"A Grain of Sand" Album

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A Grain of Sand: Music for the Struggle by Asians in America, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings PAR01020. The cover art for the album was created by New York-based artist Arlan Huang. The album was originally recorded on Paredon Records, which is now part of the Smithsonian Folkways catalog.
A Grain of Sand: Music for the Struggle by Asians in America, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings PAR01020. The cover art for the album was created by New York-based artist Arlan Huang. The album was originally recorded on Paredon Records, which is now part of the Smithsonian Folkways catalog.

In 1973, three young activists in NYC recorded A Grain of Sand: Music for the Struggle by Asians in America for Paredon Records. Singing of their lineage to immigrant workers and their affinity with freedom fighters everywhere, Chris Kando Iijima, Nobuko JoAnne Miyamoto, and William “Charlie” Chin recorded what some consider the first album of Asian American music. Chin (b. 1944) was among a generation of Chinese American artists who contributed to the emerging pan-ethnic Asian American Movement. He grew up in Queens, the child of a father from Toisan, China, and a mother of mixed Chinese, Carib, and Venezuelan ancestry. A versatile multi-instrumentalist, he drew his early inspiration from the Trinidadian music of his mother’s family and later the American folk music revival. In the 1960s, he toured with the psychedelic rock group Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys. But he found his true musical calling in 1970, the first time he performed with Iijima and Miyamoto. The trio travelled the country, chronicling ongoing struggles against racial inequity through song, sharing news among different regions, and supporting efforts for social justice. Though the group disbanded before the mid-1970s, Chin’s work has continued to be driven by the fact that, in his words, “we know that people can be whipped into hysteria and xenophobia—we’ve seen it happen before, and it could happen again. The only thing you can do is be vigilant and educate, educate, educate.”   

Place(s): New York, NY

– Sojin Kim, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

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