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10 years making history and new Diamantes

Date Posted: 2001-06-29

Dream, hope and break down

In ’86 Alberto Shiroma stepped from an airplane on the land of his ancestors, Japan, with his heart full of hope and dreams.

Alberto, whose grand parents had immigrated to Peru from Okinawa, had won a singing contest in Peru at the age of nineteen. As an extra prize, he had received a one-way ticket to Japan, and he came dreaming of becoming a successful enka (Japanese ballads) singer. But first he had to face a thick language barrier as he started his life in Tokyo. Every time he applied to study under eminent Japanese composers of enka, he was turned down, and told that the reason was that anyone who could not speak Japanese could not possibly sing those type of songs. At that time Alberto was able to sing Japanese songs he memorized, but was unable to hold proper conversation. It was quite understood that he not only had a hard time becoming a singer but just living in Tokyo was increasingly difficult. He had no friends to speak with, and life in a big city like Tokyo can be cold. His sweet dreams that he had carried with him in the plane from Peru to Tokyo were already breaking down in less than a month since he landed. Despaired Alberto made up on his mind then that Okinawa, where his grand parents grew up, might have something hopeful for him. That was his last bet, and Okinawa would decide his entire fate.

Okinawa brings great encounter
Alberto felt strangely nostalgic when he first stepped on the land in Okinawa. He was extraordinarily relieved with the atmosphere that was entirely different from Tokyo. He had only heard what life in Okinawa was like, mostly from his elderly relatives. Embracing Okinawan music and its people’s warm heart, Alberto found a place for himself. He started to study seriously traditional Ryukyu music and instruments such as sanshin and drums in order to have a better knowledge of Okinawa. He was so interested in Japanese drums that he spent a whole six years studying from the very beginning; how to sit properly and how to hold a stick. Eventually, he started playing acoustic music at a hotel lounge, and also participated in an amateur band, whenever he had spare time while studying and working part-time.

Going through down-to-earth musical activities, Alberto made up his mind to live as a professional musician. In ’89, he formed an acoustic band called “Trio Diamantes” that played Latin music. Meeting various musicians while playing at various locations, hotels, restaurants, live houses and events, Trio Diamantes kept on brushing up its musical skills.

Forming Diamantes
Diamantes was formed in ’91 and consisted of following five members; Alberto Shiroma, Tom Nakasone and Alberto’s cousin, Jorge Shiroma as a percussionist, all three from Trio Diamantes. Turbo was a guitar player and a former member the hard rock band “Murasaki”. Bob Ishihara was a keyboardist and a composer. They started their gigs from Koza. Their original sound that mixed Latin rhythms and Okinawan hard rock, and Alberto’s attractive voice called for public attention, and Diamantes gradually began to be known as the one and only dance band in Okinawa.

It was on the opening day of the live house “Pati” located at Chuo Park Avenue in Okinawa City, on Sep. 20, ’91 that Diamantes first kicked off their real debut. Regular live performances held at Pati attracted a good reputation and the number of audience increased every time the band played, as more local fans from all over Okinawa and also tourists kept coming.

The turning point came in ‘92 when the band’s original song, “Ganbateando” was selected a campaign song of a local TV commercial. Finally Diamantes released an album on July 3, 1993 on a Bad News label. The album “Okinawa Latina” was on sale only in Okinawa, but it sold more than five thousand copies. Soon after the release, Diamantes played at an open-air event in Naha in front of and audience of some 20,000 fans. After conquering Okinawa, Diamantes were ready to move up to the mainland of Japan.

Okinawa Latina – Burning soul in cold rain
On Sep. 23, ’93, Diamantes released a nation wide debut album “Okinawa Latina” from Japan Phonogram (Currently Mercury Music Entertainment). They held a concert at Hibiya Amphitheater in Tokyo where many bands have started building legends. Many fans gathered regardless of a cold rain. Some of them were foreign workers who were invited to this concert for free. The free invitation was Alberto’s idea. He felt empathy with those workers who came to Tokyo with high hopes but found themselves working under harsh conditions.

