Unification News for August 1999
Songs of Japan Recorded in UK
by George Robertson—London, UK
"I could make the shadows disappear", recalled Peter Graham. "It was in the kitchen at home, I was about sixteen or seventeen, and sometimes I would be sitting up all night playing the guitar. Then I would see some shadows just coming and I would make up a kind of gospel type song, although I didn’t really know what I was doing, and the shadows disappeared"
Peter, whose grandfather was a brigadier of the Sikh Pioneers Regiment, was born in Calcutta, India. His family moved to England when he was 4. He is still chasing the shadows away. After several years performing with the Go World Brass Band (GWBB) and ‘Original Mind’ in the UK, he continues today a career and a mission as a performing singer song-songwriter.
"From 1982-85, I was in the USA, first with the IOWC, then pioneering in Lynchburg, Virginia, home of Jerry Falwell. I reached a point where I had to make a decision about keeping my dreams of music, so I went up to the Blue Ridge Mountains and prayed strongly, really needing to know Gods mind on this. The next day, a call came from Washington asking us to prepare a band for a religious freedom rally. Two days later, I was playing original songs in front of the White House. This seemed like a good answer to me, so I came back to England to continue the band mission. However, by then , there wasn’t a band to come back to, so I worked in various church activities, including putting together a band for the Berlin CARP Convention. In 1988, Heung Jin Nim was looking for music, so the band emerged again, as ‘Original Mind’.
"In 1978, I heard speeches from Father about the music providence and the band mission. He said that no matter how long it takes, did we feel in our hearts that we were connected to this mission? I could put my hand up, because I absolutely was and still am, so that hasn’t changed. That line is still the same, although the Providence has gone through plenty of changes, especially to do with music and performing arts. However, the need for culture and creativity can only get stronger as time goes by. In any case, what has kept me in there and really alive, is the song-writing and so I have got songs from all those different moments. They are like a kind of diary for me"
What are these songs? "I think there are two kinds of songs that I make: one is from ideals and hopes for the future and the other is impressions of places and people that have moved me in some way. It’s often a lot to do with nature. I look at nature. One hobby of mine is bird-watching.
Peter has recorded many of his songs. His most recent collection is ‘Tokyo Time’. These songs were inspired during visits and tours he has made in Japan. Is he trying to reflect Japanese culture?
"Not really, because the feelings are universal. They are universal but it was being in Japan that could stimulate them. A main factors I guess is being stimulated by new people and impressions. Another is that Japan has been special to me for quite a while.
Japan is never far away. Peter is married to Yasuko. "She’s taught me a lot of things about relating with the Japanese, though I wouldn’t say she was a typical example. I do try to reflect a few Japanese sounds on this CD, like the koto (an 8 open stringed instrument) and of course, singing in Japanese. The main point is to be a bridge between our cultures by expressing things we have in common. An example is ‘Mountains of Akita’, which is about the power of mountains to move us. They never change, always give strength, unlike people who are sometimes up, sometimes down. This is the same in some other places as well but for me, it was the Japanese mountains that brought on these reflections.
"By seeing through an outsiders eyes, people can get a different view of themselves. One lady had bought my CD and was moved to write to a Japanese magazine. She said that she felt I had expressed something about her own country that she had forgotten but now having remembered, she was richer for it. I sometimes get interesting reactions after performing. I recently played the song ‘Iwate Omoiokoseba’ (I remember Iwate), which is about my wife’s hometown, for a language club in London. I sang it in English first and then in Japanese. Some Japanese ladies said to me afterwards that when I sang it in English it was quite nice, like a country type song. But when they heard it in Japanese, it was totally different. They started to miss Japan, even though they had never actually been to the area I was describing." "That kind of reaction shows me that Japan is reachable, not only ‘mysterious’ . There’s often different ways of expressing the same thing. Instead of a lot of words to express one feeling, a Japanese might use no words at all to express many feelings. However, they are still things that everyone experiences. I sometimes relate a small incident in a song. It might not be really special on the surface, but has some feeling behind it. As an example, the song ‘Iwate’ has a verse about being given a tomato by an old lady in a small Japanese village. I was walking through the fields with my children and she offered them to us in such a warm hearted, welcoming way. I was moved by this and somehow built the song around it. Some people say they like this part of the song the best. Its a simple, pure moment, captured and expressed.
