TORRANCE — The Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California (JAHSSC) and the Torrance Public Library will co-sponsor “Voices from the Canefields: Folk Songs from Japanese Immigrant Workers in Hawaii,” the latest book by Franklin Odo, Ph.D., on Saturday, Oct. 12, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Katy Geissert Civic Center Library, 3301 Torrance Blvd. in Torrance.

Franklin Odo
Franklin Odo

Folk songs are short stories from the souls of common people. Some, like Mexican corridos or Scottish ballads, reworked in the Appalachias, are stories of tragic or heroic episodes. Others, like the African American blues, reach from a difficult present back into slavery and forward into a troubled future.

Japanese workers on Hawaii’s plantations created their own versions, in form more akin to their traditional short poetry forms, tanka or haiku. These holehole bushi describe the experiences of one particular group caught in the global movements of capital, empire, and labor during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Bushi is the Japanese term for melody or tune. Holehole is the Native Hawaiian word for dried sugar cane leaves and, hence, the work of stripping them from the stalks.

Dr. Franklin Odo has translated over 200 of these songs and completed the book, which was published by Oxford University Press in July. The book includes the lyrics, extensive historical context, and considerable interview materials, which will illuminate hitherto unexplored areas of immigrant experiences, especially those of immigrant women.

The program is free and open to the public.  For questions, contact Iku Kiriyama at (310) 326-0608.

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