Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Roger That: Cross-Cultural Ambassador Of Enka

Konbawa, Hip Hapa Homeez! That’s ‘good evening’ in Japanese. Once again, Watermelon Sushi World brings you a multicultural moment and tonight, we’d like to introduce you to Roger Danis, president of the Fuyumi Sakamoto Fan Club. For those of you not in the know, Fuyumi Sakamoto (or Sakamoto Fuyumi as it’s written in Japan with last name first) is a famous enka singer.

Although enka began as a form of agitprop or protest music, it evolved into blues post-WWII. Today, with the advent of J-pop (sadly, in my opinion) enka is no longer the prevailing musical form in Japan although it’s still hugely popular. Here's more info: 

If you’re ever fortunate enough to watch the NHK amateur singing contest, Nodojiman, you’ll notice how the mostly elderly audience responds to anyone singing enka--whether they stay on key or sound flat. Recently, American expat Jero-san (Jerome White, pictured above) became a huge enka sensation in Japan not only because he’s mostly black, but because he’s also a young kid who dresses with a hiphop flair and speaks fluent Japanese. Another youngish kid, Hikawa Kiyoshi (above right), is called the Prince of Enka and is a darling among the elderly. One of my favorites is Mizumori Kaori (below) who likes to toss her arm around like she’s brandishing a samurai sword. 

Q: Roger, what's a nice white guy like you doing promoting cross-cultural connections? 

A: I have European ancestry from all over, which is pretty common. As a young boy of about five, I was drawn to Asian culture rather powerfully. One early experience at a restaurant influenced me greatly, and I asked my step-dad for a record of Asian music for my sixth birthday. He went to Boston and brought back a Chinese pop record, which I loved and still have to this day. Later in life as a teen, I watched the original broadcast of Shogun, where I was exposed to Japanese language for the first time. I was already doing many musical things at the time; singing, playing an instrument, and so on. The Japanese language sounded very musical to me. (I am probably the only person in the world who thinks that.) So I have been pursuing as much knowledge as possible about the language and its culture ever since.

Q: What attracted you to enka music, and particularly Sakamoto Fuyumi?

A: Being a singer myself, I was attracted to enka because it is very Japanese in its presentation and is a very disciplined vocal style, which is very difficult to do well. I discovered Fuyumi Sakamoto in 1990, when I lived in Los Angeles. They had some Japanese programs on the weekends, and I discovered her on an enka music program. I think that Fuyumi Sakamoto, in particular, is an incredibly talented, powerful singer. She is so emotionally connected to her music. Watching her, I get the strong impression that she is doing exactly what she was put on this earth to do. That is what attracted me to her.

Q: When did you create the fan club for Fuyumi, what are some of the events that you promote, and how can people join?
A: I like to post performances that I have enjoyed, and that I think others would as well. I also provide any information I can find about Fuyumi’s latest music, and so on. I have some photos on the page, with the permission of the fan club portion of her website. It was the first page or group of any kind for Fuyumi Sakamoto on Facebook. I am proud of that. It is called Fuyumi Sakamoto Fans In America. Anyone in the world can join; I would love to have thousands of members. Here is the link:

Q: Do you have other enka favorites?

A: I like Ayako Fujii and a few others as well.

Q: Do you watch Japanese TV programs like Nodojiman, NHK Song Concert or Kohaku Uta Gassen that promote Japanese singers?

A: I love Kohaku Uta Gassen and Enka No Hanamichi. I think most Japanese dramas and comedies are well done.

Q: Have you been to Japan?

A: I was there in 1992 for three weeks and celebrated my 26th birthday there. It was truly awesome. I wanted to stay.

Q: Do you speak Japanese? And, how familiar are you with cultural nuances of the Japanese?

A: I would say I am at an intermediate/advanced level, but I need opportunities to speak it more. I am very familiar with Japanese culture and think highly of some aspects of it.

Yokata, Roger-san!

Once again, Hip Hapa Homeez, please like our Watermelon Sushi Fan page on Facebook and join our Hip Hapa Homeez group page where we post the latest news about cross-cultural, multiethnic and transracially adopted folks. You can also support our Watermelon Sushi film by purchasing a Hapa*Teez t-shirt.

Until next time, here’s a shout-out to all my Hip Hapa Homeez! That's you!

Your Hip Hapa,

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Erotic Multicultural Paranormal: Storyteller

Hey, Hip Hapa Homeez! Welcome back to our World of Watermelon Sushi where we address all manner of cross-cultural, multi-ethnic and transracial adoptee concerns.

Again, your support is appreciated so please join our Hip Hapa Homeez group page on Facebook where you are welcome to post links of interest to blendies and mixies. You can also “like” our Watermelon Sushi Fan page to keep updated on news about the Watermelon Sushi film. And, your purchase of a Hapa*Teez t-shirt helps us move towards our goal of completing the film. Please let us know when you buy one so we can add your name to our growing list of credits. Finally, you can also follow our erratic tweets on Twitter.

