MUSIC MONDAY: Folk songs for a new identity

Chris Kando Iijima, Nobuko JoAnne Miyamoto, and William “Charlie” Chin released the album “A Grain of Sand” in 1973. Subtitled “Music for the Struggle by Asians in America,” it was the first musical expression of a consciously “Asian American” identity set in the folk music singer-songwriter fashion of the early 1970’s.

The album contained songs of struggle, like “We Are The Children” which  described the experiences of generations of Asians in America:

“We are the children of the migrant worker / We are the offsprings of the concentration camp. / Sons and daughters of the railroad builder / Who leave their stamp on Amerika.”

Another song “War of the Flea” with a beautiful but haunting guitar accompaniment is sung with lyrics that have modern echoes of asymmetric warfare:

“War of the small, / War of the flea, / Where the strongest bomb is human / Who is bursting to be free.”

Learn more:

  • [Smithsonian Folkways] A Grain of Sand: Music for the Struggle by Asians in America: “Soul, jazz, and blues elements are interwoven in the American folk style of the songs. The artists were also influenced by their solidarity with African American and Latin American social movements.” Read more
  • [Smithsonian Folkways] Album Liner Notes: “The liner notes include a political statement by the musicians, lyrics, and a list of Asian American publications from the era.” Read more
  • [Densho Encyclopedia] A Grain of Sand (album): “The music was written, performed and recorded at the height of the Asian American, black, and anti-war movements in the early ’70s by New York musicians and activists Iijima, Miyamoto, and Chin, who were then in their twenties and early thirties.” Read more

Trailer for documentary “A Song For Ourselves – “This is who we are” by Tadashi Nakamura

Photo: Densho Encyclopedia


One Comment Add yours

  1. Suaylia says:

    This is quite fascinating.


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