June 12 HAPPY BIRTHDAY Kazuhiro Inaba

Taro Inoue, Jon Glik, Tomohiro Konda, Kazuhiro Inaba, and Shinichi Murai at Rocky Top in Tokyo – May 14, 2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY Kazuhiro Inaba born, June 12, 1960 promoter of Kazuhiro Inaba Bluegrass Camp, a bluegrass performance festival in the Japanese town of Mino, Osaka.
He remarks concerning this selected video: “I played ‘The Scruggs Medley’ with my great respect and appreciation for Earl Scruggs last night at Mister Kelly’s in Osaka.
Since I started to play the banjo at age 15, he has been like God of 5 string. And still he is.”
Hailing from the Kansai area of Japan, Kazuhiro ‘Kaz’ Inaba was born in Osaka, and currently lives in Nishinomiya City, Hyogo, Japan. Inaba started playing the 5-string banjo when he was fifteen years old. While growing up, his biggest influences were his father (also a banjo player) and his brother, a top-shelf mandolinist. Inaba and his brother began performing bluegrass music in the Kansai area of Japan in the mid 1970s.
In the early 1980s, Inaba made his first trip to the United States where he made his first inroads into the American bluegrass scene. In 1983, he took second place in the bluegrass banjo contest at the Old Fiddler’s Conventionin Galax, Virginia. As he became more established in his chosen career as a professional musician, Inaba made more and more appearances at festivals and music venues in the U.S. and Canada. Among the places he has had the honor to perform at are the McLain Family Festival, Galax Fiddler’s Convention, Grass Valley Bluegrass Festival, Wintergrass Bluegrass Festival, Salmon Arm Bluegrass Festival and Kamloops Bluegrass Festival, and the Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival. Whenever he is in Nashville, Inaba often performs at the Station Inn. On one visit there, in 1995, he shared the stage with Keith Little, Bobby Hicks, Don Rigsby, Randy Howard and Missy Raines as the Bluegrass Brothers.
In 2007, Inaba joined Butch Robins’ World International Bluegrass Band as the lead vocalist and guitarist. The band performed several shows in Virginia including a spot at the IBMA 2007 Fan Fest, and on the TV program “Song Of the Mountains”, which was later aired on PBS. The IBMA selected one of Inaba’s tracks (“Worries On My Mind”) for inclusion on its 1992 ‘Long Journey Home’, a collection of music by various bluegrass musicians from around the world.
In 1994, Inaba formed his own production company, Office White Oak, which among other things, organizes concert tours for bluegrass musicians to perform in Japan. The first of these was a charity bluegrass concert following the 1995 Hanshin/Kobe earthquake which featured Inaba along with Butch Robins, Dudley Connell, and Andy Owens. Since then, Office White Oak has organized several Japan tours for artists such as the Lonesome River Band, Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers, Butch Robins (banjo), Larry Stephenson (mandolin), Keith Little (banjo), Dudley Connell (guitar), Frank Wakefield (mandolin), Sammy Shelor (banjo), and Mike Compton (mandolin). Besides concert promotion, since 1998, Inaba also organized yearly trips to the U.S. to allow Japanese fans of bluegrass and country music to visit famous places connected to the music and its performers and hear the music firsthand.
Naturally, Inaba is also busy performing music in Japan. With an active schedule, Inaba adapts his performance style to fit a variety of venues and audiences, either going solo, or as leader of his group, Bluegrass Ramble.
The band, formed in 1999, won first place that same year and the next year at the National Bluegrass Championship in Shiga, Japan. Marking its 10th anniversary, the band had the honor of performing at the 2009 Country Gold festival in Kumamoto. Also a bluegrass festival organizer himself, Inaba held his first annual Kazuhiro Inaba Bluegrass Camp in 2012. In 2014, Inaba has been selected to perform at Wayne Henderson Music Festival & Guitar Competition in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia. Inaba has made TV and radio appearances in Japan. He also holds workshops to teach people about classic country songs at several culture centers in Osaka, Kobe and Tokyo. Through singing and explanation, he acquaints participants with the background of the songs and the culture of American music

The band Kazuhiro Inaba & Bluegrass Buddies members are Taro Inoue on mandolin, Shinichi Murai on banjo, Tomohiro Kondo on bass, and Kazuhiro Inaba on guitar and lead vocals.

About the author

I enjoy researching Bluegrass, Bluegrass Gospel, and Country birthdays, anniversaries and interesting trivia dates. I am a piano/organ performance major who has taught privately and served as church accompanist since 1968 in North Carolina and Central Kentucky. Although classically trained, I appreciate all genres of music. My mother, who was also a church musician and taught public school music grades K-12, knew that Bluegrass music was the purest American music. She always introduced her students to this fine genre and began my musical studies with her at age 2. Bach to Berachah Valley, Mozart to Jimmy Martin, Sibelius to Stanley Brothers, the list goes on, I hope you find some moments of enjoyment and learn a few interesting facts along the way.
I am thankful for the many resources we have at our fingertips including Google. FaceBook and BluegrassBios by Wayne Rice. It was he who inspired me to tackle the task of trying to pass on knowledge about Bluegrass music. Thanks Wayne~!
Lou Ellen Wilkie

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