While the radiation levels in his homeland are rising, guitarist Goh Kurosawa is willing to take the risk to go back and lend a hand.
“I have to go,” he said. “It’s my country.”
Though he has already performed in musical fundraisers in the U.S., Kurosawa said he needs to do more.
“It’s a terrible time for my country right now,” he said. “A lot of people in Japan are really panicking.”
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First, though, Kurosawa has some dates set in America — including a workshop and performance with his trio, Sharp Three, at Faultline Music in Paso Robles. While his schedule here keeps him away from his homeland, he said, music does have a healing component.
“I like to think about celebrating life through music,” he said.
Kurosawa grew up just 150 miles from where the deadly quake and tsunami hit March 11. At the time Kurosawa was in America, watching the news on TV. That’s how he witnessed the crisis with the nuclear power plant in Fukushima.
“I was just shocked,” he said. “I couldn’t believe what was happening on the screen.”
Within days he had set up a benefit group, L.A. Musical Artists Uniting to Help Japan, which included Manhattan Transfer singer Alan Paul. After a gig in L.A.’s Little Tokyo, the group raised $4,000.
“If anything, the energy we brought together was really special,” Kurosawa said.
Though he’s Japanese, Kurosawa has always been steeped in American culture. His parents briefly lived in the Midwest when he was a young child. And Kurosawa returned to America to study music at Washington University in St. Louis in 1996, and later at the California Institute of the Arts.
“I felt by being in the United States, I’d be able to grow as a musician,” he said.
While his music is sometimes described as a mix of Asian and Western jazz, it’s actually more diverse, incorporating flamenco, classical, Brazilian, tango and Afro-Beat.
His musical career path, however, didn’t always include guitar. As a child, his parents took him to classical music concerts and gave him piano lessons. And in high school, he even conducted a mandolin orchestra. But at age 18, he finally decided he wanted to play guitar.
“It was kind of against my parents’ will,” said Kurosawa, who is planning to release an album, “Inochi/Energy.”
A few years after he came to study music in America, his brother, Kai, a bass player, followed. And since then, the two have regularly performed together — as they will in Paso.
“I think he and I balance each other out really well,” Kurosawa said.
Despite Kurosawa’s many influences, the fingerpicking guitarist retains his Japanese roots, which were established early on, when his grandmother would sing traditional Japanese folk songs to him as he went to bed.
“Japan’s music moves very slowly,” said Kurosawa, who is also known for incorporating percussive sounds into his guitar playing.
While he occasionally talks during performances about what’s happening in Japan, mostly he sticks to the music. For one thing, with the Japanese government being cagey, he doesn’t really know what’s happening. All he knows is what he hears from friends and relatives — and it’s not good.
“I want to go to Japan to see for myself,” he said. “I still want to go there and just see what I can do.”