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Watsonville Buddhist Temple to host benefit concert

(Art Hirahara will join Akira Tana for a special performance Saturday at the Watsonville Buddhist Temple to benefit survivors of the 2011 earthquake in Tohoku, Japan. Photo by Salvatore Corso)

WATSONVILLE — On March 11, 2011, the Tohoku region of Japan experienced one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded.

The 9.0 quake brought with it a massive tsunami, with waves reaching more than 130 feet tall. Tens of thousands of people died, and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster forced entire coastal communities to evacuate and abandon their homes.

More than seven years later the country is still recovering. And as such, efforts to support survivors continue.

This weekend the Watsonville Buddhist Temple will join that effort. On Saturday afternoon, a special musical performance, “Otonowa,” featuring jazz drummer Akira Tana and pianist Art Hirahara, will be held at the temple, with all proceeds benefiting survivors of the Tohoku disaster.

“As a temple, we knew it was important to bring awareness to the ongoing issue in Japan,” said Watsonville Buddhist Temple’s Rev. Jay Shinseki. “So many people there still need help. We can’t forget that.”

Shinseki explained that Hirahara’s aunt approached the temple about bringing “Otonowa” to Watsonville. After reaching out to Tana, plans were set in motion to organize the event.


Acclaimed jazz musician Akira Tana will join Art Hirahara for a special performance at Watsonville Buddhist Temple Saturday. Photo by Chuck Gee

Tana, a San Jose-born musician who earned degrees from Harvard University as well as the New England Conservatory of Music, has worked with Sonny Rollins, Hubert Laws, Lena Horne, Ruth Brown and more.

Hirahara is a jazz pianist and composer. Originally from the Bay Area, he is now based in New York City and has been hailed as “an astute, well-traveled pianist making a breakout statement” by the New York Times.

“Otonowa,” translating to “sound circle,” brings jazz interpretations to Japanese folk and pop. The original album recording was released in 2013, and its touring band has flown to Japan for special tours of the Tohoku region, teaching and performing for its communities.

Joining Tana and Hirahara onstage Saturday will be Masaru Koga on woodwinds and percussion and Noriyuki “Ken” Okada on bass, with special guests Shoko Hikage on Koto and Saki Kono on vocals. Shinseki said that temple members have been busy turning their social hall into a night club-themed space.

“It will be a wonderful, unique performance,” Shinseki said. “They’ll play familiar tunes that the Japanese community will recognize and that any jazz lover will enjoy.”

“Otonowa” begins at 3 p.m. on Saturday, with doors opening at 2 p.m. at the Watsonville Buddhist Temple, 423 Bridge St. Tickets are a donation of $25, available online at eventbrite.com or by calling the temple office at 724-7860. Refreshments will also be for sale at the event.

For information, visit wbtemple.org.


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