Music Makers: Bands Behind Barbed Wire featuring Akira Tana + Friends

Presented by Concerts at the Presidio

Music Makers in the Poston Internment Camp, 1942

The National Japanese American Historical Society and the Partnership for the Presidio present “Music Makers: Bands Behind Barbed Wire,” a special Memorial Day weekend jazz concert celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This afternoon concert features jazz drummer bandleader Akira Tana and an ensemble with vocalist, Kim Nalley and taiko master, Jimi Nakagawa, with emcee Jana Katsuyama, KTVU-FOX2.

Blending traditional Japanese sounds with 1940s era jazz music, this concert is inspired by the legacy of musician and educator George Yoshida, who not only played in Music Makers, a big band at the Poston Incarceration Camp in Arizona, but also archived the history of Japanese American popular music in his book, Reminiscing in Swingtime: Japanese Americans in American Popular Music, 1925-1960.

“Music Makers: Bands Behind Barbed Wire” highlights an often-overlooked part of Japanese American history: the story of Japanese Americans and the Presidio of San Francisco. Over 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry were unjustly imprisoned in Department of Justice internment and incarceration camps by the US government. The Presidio of San Francisco played a direct role in this. George Yoshida and Akira Tana’s father were among those unjustly imprisoned.

Coming full circle, Akira Tana and his friends share this important story of how artists are healers—how the youthful Nisei, 2nd generation Japanese Americans, like George Yoshida provided the balm to disheartened souls. “The vacuum created by the need for sustenance of hope, for distraction and for the uplifting of wounded spirits was satisfied for many by music and dance,” wrote Yoshida. The camp bands transformed dreary mess halls into spirited dance halls, creating a sense of normalcy and joy.

In tribute to veterans on this Memorial Day weekend, we also honor those who served loyally, including the Japanese American soldiers of the Military Intelligence Service stationed at the Presidio. (MISHLC

This public program and education project is funded in part by the Japanese American Confinement Site Grants Program administered by the National Parks Service.

City: San Francisco
Price Range:

Program Items

George Yoshida Jazz selections


Akira Tana Percussion
Kim Nalley Vocalist
Jimi Nakagawa Taiko Drums

Presidio Tunnel Tops

Presidio Tunnel Tops

210 Lincoln Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94129
United States

Outdoor lawns north of the Presidio Visitor Center.