Hip Hapa Homeez, you rock! And, so does author T J Michaels, our featured Hip Hapa Homee this week. Check out her links here, and photos of her and her books below.

Q: What's a nice African American girl like you doing writing about erotic, paranormal, interracial romance?

A: Believe it or not, this all started almost twenty years ago. One of my girlfriends and I had picked up our first romance novel. It was called Golden Surrender by Heather Graham. After reading it, my thought was it’s a great story; I could probably write something like it. So I sat down and started writing. That book turned out to be 150 thousand words! Of course, I had no idea what I was doing really. Then I raised my kids, went through a divorce, established a career, blah blah blah. Then a few years back, in 2005 to be exactly, I got back on the romance bandwagon. Only it was now much wider and had more genres than just the historicals I'd read ages before. Now there were vampires, shapeshifters, psychics, as well as contemporary romances. And, the women were kick-ass, and the sex scenes were a lot hotter than way back when. Being comfortable with all of the above, I sat down and penned my first erotic romance with a Native American twist called Primed to Pounce. It was also the first book that I sold to a publisher under contract. It's available for Amazon Kindle.

Since then I've sold about ten more books and I write a mix of hot vamps, weres, contemporaries, and sci-fi romance for three publishers--in addition to the day job, of course.

Q: Where and how did you grow up?

A: I was born and raised in San Francisco. My parents were from the South, but my sisters and I all grew up in the city. My parents were a strange mix of old and new school. They taught us not to care so much about race since we were of various cultural backgrounds. On the other hand, they still had some of their old hang-ups from being exposed to the racial inequality of the South back in the 1960's.

Q: Did you always want to write, and how did you get you started?

A: Back in 2005 after I decided I wanted to finally get published, I talked to my children about it. They'd been asking me over the years when I was ever going to do something with "the big book", as they called it. I decided that with them being a bit older, it was a good time for me to take some time to do something I'd wanted to do for myself for years. They supported me by understanding when I needed time to write, and by making lots of coffee runs for me to the Starbucks around the corner. Every single book I've written has a dedication to them in the front. They've helped me figure out sticking points in plots, figure out titles, and tell their friends’ parents about my books every chance they get.

Q: Do you have any favorite characters that you’ve created, or books that you wrote?

A: Absolutely! I think my favorite series I've written so far is the Vampire Council of Ethics trilogy. The women are smart, professionals and the men are alphas to the bone without being jerks. It makes for lovely tension. Oh, and the bad guys? Damn. You'll hate 'em...which is just what I want. Smile. After that, my favorite book is Jaguar's Rule. It's a book about a black (or African American if you feel like being politically correct) female jaguar shapeshifter. She runs a bed and breakfast in Belize where she also works as a ranger in the only jaguar sanctuary in the world, which happens to be a real place. She also teaches scuba diving on her off hours...until her mate crash lands, literally, in the jungle.

Q: What's this about you wanting to open a school that teaches Japanese culture and language?

A: You know, even though we're Native American, French and black (and my kids have a lot of Irish and Native American on their father's side as well), we also have love for other cultures and countries. Japan is one of those countries. My daughter plans to head over there to live, work and, hopefully, teach. When she started learning the language, we all started getting more deeply into understanding the culture than we ever had before. We fell in love with Japan all over again. So now we want to bring the language, history and culture of Japan together with the ingenuity and business acumen of America in a high school for young ladies. We're hoping that families here and in Japan will send their girls to our academy...but first, we've got to build it! 

Q: Why do you think it's important that people cross cultures or mix it up?

A: You know, we all have the same DNA and come from the same earth no matter what race we are. There's no single race that is perfect, and there is no single race that is totally flawed. We all have something to contribute to society. When I was growing up, on our block we had young and old, black, white, Samoan and Filipino. And, that was just on our one block. Our neighborhood had some of everybody from everywhere and nobody cared. We rode bikes together, had block parties together, roller skated together; my mom cleaned up their scraped knees, and their moms cleaned up ours.

As a result, I can't seem to help but write multicultural, interracial novels. Every single book I've written to date has a mix of cultures in it - black, white, Japanese, East Indian, Native American, the works.

Q: What's on the horizon, and what should your fans expect?

A: I just sold two new books. One is a contemporary paranormal that deals with the ancient people of Atlantis, and the other is a science fiction romance where our lead girl is a Super Soldier on the run from the people who created her. Now that those two have been sold, I'm working on four others. Two of them are follow-ups to Spirit of the Pryde--a book about four black women who are sisters and African lion shifters. They're technology and scientific geniuses for their day jobs. At night, they're bounty hunters for the shifter community. I'm also working on rewriting the original book I started more than fifteen years ago, in addition to a new contemporary. My brain is a bit full so I need to get some of these books out of my head and onto paper so I can make room.

Wow! Amazing, astounding and all around awesome. Thanks, T.J.!

Hey, Hip Hapa Homeez, check out the pix of Eva, above, in her Hapa Nation Hapa*Teez. Don’t hate, order your own!

Until the next time, I am…

Your Hip Hapa,