Monday, June 08, 2009

A piece of Canadiana: Kiri's Piano

Messing around on iTunes, I downloaded this tune to my iPhone the other day. I was lying in bed listening to it last night and discovered it's the story of a Japanese war-time internee in British Columbia. This song brought back memories of my English studies last year in 370 - a historiographic metafictional piece, Joy Kogawa's Obasan: a reflection on some of Canada's ugly history.

I've always loved James Keelaghan's music, its local flavour (he's from Calgary) and his sense of story telling woven into amazing music. He's playing here in a couple weeks and I'm excited... really excited. He often opens his solo shows to audience requests.

I think I have one:

Kiri's Piano
James Keelaghan - 1993

Of all of Kiri Ito's joys,
the thing she loved the best
Was to play her prized piano
when the sun had gone to rest
I used to hear the notes drift down
Along the silent water
As Kiri played the notes and scales
for her dear sons and daughters.

Now me I played piano
though not as good as Kiri
She went in for that long haired stuff
but my she played it pretty.
The old piano had a tone
would set my heart to aching.
It always sounded sweetest though
when it was Kiri playing.

In December when the seventh fleet
was turned to smoke and ashes,
The order came to confiscate
their fishing boats and caches.
And Kiri's husband forced to go
and work in labour camps,
And Kiri left alone to fend
and hold the fort as best she can.
But the music did not drift as often
from up the cove at Kiri's house.
And when it did it sounded haunted
played with worry played with doubt;
For Kiri knew that soon she too
would be compelled to leave,
And the old upright would stay behind
and Kiri she would grieve.

I loaded Kiri on the bus
with stoic internees.
The crime that they were guilty of
was that they were not like me.
And if I was ashamed,
I didn't know it at the time.
They were flotsam on the wave of war
they were no friends of mine.
I went up to Kiri's house
to tag all their belongings,
And set them out for auctioneers
who'd claim them in the morning.
One piece that I thought I'd keep
and hold back for myself
Was that haunting ivory upright
that Kiri played so well.

But Kiri had not left it there
for me to take as plunder.
She'd rolled it down onto the dock
and on into the harbor.
That old upright in strangers' hands
was a thought she couldn't bear:
So she consigned it to the sea
to settle the affair.

So many years have come and gone
since Kiri's relocation;
I look back now upon that time
with shame and resignation.
For Kiri knew what I did not:
that if we must be free,
Then sometimes we must sacrifice
to gain our dignity.

Yes Kiri knew what I did not:
that if we must be free,
Then sometimes we must sacrifice
to gain our dignity.

James Keelaghan plays the Rosemont Community June 20, 2009 @ 7:00 PM
Turtle's attending.

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About Me

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Calgary, Alberta, Canada
English student, Pottery enthusiast, Yoga novice and lover of all people. I make friends over a warm handshake and a beverage. I discover, every day, someone willing to help me along my path.