One of the things Norm liked best about the film "Norman Mineta and His Legacy: An American Story" was Derek Nakamoto's musical score. He kept on saying "that music was just amazing!" Derek was able to convey a range of moods and emotions through his score, from Norm's imprisonment at the Heart Mountain, Wyoming concentration camp as a child, to his friendship with Senator Alan Simpson, his jubilation over the passage of the Civil Liberties Act, and the heartwarming scenes with wife Deni, his kids, and grandchildren. Derek gave it his all, tweaking this section, refining that bit, all with joy and fully receptive to any feedback we had. Co-producer Debra Nakatomi and I felt fortunate and privileged to work with such a gifted musician and would do so again in an instant.
Honua was a project spearheaded by Derek Nakamoto who appreciated that taiko could be played quietly, musically, and recorded well. The process was different from other albums I recorded in the past. Most of my tracks were recorded solo with no particular form or composition in mind but rather to capture the subtleties of the instruments and my approach to playing them. Derek later added piano (and some synthesizer colors). We were surprised and happy with the results. Many of my friends in Japan have remarked that they enjoy listening to Honua as it places taiko in a fresh new context. I totally trust Derek, to not only record well, but to also create a perfect musical compliment to my taiko playing.
TARABU BETSERAI – 100 Years from Mississippi
I have worked with Derek on two productions, and both have been extraordinary experiences. He created a score for a 1986 staged radio musical drama I wrote called “Jukebox” starring and Danny Glover and he composed the score for an award-winning feature-length documentary I wrote and directed in 2021 titled “100 Years From Mississippi.” Derek’s scores are vivid, colorful, intimate and in sync with every dramatic intention of the story. His versatility in scoring for small ensembles to sweeping orchestral and vocal arrangements and his broad and mature musical aesthetic and sense of pacing is impeccable. Derek has a unique musical talent to interpret the heart of a story and make it pulsate with meaning.
Meeting Derek was a great blessing in my life. He was the first to encourage me with his gentle, kind ways to write songs. We wrote our first song “Distant Thoughts” on Hiroshima’s third album entitled “Go”. Since then we collaborated on many more songs. Another was “Thousand Cranes” on Hiroshima’s East album that was voted Number 1 when the band asked on its website which song was their favorite. With Derek’s sensitivity to a theme or melody he would elaborate with a verse or chorus. The songs would flow between us with such ease it didn’t feel like work. He would then finish with epic arrangements and orchestration giving the songs so much depth, life and spirit.
Working on our project The Way of Tea was another encouragement from Derek to record live. Since we had the theme, song titles, melodies and basic format of the songs he found studio time and the two of us recorded the entire CD in couple of days!! We also even recorded impromptu improvisations that were edited and used as interludes!! I was too insecure to do at first but he had the faith and belief in me!
I cannot say enough about Derek. All I know is I am deeply grateful for his artistry, creativity, spirituality, patience, forgiveness and friendship.
Forever love, forever grateful “with heart”,
YOKO FUJIMOTO_KODO - “Morisa Komorisa”
I first met Derek about 20 years ago when I was starting to prepare for “Journey of the Dandelion” production in collaboration with PJ Hirabayashi and Nobuko Miyamoto. I got to know him as a music producer then as a friend, and as our relationship grew, I was blown away by how versatile, kind, warm and encouraging he and the music he produces are. It was my first production done abroad, and it was full of firsts for me as it had multiple elements like dance, poetry and acting not just music so I was quite nervous and anxious, but Derek and his music made me feel at ease.
When Derek approached me with an idea to create something following the production, I was beyond happy, and immediately thought to myself that I want to make a CD on Japanese lullabies with Derek.
I wanted to create something that is not just for children, but would be a healing sound for adults that are holding sadness and loneliness within. I was also hoping to create something that would ease the pain of those whose ties to their native countries have been severed, and honor present, future and past. I believed that working with Derek would enable me to create something that would achieve those wishes that I had.
We recorded my songs in Los Angeles first. Derek asked me questions about the meaning of each song and I tried my best to answer his questions in my limited English. Looking back, this process allowed me to deepen my connections with each song.
Once I returned Japan, I started to receive arranged versions of those songs one by one, and I was captivated by his arrangement and was overcome with emotions such as joy and surprise. Derek had often told me that his job was to create a picture frame of my song. I initially didn’t fully understand what that meant, but every time I received a new arrangement of his, I was captivated by its superb quality. Some are more simple, and the others are more like a kaleidoscope of various musical instrument and different types of music. These arrangements were indeed the best picture frame that brought the best in my music.
Among all the songs that he arranged, the one that stood out to me the most was Owaiyare. In Japan people think of lullaby’s melody as something that gently flows. However, when I heard how this song starts with staccato that evokes excitement, I started laughing because it was so unexpected, fun and made me happy. After this experience, my worldview on music has changed and I was influenced to create a world of music that bursts with fun. I hadn’t expected this kind of impact on me, and I am so thankful for Derek for making my life more fun and richer.