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Jazz pianist Fumio Yara dies in Naha

Date Posted: 2010-04-15

One of Okinawa’s renowned jazz pianists and owner of Live House Guwa in Naha City, Fumio Yara, has died of prostate cancer.

The 70-year-old Yara, who spent years performing across Okinawa and on American military bases beginning in 1962, passed away April 8th. A professional pianist born in Naha City, he wrote more than 600 pieces of music, while also starting the Fumio Yara Trio in 1975. He was serving as Okinawa Jazz Association chairman at the time of his death. He’s won dozens of awards for his musical talents.

He began his musical career as a clarinet player in his high school brass band. When he couldn’t break into the band, he turned to piano. After school, he began playing at the Officer’s Clubs on the U.S. military bases.

Yara and his Fumio Yara Trio toured the United States in 1975. The ever-popular Yara was a mainstay entertaining tourists and locals alike, and never missed an opportunity to promote jazz music and Okinawa. In 1978 he returned to the U.S. for a year, performing in jazz clubs in Los Angeles. He opened his own Live House Guwa after returning from America.

His last concert came one month before his death. He told concertgoers he didn’t want to die in bed, but instead play the piano until he died. In recent months he couldn’t move his fingers, so he played piano with his wrist at the last concert. He had been active teaching young people over the past decade, creating his own private junior high school to foster interest in jazz.

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