LOS ANGELES -- Three half-Japanese, half-Ghanaian brothers who moved from Ghana to Japan as young children and grew up experiencing prejudice and feeling they were different have put their experiences into song.
Forming a musical unit called the Yano Brothers, the three men, born to a Japanese father and a Ghanaian mother, say they were discriminated against as "gaijin" (foreigners) since they were young, due to their dark skin. Last month, the three spoke about these experiences and sang at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. Drawn in by their words and their heart-moving music, I could not bring myself to move from my spot for a while.
A very interesting part of their stories is how the three, though growing up in the same environment, felt so differently. The oldest brother, Michael, 38, who felt, "If you're going to stare at me so much anyway, pay more attention to me," engrossed himself in soccer and became a professional J-League soccer player. On the other hand, the middle brother David, 35, says he "didn't rebel and desperately tried to live in peace" with those around him.
The youngest brother, Sanshiro, 33, who was 3 years old when he arrived in Japan, integrated into his surroundings the most and says he thought, "My two older brothers worry too much about the color of their skin, creating distance between themselves and others." However, Sanshiro also ran into difficulties after becoming an adult, such as struggling to get a place to rent due to his appearance.
The three formed their unit in 2013. Their songs mix Japanese lyrics with a lively African rhythm, in what they call "Jafrican" music.
"Even if your countries of birth or eyes or hair or skin color are different, we can understand each other," go the lyrics to "One Step," one of their songs. Differences from others are not disadvantages, and being oneself acts as one's salvation. That is the message the three have found through the challenges they've overcome. (By Hiromi Nagano, Los Angeles Bureau)