HIRO BLOG. MAY 2019
The most important thing about this month’s blog is the meaning of this month for APA’s. May is Asian Pacific Heritage Month (APHM) in the U.S.
Embedded in this month is also Cinco de Mayo, which is very cool.
But returning to APHM its a statement month for us—and its on us to make a statement.
I mentioned in the last E-letter that I’d enlarge upon the mention that I made about the racism we confronted when we first signed with Arista Records in 1979. We were signed by a very smart, hip black label exec who had a vision of a multi-cultural label roster. His previous signings (at Capitol) included Natalie Cole, Frankie Beverley and Maze, and the ground-breaking Caldera.
Larkin Arnold believed in us, and believed that there was a potential APA audience out there that hadn’t been tapped. Had not been connected to, embraced. He also believed that other minorities would ‘get’ us.
To give you an idea of the ‘times,’ we weren’t even shocked when there was a buzz around the label that we would never sell. That our name was a detriment, that—and I quote—“Asians didn’t sing or dance.” Then there was the matter of having a Japanese American female musician as our focal point (remember this was 1979), let alone an instrument called koto that was not known or heard by most Americans. The capper was there were bets going around the label that we would not sell 25,000 records (a small number in those days, actually decent by today’s limp industry sales).
In our first 3 months we sold over 100,000 records. How? Black Radio. We were embraced for our music and our message and Black radio did NOT discriminate against us. Lawerence Tanter at KJLH, BK Kirkland at KBLX in San Francisco and unbeknownst to us WHUR, Howard University radio in Washington D.C. Started to play us constantly. And an audience grew. And our Asian community, who listened predominantly to Black Radio, gave us unbelievable support.
By years end we had sold over 250,000 records won most of the new artist awards, including Cashbox and Billboard artist awards.
That was then. This fall it will be 40 years later. We are working on new music, and beginning a new tour. In this APHM we celebrate the support and strength we were given back then to ‘keep the faith.’