Bindu Records presents

Nobuko: A pioneer
for Asian Americans
in the performing arts

A Bindu Records profile

Part 2 of 4

ABOVE Nobuko worked with Benny Yee to create the musical Chop Suey ... click on image for enlargement
Returning home to Los Angeles, Nobuko found a cultural and spiritual home at Senshin Buddhist Temple, where she returned to her dance roots, teaching in the community. In 1978 she established Great Leap, Inc., one of the oldest Asian American arts organizations in the country. Her music found new instrumentation and pushed in the direction of jazz/fusion with the band Warriors of the Rainbow. Combining her music with her dance and theater experience Nobuko worked with a variety of artists to create the musicals Chop Suey, Talk Story I, and Talk Story II.

"We began to tell stories about a part of America that had not been told yet," Nobuko explains. "Stories that came from our own families, from our own experiences."

In 1985, Nobuko stepped out with her first solo album, Best Of Both Worlds, the start of an ongoing collaboration with producer/arranger Derek Nakamoto. This album contained some larger artistic works created for concert dance as well as lighter contemporary pieces such as Jan Ken Po, and Gaman, the songstory of a young girl who grew up in one of America's concentration camps during World War II. This eventually was turned into a short film with drawings by Betty Chen.

Nobuko was pulled further into her roots with a challenge to create a new traditional Obon song/dance for the Buddhist Obon celebration. Yuiyo became the first English Obon song and the start of a continuing series. The video, Gathering of Joy, documented Yuiyo's "coming out" with 2,000 people from 18 Buddhist Temples dancing. Ironically, this new obon song was chosen by Columbia Pictures to be the finalrpiece in the movie Karate Kid II.

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