#291: Dancing the Imperial Twist

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.

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