Numbers sung for this concert were mainly from the album and the performance was so hot that people forgot the chilly weather. The concert was at its highest when they played their most popular song “Ganbateando,” which is a made up word of Japanese “Ganbaro (Cheer up)” with a Spanish ending. Alberto’s passion singing this song and getting the audience to sing along as much as possible, was impressed deeply everyone who was there.

Collaboration with MIYA, “Soul of a condor”
Stimulated by various musicians they played with on stage through summer outdoor festivals in 1994, Diamantes started showing a new trend in their musical style and message. Especially, the collaboration with vocalist Kazushi Miyazawa of The BOOM, created a famous piece. None of the members of The BOOM are originally from Okinawa but were attracted to the island by its nature and music. Their song “Shimauta (Island Song)” that is tactfully using Okinawan dialect and melodies, was first released only in Okinawa in ’92 but was sold all over Japan the next year. Miyazawa often used to listen to Diamantes’ song “Okinawa Mi Amor” so he asked Alberto to translate the lyrics, in order to make a Spanish version of “Shimauta”. Alberto already liked the song and accepted the offer. After that Alberto and Myazawa played together at an open-air festival in Osaka.

While inspiring each other, Alberto produced a song in Spanish about the gun murders of three Japanese engineering leaders by guerillas in Peru. One of the victims was from Okinawa, and that is why he composed the song “Como un condor” after he met the bereaved family, directing his anger toward indiscriminate violence and hope for peace. Then Alberto asked Miyazawa to translate the song into Japanese so that as many people as possible would listen to this song. Miyazawa completed the Japanese “Como un condor,” full of color, feeling and passion, based on the original lyrics.

Within the same year, a third album “Conquista” that contains “Como un condor” was released. Right after that, they released a single titled “The Theme of Hideo Nomo” and this song had a deep impact on those who had not heard Diamantes before, as the song was played on all TV and radio stations throughout the country.

After the release of “Conquista”, through the “Viva!! Diamantes” in ’96, they released their fifth album “Laisesu” in all Spanish. In ’99 they released an album “Azucar”.

It has been ten years since Diamantes was formed. During these ten years members have come and gone. Their music has always evolved as they encountered and discovered new feelings. After ten years, each member has found another place to express their ideas. Original members of the Trio Diamantes started walking on a new path, freely forming sophisticated diamond for the new century. Their new album “LIBRE” went on sale on June 20 and as the tile means, it is a re-start for the new Diamantes aiming at more freedom in creative work. Adding a spice to their Latin sound, this album has new attraction as they included some numbers expressing fine emotions, at the same time keeping the music simple with an atmosphere of grown-ups.

The new Diamantes will kick off their summer tour in Okinawa on July 7 at regular Café Pati, the next day at Peaceful Love Rock Festival. At the “Sunmarina Summer Illusion”, The BOOM is scheduled to play with Diamantes.

Café Pati Regular Live
Date: July 7 & 21 open 20:00 start 21:30
Admission: ¥2,500 (with one drink)
Maximum 90 people, Call for reservation and buy the tickets on the day, 938-4970

The 19th Peaceful Love Rock Festival
Date: July 8
Place: Okinawa City Bull Ring Special Stage
Admission: ¥2,500 in advance, 930-1184

Sunmarina Summer Illusion
Date: July 22 open 16:00 start 17:00
Place: Sun Marina Hotel Open-Air Special Stage
Admission: In advance ¥4,500, at gate ¥5,000 for high school students and older. Elementary and middle school students in advance ¥2,500, at gate ¥3,000 for. 898-1331
Other artists: The BOOM, Nose Water, MONGOL800

Orion Beer Fest in Ishigaki
Date: July 1 Open 16:30 start 19:20
Place: Shinei Park in Ishigaki Island

New Album
“LIBRE” ¥3,000 June 20 on sale
The first album after their re-start for the new Diamantes aiming at more freedom in creative work

Disks available only on Okinawa
This is a must buy among the four limited albums

“Okinawa Latina” ¥1,980, ‘93

This is a limited edition album only available in Okinawa that contains a dramatic ballad “And This Blue Sky is for You” that is sung both in Spanish and Okinawan dialect. This song can not be found in any major album. This song won a grand-prix at World Music Festival in Manila in 1995. The limited version CD uses more acoustic sounds compared to the major edition, as they were mixed separately.

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