In our Summer 2023 issue, Julian Saporiti writes about the George Igawa Orchestra, which entertained thousands of incarcerated Japanese Americans at a World War II internment camp in Heart Mountain, Wyoming. But Saporiti, who releases music as No-No Boy, has been singing about the “best god damn band in Wyoming” since 2021, when his album 1975 came out. No-No Boy—named for the Japanese Americans who twice answered “no” on a wartime loyalty questionnaire—has been releasing songs about forgotten pockets of Asian-American history for years: Burmese migrants, Cambodian kids whose parents survived the Khmer Rouge, Saigon teens, and his mother’s experience as a Vietnamese refugee of an American war. We caught up with Saporiti at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, where he performed a set in celebration of the 75th anniversary of Smithsonian Folkways, to talk about reciprocity, scholars by waterfalls, and how to smuggle in history with a few strummed chords.
Go beyond the episode:
- Listen to No-No Boy’s previous two albums, 1975 and 1942, and pre-order the next release
- Read “Last Dance,” Saporiti’s story of the George Igawa Orchestra
- Unfamiliar with the history of the no-no boys? Listen to our interview with Frank Abe about John Okada’s seminal novel No-No Boy about a Nisei draft-resister
Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter @TheAmScho or on Facebook.
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