A Grain of Sand (album)


Originally produced and released in 1973 by Paredon Records, A Grain of Sand: Music for the Struggle by Asians in America by folk trio Chris Kando Iijima, Nobuko JoAnne Miyamoto, and William "Charlie" Chin is widely recognized to be the first album of Asian American music. The record is a combination of folk songs, political ballads and protest songs. The music was written, performed and recorded at the height of the Asian American, black, and anti-war movements in the early '70s by New York musicians and activists Iijima, Miyamoto, and Chin, who were then in their twenties and early thirties. The original album includes artwork by Arlan Huang/Artist Resource Basement Workshop on the album jacket and liner notes with a political statement by the musicians, lyrics, and a list of Asian American publications from the era. One of the songs, "We Are the Children," is likely the first song in English to explicitly mention the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans.

"A Grain of Sand" was re-issued in 1997 in CD format by Bindu Records. In 1991, the entire Paredon catalog was donated to the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, which has made the album and their original liner notes available online.

Track list:

  • Yellow Pearl
  • Wandering Chinaman
  • Imperialism is Another Word for Hunger
  • Something About Me Today
  • Jonathan Jackson
  • We Are the Children
  • Warriors of the Rainbow
  • Foolish Old Man who Removed the Mountains
  • Somos Asiaticos (We are Asians)
  • War of the Flea
  • Divide and Conquer
  • Free the Land
Authored by Patricia Wakida

For More Information

Kim, Sojin. "A Grain of Sand: Music for the Struggle by Asians in America." Smithsonian Folkways Magazine, Spring 2011.

Phillips, Gary. "Dancing Between the Notes: Music and Asian American Panethnicity." Colorlines, June 10, 1998.

Smithsonian Folkways site: http://www.folkways.si.edu/chris-kando-iijima-joanne-nobuko-miyamoto-charlie-chin/a-grain-of-sand-music-for-the-struggle-by-asians-in-america/american-folk-protest/music/album/smithsonian. [Includes liner notes/lyrics and links to music.

A Song for Ourselves. Documentary film written and directed by Tadashi Nakamura. Los Angeles: Downtown Community Media Center, 2009. [Documentary film on the life of Chris Iijima.]

Wang, Oliver. "Between the Notes: Finding Asian America in Popular Music." American Music 19.4 (Winter 2001): 439–65.