1. Wong acknowledges that Asian American performance of traditionally black styles might have “points of contact” with nineteenth-century minstrelsy. I imagine that some black musicians would point out that claims of “lateral” motion toward blackness have been made before by economically disadvantaged white jazz musicians and rappers and that the option of such “lateral” moves still depends upon a certain racial hierarchy. In addition, when we consider the full spectrum of Asian American musical performance, the “choice to move away from Whiteness” appears to be the road less traveled. I argue that Mganga can be more readily understood to represent a move in the opposite direction, a move toward whiteness. Shindo’s models for his big band arranging style were primarily on the white end of the jazz spectrum. (Shindo cited Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, and Artie Shaw as the band leaders he most admired.) By creating this Africanized album, Shindo was momentarily assuming the powerful position of a white primitivist offering a predominately white audience a “musical high fidelity safari.” When I asked him to reflect on the impact of race on his career, Shindo answered that had he been white “the competition would have been greater, however I might have become more successful.” In another interview, Shindo offered the following speculation on his racialized career options: “If I had a beautiful black voice. … And I’m on the stage along with a black person. And I’m singing the greatest blues. Other fellow is pretty good too. He’s black. Chances are I’d never succeed. That black person would succeed. Only because the fact that the blues is associated with the blacks” (“Tak Shindo” 2000). Near the end of his life, Shindo repeatedly complained that “despite all my work for years with large film orchestras for TV and commercials, many still think of me just for Oriental music” (Lucraft 25).35 Perhaps Mganga represented not a conscious step toward whiteness or toward blackness but toward his later self-orientalizing, or perhaps it constituted a step beyond standard racial/musical categorization.

  2. No matter how clearly we may hear the orientalist and primitivist features of Shindo’s music, his exotic authenticity is celebrated by fans of exotica. The Spaceagepop website—one of the most comprehensive sites devoted to exotica music—proclaims that “Tak Shindo was responsible for some of the more authentic uses of exotica instruments in exotica recordings.” Shindo himself had a more practical view of musical representation. On the one hand, he was scornful of colleagues who were ignorant of Asian musical traditions: “the thing about Hollywood I always say, it’s a farce to think that parallel fifths or perfect fourths are Oriental, that’s not true, that’s far from being true, but I think someone came up with the idea that because Europeans used it during the Middle Ages … and because it was ancient, they thought that Japanese and Chinese would be the same way, but it isn’t.” On the other hand, Shindo told me that he “purposefully” used parallel fifths in his albums. Shindo clearly felt the historical burden of orientalist musical clichés. By employing them in his music and thus adopting “musical yellowface,” he was satisfying his audience’s expectations and was creating—to risk an oxymoron—“authentic exotica.”36 Shindo’s music reflected and supported the orientalist visions of Hollywood. Yet, in my discussions with him, Shindo seemed detached from the racial implications of these soundtracks and albums, as though he had worked within the mythical sanctuary of absolute music. By concocting exotic orchestrations, setting a Gregorian chant to a Japanese rhythm, and employing the same melody in both Mganga and in a noh-adaptation radio drama (minus the Afro-Cuban rhythm, of course), Shindo was satisfying his own experimental impulses, his own desire to create an individual sound. While participating—somewhat reluctantly—in musical orientalism, Shindo asserted his musical individuality. Shindo’s exotic status both enabled and limited his musical career as he sought alternately to capitalize upon and transcend it.

    Shindo in Japan

  3. World War II ultimately inspired in the US a renewed and more urgent interest in Asian cultures, resulting in both the scholarship of William Malm (whose book on Japanese music was first published in 1959) and the musical exotica of Martin Denny. While continuing to produce exotica, Tak Shindo became one of those true champions of the exotic—an ethnomusicologist. Shindo represented the authentic in the classroom by teaching world music courses for fifteen years at California State University, Los Angeles, focusing primarily on East Asia. He also became an important contact in the US for Japanese musicians and served as a promoter of Japanese traditional music.37 Starting in the early 1960s, he traveled to Japan nearly fifty times and during several of these trips pursued fieldwork on Japanese traditional music. For example, in 1964 he spent two weeks filming and studying the Imperial gagaku orchestra and this scholarly interest eventually led him to Taiwan and Korea. What were Shindo’s primary motivations in pursuing these studies? Was he enacting a “strategy of authentication,” in E. Taylor Atkins’s terms, to bolster his exotic authority back in Hollywood (12)? Had he devoted himself fully to musical scholarship? Or were his studies intended to support his new career in Japan? As always with Shindo, the answers are multiple.

  4. In the 1960s, Shindo recorded several albums in Japan. His albums for Nippon Victor from this period consisted primarily of straight arrangements of American swing numbers. He explained that with some of his albums recorded in Japan he was competing against the Japanese in creating “Japanese music.” The 1966 Sea of Spring offers an example of Shindo’s “Japanese music.” The album consists of beautiful arrangements for Japanese instruments and western orchestra of works by Michio Miyagi and traditional folk tunes that Shindo had known since childhood (“Haru no Umi (Sea of Spring)”). The Sea of Spring cover—a picturesque photo taken by Shindo of the Inland Sea in Japan—is strikingly different from those of his exotica album jackets. I find it remarkable that, for Shindo, adding Japanese exotic sounds to big band tunes transformed those tunes into exotica, while making orchestral arrangements of Japanese pieces and folk tunes did not alter their status as Japanese music, even after Shindo reset the traditional “Sakura” as a lilting waltz. Shindo told me that he didn’t continue working in his more exuberant exotica style while in Japan because Japanese musicians would not have been capable of playing it and that jazz was behind in Japan. (This, in spite of the fact that Shindo’s blending of jazz and Japanese music had been prefigured by Ryoichi Hattori and others in Japan in the 1930s [Yoshida 43–44; Atkins 134–139].) When asked in 2000 to offer advice to young Japanese Americans interested in entering the entertainment business, Shindo replied that they should make their careers in Japan since in the US “you can’t hide looks” and are inevitably typecast. Atkins has explained how the enticing hybridity of Nisei jazz musicians resulted in their enthusiastic acceptance in Japan in the 1930s (82). Shindo’s own bicultural status clearly proved advantageous for his multiple projects in Japan in the 1960s.

