Because of You, I Am.

Page 1

お陰様で Because of You, I Am.

BECAUSE

OF YOU,

I AM. PHOTOGRAPHS BY DOUG MENUEZ

TAIKO IS A BEACON. IT’S UNABASHED ENERGY THAT’S COMING FROM WITHIN.

Internationally acclaimed artists PJ and Roy Hirabayashi championed taiko drumming as an art form and helped create a new genre of Asian American music. They are part of a handful of Japanese American musicians whose e orts established taiko’s popularity across the US and around the world. And over their 50 years of marriage and musical partnership, taiko became a powerful platform for PJ and Roy to foster Japanese American identity and community, advance social change and to fight racism.

I took these photographs while directing “Because of You, I Am,” a short film about PJ and Roy that brings viewers into their lives as musicians, teachers, and activists. Invited by our film’s producer, Pear Urushima, to direct this project, I was honored to be trusted and given the access needed. It helped that Pear is a taiko drummer, former student of PJ and Roy’s, and remains close.

As children of Japanese immigrants, PJ and Roy grew up in a virulently anti-Japanese and racist post-World War II California, navigating between cultures to find their own identities as Japanese Americans. Once they discovered taiko, they began to incorporate polyrhythms from rock, jazz, and other forms of music. They co-founded San Jose Taiko and began touring nationally and internationally.

In the film, we sense the depth of sacrifice, determination, and grit that PJ and Roy needed to stay true to their beliefs and accomplish their dreams as artists. By pursuing their art in service to their community, they built a meaningful, creatively satisfying life together, as well as a profound legacy. The generations of taiko drummers they influenced continue to bring people together through taiko, spreading their message of peace and tolerance.

What would it take for you to live the life you dream of?

WHEN I DISCOVERED TAIKO, I SOON REALIZED THAT IT COULD BE OUR VOICE.
— Roy Hirabayashi

SAN JOSE TAIKO, IN

OUR VERY BEGINNING, WE

REALLY

WANTED TO HAVE ORIGINAL SOUND, ORIGINAL MUSIC.

— PJ Hirabayashi
WHEN WE FIRST STARTED, WE WERE PLAYING FOR FUN. WE DEVELOPED A GROUP INTO AN ENSEMBLE THAT WAS ABLE TO START TOURING NATIONALLY AND EVEN INTERNATIONALLY.
— Roy Hirabayashi

I GUESS WHAT’S IMPORTANT FOR ME IS RESPECT. AND UNDERSTANDING HISTORY.

WHAT’S AT STAKE IS NOT ONLY THE HISTORY OF TAIKO IN AMERICA, BUT THE HISTORY OF JAPANESE AMERICANS IN AMERICA.
— Roy Hirabayashi
THE ANTI-ASIAN HATE CRIMES IN THE COUNTRY REMIND ME OF WHAT HAPPENED TO MY OWN FAMILY. MY PARENTS WERE INTERNED, INCARCERATED DURING WORLD WAR II.
— Roy Hirabayashi
“RACE FOR FREE SPIRIT, A 50 YEAR UPRISING” IS ABOUT BEING AN INDIVIDUAL, STRUGGLING TO BECOME A PERSON OF A COLOR WHILE TRYING TO MAKE A VOICE MUSICALLY, HERE IN OUR COUNTRY.
— Roy Hirabayashi
TO CREATE MUSIC WAS NOT ONLY FOR THAT IDENTITY PURPOSE, BUT IT WAS EMPOWERMENT AS WELL AS FOR EXPRESSION.
— PJ Hirabayashi

WHEN YOU’RE SOLOING, YOU JUST GOTTA FEEL THE GROOVE.

IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT NOW THAT THIS GENERATION KNOW WHO THEY ARE - DON'T FORGET WHERE WE CAME FROM; DON'T FORGET WHERE THE ART OF TAIKO COMES FROM.
— PJ Hirabayashi
WE ALWAYS WONDERED EARLY ON AS TAIKO WAS GROWING: WILL TAIKO BE AS POPULAR AS SUSHI? NOT QUITE SURE, BUT I LIKE TAIKO BETTER THAN SUSHI.
— Roy Hirabayshi

TAIKO IS CONNECTED TO NATURE, WE ARE ALL CONNECTED TO MOTHER EARTH.

EVEN WHEN I’M ANGRY, THERE IS JOY.I EXPRESS IT AND I CONNECT. IT’S THAT SPARKLE IN THE EYE. IT’S THAT HEART OPENING.
— PJ Hirabayashi

FILM PRODUCTION

“Because Of You, I Am”

SHOOT DATES

November 8–10, 2022

LOCATION

San Jose, California

FEATURING

Pj & Roy Hirabayashi

BOOK DESIGN

William van Roden

PICTURE EDITING/BOOK PRODUCTION

Renée Deemer

Book Photographs/Text

Copyright 2024

Doug Menuez/Menuez Pictures, LLC

All Rights Reserved

DIRECTOR

Doug Menuez

PRODUCER

Pear Urushima

ASSOCIATE PRODUCER

Marisa Maldonado

EDITING

Doug Menuez & Max Bowens

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Luke Carquillat

SECOND UNIT CINEMATOGRAPHER

Marisa Maldonado

SOUND MIXER/ENGINEER

Kevin Kono

ASSISTANT SOUND MIXER

Sebastian Mino-Bucheli

CAMERA OPERATOR

Evan Warner

ASSISTANT EDITOR

Ed Yonaitis

COLORIST

Luke Carquillat

ASSISTANT EDITOR

Kullan Warner

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

Kristine Lee

BECAUSE OF YOU, I AM. PHOTOGRAPHS BY DOUG MENUEZ

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