Sunday, April 3, 2011

Songs for Japan

By Mark McDermott

Songs will be sung, dances danced, and paintings painted this week in honor and support of Japan.

Local musician Ireesh Lal was watching CNN at the very moment the devastating earthquake roiled Japan and the tsunami it subsequently produced obliterated entire towns and villages along the northeast coast.

Lal, a deejay and trumpet player, had already planned on establishing a regular Sunday night event at Sangria at which local charity groups could work together to raise money for their various causes.

But at that moment he knew Japan needed help. He and his musical partner – the legendary painter Norton Wisdom, who creates spontaneous artwork on stage, and has done so everywhere from the Lincoln Center to Disney Hall – immediately launched a fundraiser at Sangria in Hermosa Beach this Sunday night.

“This is not even a question of something being done for any other reason than there is no way of not doing it,” said Wisdom. “Having empathy for the people who went through probably the worst disaster in modern times…When Sangria jumped on this, it just blossomed. Everyone is responding with real feelings for the deep sorrow and loss people are experiencing in Japan. This is how it came about – it could not not come about.”

Local music consultant Tom Callahan was in Fukushima, Japan, only last month. He travels to Japan twice a month to teach and train in Kyokushin-kan karate, a martial arts discipline in which he is black belt and sensei. He was stunned when the disaster struck.

“The wave went six miles in,” Callahan said. “Think about that – if a wave went six miles in here, Hermosa would be gone. Nobody ever thinks it will happen, but nobody thought it would happen there, either.”

Callahan has worked in the music industry for more than two decades, and he decided to use the many contacts he’s made along the way to put together a “Jam for Japan” night of music at Saint Rocke next Monday. Among the musicians participating are Chuck Negron (Three Dog Night), Jeff Timmons (founder of 98 Degrees), and Arnold McCuller (James Taylor, Phil Collins). “I don’t have a lot of cash in the bank or a lot of money to give, but I can give this little concert,” Callahan said.

“I think about all the people, the shop owners at the convenience store down the street you see every day. They are not there anymore. Those people don’t have anything – they and their families, their wives, their children, even their dogs and cats – they will never be the same. We won’t raise that much money, a few thousand, but it is more the spirit with which we are doing it. People in Japan are so grateful. The money helps, yes, but the Japanese are just more grateful that we are thinking of them.” ER