Tokyo Time’ has several spiritual, almost visionary songs. "There is sometimes a bit of a surprise about another track, ‘A Million Guitars’ I find this is good because it gives an opportunity to explain what it means. The title means something impossible in a ‘normal’ sense but which might one day be possible in another world, the spiritual world. And its actually the emotions behind the guitars I’m talking about, not a million literal guitars."
Why is Japan special to you? "Well, maybe I should start from the beginning. Japan is the Eve nation but what does this really mean? About four or five years ago, Japanese missionaries were sent out all over the world. They sacrificed a lot and they are still sacrificing. Father said they were bringing True Mother’s spirit to each country, to start the Women’s Federation. I offered to help them with a speech tour they were doing, using the band sound system. The first two to come to Britain also stayed in my house, so I was in a situation of being close to them. At the end of the tour, during the good-bye speeches, I had an experience of re-birth, which was the Holy Spirit and I couldn’t stop the tears. I felt this as a life changing experience and that the spirit of True Mother, True Eve, really does come through Japan as represented by these sisters. I wanted to promote them, through cultural programs. I felt there was a similarity between them and the early days of the Go-World Brass Band. As if a cultural revolution had come round again. However, the plans I made for this didn’t work out, which was frustrating. Still, there was no turning back from this new commitment, and a couple of years later, I went to Japan to pioneer as a singer/songwriter. So, God guided me in this way. A lot of people helped me and are still helping, for which I’m really grateful. Especially my friends at the Sekai Nippo newspaper in Tokyo It’s an excellent paper, by the way, everyone should subscribe. If you can’t read Japanese, look at the pictures!"
Peter has been steering a course through the changes in the Providence, and still working as a singer/songwriter. How is he able to live financially? "I’ve recently finished an eight month contract performing five nights a week in a London West End night club."
What was that like? "The nightclub I was working in was one of the more up-market ones. People would pay over £100 for a bottle of champagne. Sometimes the bill for one person was several thousand pounds. This included hostess fees and it was very interesting to be in this environment. the hostess’s came from every kind of background. There were about twelve of them and some had a good standard, with steady partners who they were faithful to. Some were the opposite, of course and the general atmosphere was pretty rough really, especially the conversation, which was basically swear words, with a few bits in between. However, I started to build up relationships and one lady turned out to be very spiritual. She even saw spirits in the club and pointed them out to me. We talked a lot about the spirit world and I lent her Dr. Lees book, which she read and then left around so that the others could read it. I could tell her about the providence and she somehow understood. ‘As our relationship developed, she started to stop swearing and give up smoking, though I never mentioned it. I would be sitting with them and when someone swore, she would turn around and say ‘Oh, sorry Peter’, then she’d say to others, ‘He’s like God, you know, you can’t swear around him, its like swearing at God!" Somehow, the others more or less accepted this, because she was quite powerful. The swearing actually stopped for a while. It crept back but it was never as bad as it was. I could do this job because In the Go-world Brass Band, I learned how to play electric and bass guitars and deal with the technical side, like sound equipment, mixing, basic recording and production. I have my own music ‘set’ that I can earn money with, Elvis, Beatles, rock, pop, soul etc. Since I have come back from Japan and have recorded this CD, I am really trying to earn money with original music. I have set up my own publishing company, ‘Original Mind Songs’, to handle royalties, which have yet to appear. I have an internet site and the CD is placed on various other web sites as well, also in a couple of shops around London and Tokyo, including Tower Records in Piccadilly".
