ABOVE Nobuko (fourth from left) enjoyed magazine cover exposure from her early career on Broadway ... click image for enlargement
LOWER RIGHT Charlie Chin, Nobuko and Chris Iijima performing songs from their album, A Grain of Sand ... click image for enlargement
When Nobuko began writing songs 25 years ago there was no such thing as Asian American music. As a Los Angeles-born sansei (third generation) Japanese American, she was a willing subject of American culture.
Her early training in the riguers of dance led her to a career in Broadway and film musicals such as King and I, Flower Drum Song and Kismet, when "orientals" were "in." Playing a Puerto Rican in the movie West Side Story was the sole exception and her signal to search for more fertile ground as an artist.
During the social movements of the 1970s, Nobuko connected with her roots in the Asian American community. In New York City, Nobuko created music with Chris Iijima and they found their work filled a void, reflecting the dynamic cultural awakening and activism of the times.
"Diving into the movement, I realized I was part of something greater than myself," Nobuko says. "The music flowed out and served a real purpose."
Together with Iijima and Charlie Chin, the trio created the seminal album of Asian American songs, A Grain Of Sand. Their music became a vehicle for cultural ambassadorship, moving and sharing with Asian, Black and Latino communities across the country. It proved to Nobuko that music was a potent force for social change.