Invoke to Perform the Immigrant Women’s Moving Stories Set to Strings

Karleen Chinen

Inspiration is a fascinating animal. It can take off like wildfire, and where it will go is anyone’s guess. Just ask University of Hawai‘i music professor Takuma Itoh and Hawai‘i plantation era historian and author Barbara Kawakami.

The opportunity to compose a musical piece on Hawai‘i for the innovative string quartet Invoke led Itoh, a prolific composer (see takumaitoh.com), to the stories of the plantation-era picture brides from Japan and Okinawa; then to Kawakami’s book, “Picture Bride Stories,” published by the University of Hawai‘i Press; and, eventually, to the author herself. The two shared a common interest in the stories of the immigrant women who had arrived in Hawai‘i between 1908 and 1924 to become the wives of Japanese and Okinawan plantation laborers they knew only through studio-taken photographs.

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