Organized Panel Session
Two bands, separated by the vast Pacific Ocean, formed in the 1970s. Cassiopea, one of the most successful and long-standing fusion bands in Japan, draws on an international jazz fusion aesthetic originated by Western musicians. Hiroshima is a fusion band of Asian American musicians drawing on an aesthetic that founding member Dan Kuramoto describes as “between black and white.” While Hiroshima features the Japanese koto, Cassiopea makes little reference to Japanese musical traditions. I describe both groups’ efforts as Afro Asian, a blending of Afro (read African American music or musicians) and Asian (as aesthetic approach or embodiment) that complicates ideas about the racialization of genre and, in this case, the nationalization of jazz as “America’s classical music.” What might an Afro Asian aesthetic as articulated by these two bands tell us about the politics of transcultural and transnational musicking? I argue that Afro Asian aesthetics not only challenges the hegemony of Western aesthetics and the dictates of the commercial music industry but also complicates orientalist readings or “hearings” of the bands. I chose these two bands because of fusion’s denigration as an overtly commercial genre, particularly the “smooth jazz” category ascribed to both bands—a politically compromised style of jazz at best or an aesthetic unworthy of any critical engagement at worst. What might we learn from re-thinking fusion in terms of the Afro Asian, an inherently crosscultural designation (e.g., Roberts, Prashad, Okihiro) that speaks to globalization, on one hand, and transcultural subaltern (Black/Asian) collaboration, on the other?