Henry's Songbook

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Kiri's Piano

  • (James Keelaghan)

    Of all of Kiri Ito's joys, the thing she loved the best
    Was to play her prized piano when the sun had gone to rest
    I used to hear the notes drift down along the silent water
    As Kiri played the notes and scales for her dear sons and daughters
    Now me I played piano though not as good as Kiri
    She went in for that long-haired stuff but my, she played it pretty
    The old piano had a tone would set my heart to aching
    It always sounded sweetest though when it was Kiri playing

    In December when the seventh fleet was turned to smoke and ashes
    The order came to confiscate their fishing boats and caches
    And Kiri's husband forced to go and work in labour camps
    And Kiri left alone and fend and hold the fort as best she can
    But the music did not drift as often from up the cove at Kiri's house
    And when it did it sounded haunted, played with worry, played with doubt
    For Kiri knew that soon she too would be compelled to leave
    And the old upright would stay behind and Kiri she would grieve

    I loaded Kiri on the bus with stoic internees
    The crime that they were guilty of was that they were not like me
    And if I was ashamed I didn't know it at the time
    They were flotsam on the wave of war, they were no friends of mine
    I went up to Kiri's house to tag all their belongings
    And set them out for auctioneers who'd claim them in the morning
    One piece that I thought I'd keep and hold back for myself
    Was that haunting ivory upright that Kiri played so well

    But Kiri had not left it there for me to take as plunder
    She'd rolled it down onto the dock and on into the harbor
    The old upright in strangers' hands was a thought she couldn't bear
    So she consigned it to the sea to settle the affair
    So many years have come and gone since Kiri's relocation
    I look back now upon that time with shame and resignation
    For Kiri knew what I did not that if we must be free
    Then sometimes we must sacrifice to gain our dignity

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  •   [1987:] Alle in Kalifornien lebenden Japaner kamen [nach Pearl Harbour] in Internierungslager. [...] Vor allem tat mir Peggy [Yoshida] schrecklich leid. Sie fühlte sich als Amerikanerin und empfand es als demütigend, in ein Lager gesteckt zu werden. Man hatte die Japaner gezwungen, ihren gesamten Besitz zu verkaufen, und sie wurden nach Manzanar mitten in der kalifornischen Wüste 'umgesiedelt'. Überfüllte Busse brachten sie dorthin, wo leere Holzbaracken, die man eiligst in dem heißen, unfruchtbaren Sand errichtet hatte, auf sie warteten. Ein halbes Jahr später schickte mir Peggy Fotos von dem Lager. Mit Fleiß und Geschick hatten die Japaner es in einen blühenden Garten verwandelt. (Salka Viertel, Das unbelehrbare Herz 272f.)

  •   [1993:] About the movement of Japanese Canadians into internment camps at the beginning of the Second World War. [...] It is being argued by some writers that it is never appropriate for a writer (or a songwriter) to speak in the voice of someone of a different gender or cultural group. Keelaghan sees this stand as a potential threat to freedom of voice and creativity, but he concedes that it did cause him to write some of these songs in a different way. "I wouldn't have written Kiri's Piano the way I wrote it if it wasn't for that debate. I would have taken the easy way out, and I would have written it from Kiri's point of view, and glossed it over with, 'Oh, I'm so hard done by because I'm a Japanese person who ...' when in fact that's not what they feel at all. Largely what that generation feels is shame, which I can't understand. I could have written about that and I would have sounded like a white guy singing about Japanese problems. Writing about it from the point of view of a white guy who is actually the bad guy is fine, but I am also not an RCMP officer, and I wasn't alive during the Second World War. Does that mean I can't write about it or I can only write about how I felt hearing the story? [...]

    It's hard to imagine what it must have been like for innocent immigrants to have been stripped of their belongings and herded into internment camps, the domestic North American version of P.O.W. camps. Hard to imagine, too, an immigrant's internal loyalty conflict and the struggle to maintain one's dignity in the face of impossible prejudice." (Ken Hunt, Sing Out 38/2)

  •   [1996:] Kiri is the grandmother of the husband of a friend of my sister's. She still plays the piano beautifully, and she's almost a hundred years old. Before the war she used to have a white upright. During the Second World War many Canadians of Japanese descent living on the west coast were interned in labour camps in places like my home, South Alberta. Most of them were fishermen, and very good fishermen. They were dispossessed of everything they owned, and made to do things like weed sweet beet. Many of them never went back to the west coast. (Intro James Keelaghan)

Quelle: Canada

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aktualisiert am 25.08.2000