I’d like to tell you about an exciting event that’s happening this weekend: a fundraiser for the UBC Aoki Legacy Fund. I first met Harry Aoki, the musician, in 2004 when he played his harmonica at a VPL fundraiser for the then Save Kogawa House Committee. After Kogawa House was purchased in 2006, Harry also brought his bass viol to an open house celebration event and, as a friend of Joy Kogawa, Harry often attended events at the house. I got to know Harry as a gentle humanitarian, innovator, and proponent for social justice. Harry played with musicians from all around the world

  • to make music
  • to heal
  • to make friends

After Harry died in January 2013, Historic Joy Kogawa House continued to welcome his “First Friday Forum” musical group and host an annual barbecue and musical evening each August. The First Friday Forum meets on the first Friday evening of every month at Tonari Gumi, 42 West 8th Avenue.

The Friends of Harry Aoki have set up the Aoki Legacy Fund in his memory at the University of British Columbia. The purpose of the fund is to further Harry’s vision of intercultural harmony and social justice and will support programs that encourages dialogue among artists, musicians, scholars, students, and community. To date the fund committee has raised $22,000. To achieve endowment status, they must raise an additional $8,000 for a total of $30,000.

Your support in achieving this goal would be deeply appreciated. Please plan to attend this Sunday’s fundraiser at the Japanese Language School and Japanese Hall, 487 Alexander Street, Vancouver. The event includes a musical performance by the professional jazz guitarist Henry Young’s quartet with percussionist Themba Tana. Admission includes complimentary appetizers, sushi, chow mein, dessert, and tea. There will be a silent auction and a 50/50 draw. Margaret Gallagher, host of the the CBC Radio One’s “Hot Air”, CBC’s longest running radio program will emcee.

Tickets are $50 and are available at the door. They can also be ordered online until November 3, 2017, through Eventbrite at the following link: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/henry-young-quartet-tickets-37402226065

Please join us from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, November 5, for this special tribute concert in the memory of Harry Aoki. This event is part of the 75th anniversary commemoration of the WWII internment of the  Japanese Canadians.

This is one of my favourite pictures of Harry. It was the first open house event at Kogawa House. Photo credit: Deb Martin

I’ve had so much experience with this thing called racism. Music is one of the first places where racism breaks down. The colour of the person doesn’t matter.” – Harry Hiro-o Aoki

About Harry Aoki
Composer, recording artist, conductor, impresario, orchestral arranger, advocate for social justice and pioneer in the field of world music. From early childhood, he showed promise as a violinist and harmonica player, but when his family was uprooted and dispersed with 22,000 other Japanese Canadians in 1942, the course of his life changed forever. When Japanese Canadians were given orders to leave the West Coast, they were told to take with them only what they could carry. Because his violin came in a cardboard box that was falling apart, Aoki threw his harmonica in his back pocket and with regret left his violin behind.

While labouring with his family on an Alberta sugar beet farm, Aoki continued to develop his talents as a musician. After winning an amateur music contest—and its much-needed cash prize—he came to the attention of the concertmaster of the Calgary Philharmonic and ended up played Mozart on harmonica with a Calgary string quartet. Many years later, he was invited to be music director for the cultural programmes during the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton.
One of Aoki’s most memorable experiences was when he met Larry Adler, the greatest classical harmonica player of the time, in Los Angeles. Afterwards, he overhead Adler calling someone on the telephone. Aoki overheard him saying excitedly,“…and this Japanese guy can even play such-and-such (a very difficult piece).” Adler was asked to bring Aoki over, as the man on the line also played the chromatic harmonica, wanted to meet and play with him. The man was none other than Jascha Heifetz, one of the greatest classical violinists of the 20th century.
Over the years, Aoki channelled his energy into fostering cross-cultural communication through music and dialogue; instead of lashing out at the world after the internment experience, he became a proponent of social justice.

About Henry Young
Henry Young is one of Vancouver’s most enduring jazz musicians who has played alongside legends like Nina Simone, Ray Charles, Roberta Flack, and Little Richard. Henry’s talent encompasses the spectrum of R&B, Rock & Roll, Big Band, and Jazz. As a former principal member of Nina Simone’s superlative band, he has received international critical attention, having performed at the prestigious Montreux, African, and Newport Jazz Festivals.

For those who want to make a monetary donation, contributions to the Aoki Legacy Fund are tax deductible and can be directed to (prepare your cheque with “St John’s College, Aoki Legacy Fund” in the memo):

Aoki Legacy Fund
St. John’s College
University of British Columbia
2111 Lower Mall
Vancouver, BC  V6T 1Z4

Thank you for your attention!

Ann-Marie Metten
Executive Director
Historic Joy Kogawa House Society