For many people at Heart Mountain, music became a means of coping with their incarceration. Executive director Dakota Russell looks at three of the most prominent musical groups from the camp’s history.
Joy Teraoka was 15 when she was removed from her home and incarcerated in Heart Mountain. While in the camp, she sang with the George Igawa Orchestra, a band formed behind the barbed wire. In 2018, Julian Saporiti and Erin Aoyama traveled to Hawaii to meet and perform with Joy. This film, For Joy, documents their experience. It also served as a companion to a past Heart Mountain special exhibit, Songs on the Wind. The exhibit and film were supported, in part, by a grant from Wyoming Humanities.
Composer and musician Kishi Bashi traveled to Heart Mountain and other confinement sites while creating his upcoming documentary Omoiyari: A Songfilm. This is one of the songs created during those explorations.
Speaking about this song and short film, Kishi Bashi gives some background: “The inspiration for the song came from a violin that was gifted to me called ‘Tsunami.’ The luthier, who is Japanese Brazilian and an ordained Buddhist priest, told me he embodied his prayers for the victims and survivors of the Fukushima tsunami tragedy into the making of the instrument. I immediately began to play it and was inspired to create a piece of music about the injustice of the Japanese American incarceration of WWII. In the video, the spirits are ultimately transformed into a peaceful bed of lanterns that embody the spirit of healing and the transmission of memory.”