Does Peter prepare himself for performances like one hears stories about bands sitting together in their dressing room in meditation? "It does help. When we were with Original Mind, we did some big performances. We would always pray before. It does create some energy, some power. It was especially good to do this in the more unusual situations, such as in front of the Berlin wall, or before appearing on Romanian national TV. "Now I have a new group, which is myself and two Japanese singers. One has a Chinese husband, which is an interesting combination, and the other one used to be Buddhist, quite idealistic. They both sing very well and are professional. They went to drama and music school for three years, one in London and one in Tokyo. They have been on TV and extra in movies, including the last two James Bond films. We have started performing and they enjoy the music and feel committed to help."
Do you have a name yet?
"World Express’. Kind of representing me and Japan, together, singing for the world. Well, that’s the way I look at it. Actually, I’ve connected with quite a few Japanese/British friendship and reconciliation groups, through this band and my music. It’s even more personal, as my grandfather fought the Japanese in WW2 and hated them. Now, he has communicated from the spirit world that he is 100% behind my mother and myself working in this direction. My mother is a dedicated Women’s Federation member by the way, a lovely person. She’s been to a single blessing and lives with us which is really helpful, as we have four little boys to take care of."
Peter and Yasuka have recently become National Messiahs to Palau, a small Pacific island about 400 miles from the Philippines and 400 miles north of Indonesia. "Palau used to be a Japanese colony and the old people still speak Japanese there. It was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific war. Now it is one of the best diving places in the world, with more fish species than any other coral reef. Because of this, tourism is very important and luxury hotels are going up". It would be very good to get involved with this but it needs a lot of resources."
Does this new responsibility mean a lessening of his music work?
"While at Chom Pyong, I did go through some soul searching about this and realized that to think about giving up music, meant that I didn’t understand the National Messiah mission deeply enough. This mission is actually an amplification and extension of my life, of which music is an integral part. In fact, my commitment to being successful in music has became much stronger because of it, because I want to support the country and also help the Japanese sisters from Kanagawa who have been assigned there. It’s not easy to travel back and forth. With music, it’s possible to make money and at the same time be a positive force in the world. So my immediate goal is to make an economic base in Japan. I’ve just come back from five weeks there, where I stayed with friends and at hostels in various towns, contacting the media. It wasn’t easy but eventually I was invited for a 30 minute live interview on Kumamoto City FM radio, to talk about the CD. It went very well, the music was well received and three other stations offered to do the same thing, in Shizuoka, Morioka and Akita. In Akita, the director was very inspired by my song ‘Mountains of Akita’ and he said that it had a healing quality, which is an interesting comment. He asked me to compose a song about the ‘Komachi shinkansen’, a beautiful looking high tech train that runs through the mountains. The Sekai Nippo Sunday paper did a full page feature, on a foreign composer finding spiritual roots in Japan. Also, I played a solo concert for a large Buddhist group in Tokyo. They interviewed me and then printed a three page magazine article about it. In London, several local papers have published articles about this as well, so as a beginning, it looks quite promising. I just have to build on it and try to keep up the momentum. There are various follow-ups I’m planning, such as producing a newsletter to get a mailing list going, developing the internet site and eventually, finding an agent and distributor.
I hope that through the songs, I can generate harmony and peace, in keeping with the spirit of the New Age. I also hope that in reading this, someone can feel encouragement in their life to be true to their dreams, keep going and never give up. Thank you very much.
The CD ‘Tokyo Time’ is available in the Japan Centre and Tower Records, Piccadilly, London. Also at the IB shoten UC bookshop in Shibuya, Tokyo. Or by mail from Original Mind Songs, 171 Park Lane, Wembley, Middlesex, HA9 7SB, UK. CDs $15 or £11, cassettes $11 or £7 (inc. p & p) Previews are available at the web site, http://www.mindsongs.com
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