  5. The essential duality of Tak Shindo’s musical experience continued to the end of his life. When I interviewed him in June 2000 he had just composed two marches for a Nisei veterans commemoration and was looking forward to using his computer to explore “wild polytonal” possibilities, continuing his experiments in sound. He was rather bemused by my desire to study his life and career and seemed most interested in convincing me to assist
    Figure 8. Sea of Spring (1966)
    him in writing a book on Japanese music history. As I prepared to leave his home, he presented me with both an autographed copy of Sea of Spring and several mimeographed handouts from his East Asian music course. Tak Shindo was a musician equally proud of having been named a “Giant of Jazz” by Leonard Feather in 1966 and of possessing a detailed knowledge of Japanese notational systems.38 When asked by another interviewer to name the most important projects of his career, Shindo singled out his work on Sayonara, his music for the EPCOT Center’s Japanese Pavilion in 1979, and conducting his own choral arrangement of a Japanese song for the dedication of the Okinawan Peace Memorial in 1980 in Japan (“Tak Shindo” 2000). In each of these projects, Shindo explored multiple ways of sounding Japanese as a Japanese American. In doing so, he was also exploring new ways of being a musical American.

  6. What’s in a name, or more precisely, what cultural assumptions are imbedded in the pronunciation of a name? When I made my initial telephone call to Shindo, I was careful to proceed as politely as possible in order to secure his willingness to discuss his career. As he answered the telephone, I asked whether Mr. Takeshi Shindo was at home. Initially suspicious of my use of his full Japanese first name, Shindo hesitated and then replied “Yes, this is ().” I didn’t quite catch his pronunciation of his first name at that time, but after many hours of conversation with him and subsequent extended discussions with his widow and youngest daughter, one might assume that I would have eventually mastered this. However, I still catch myself referring to () Shindo, avoiding the sound of the more nasal American (). [Pronunciation Key] Why did I initially attempt to pronounce Shindo’s first name in a “more Japanese” manner? When I arrived at
    Figure 9. Tak Shindo (June 2000)
    his home for our interview, why did I remind myself upon ringing his doorbell to remove my shoes? As it turns out, Shindo did have a pair of slippers waiting for me just inside the door. In the last decades of his life, Shindo became more “Japanesey,” to borrow Myra Shindo’s (his youngest daughter’s) term.39 Myra sang with his big band for twenty-five years. However, her father would never let her sing Japanese songs “because I couldn’t pronounce it properly.” Like her father, Myra has always been interested in Japanese music and culture and is now an amateur shamisen player. As a Sansei (i.e., third generation), her engagement with Japanese music is inspired in part by her more general desire to explore her cultural roots. For Tak Shindo, Japanese music was simultaneously a part of his cultural inheritance and a racialized sign of his difference—a marker that he embraced but at times resented as he sought to be heard by other Americans who expected him to represent the exotic.

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Works Cited


35. This very brief profile contains some errors and includes an odd overview of “Oriental music.” However, the particular quotation presented here corresponds closely with sentiments Shindo expressed to me in June 2000. Some jazz musicians in Japan in the middle of the twentieth century experienced a similar pressure to “Japanize” their music. For example, the American saxophonist Sonny Rollins has been quoted as telling a Japanese jazz musician in the 1960s: “Because you all are Orientals your mission is to tie Oriental music to jazz” (Atkins 32).

36. For an example of a more self-conscious form of self-orientalism, see Shehei Hosokawa (1999) on Haruomi Hosono. Hosono, a founder of the Yellow Magic Orchestra, helped revive Martin Denny’s exotica in Japan in the mid 1970s. Hosokawa suggests that Hosono’s music presents “the Japanese way of exoticising American exoticism” (116) and “the deconstruction of orientalism by mimicry” (120).

37. In addition, Shindo founded his own music publishing company, Eurasia Music, and in 1961 published several works by Kimio Eto.

38. This was the fifteenth article in Feather’s series on the “giants of jazz.” Shindo was certainly not the first or only Nisei involved in jazz to receive national recognition. For instance, Pat Suzuki had been named “Best New Female Singer” of 1958 in Downbeat.

39. In 1981, he married his second wife, Sachiko Shindo—a Japanese woman who left Japan to join him in San Dimas. Mrs. Shindo is an accomplished shamisen player who performed on the recording of the piece Shindo composed for the Japanese Pavilion at EPCOT. It appears that in making this recording, Shindo encountered a problem with his Japanese musicians similar to that Waxman had feared in the Sayonara recording sessions. Sachiko and the other Japanese musician could not follow Tak’s conducting and were therefore recorded separately and later mixed in.


















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