write this. That means something to mean and hopefully, means something to people who hear. This is not about America and Japan. It just happened to be Japan and America. It could be any place. We are anti-war. We don't want atomic weapons. The Hiroshima people still have hope for a better future. We do hope and at least we do hope. It doesn't matter what the situation might be. I thought that would be meaningful for me to write and I decided to write. Because of hope, I would like to play this in the twenty-first century and so I asked the priest and he agreed. He had to wait a year or so and so we played 2001 and as you know, it was a live recording.

It was an emotional concert. Every member of the band was emotionally involved. Some musicians even told me how proud they were to be associated with the organization. Musicians usually don't say things like that. The performance, I don't think you can get any better. It was a great performance. I actually cried on the stage because Lew plays so beautifully on the last one. The last one is very short, but it is the most important part to me. We have hope and so the last one, to me, is the most important part. I listen every once in a while and I would like to think I am very critical of my work and I personally feel that it is a pretty good accomplishment. When I play solo piano, which I do quite a lot in Japan, I always play that last.

Website: http://www.berkeleyagency.com

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