Sendai Era - Music Duo
Sendai Era is a music duo from Seattle, Washington. Emcee Era and Producer Sendai Mike met at the Engineering Department at the University of Washington where their shared interest in music (Era was rapping and doing poetry, Mike was producing) began their music partnership. Meeting weekly in Mike’s studio, the duo write and produce songs and create short videos highlighting the Filipino American community. The videos began as a way to honor their past, highlighting historical Filipinos and Filipino Americans like Lapu Lapu and Carlos Bulosan respectively. Then the videos expanded to the people in their community: family, friends, co-workers, people in the Fil Am food movement, activists and organizers. Everything is done in one day: meeting the subject, filming, then studio work to record a song and edit it all together. What results is a smooth look into the lives of people, what they’re struggling through and what they do in their communities.
The duo also write, produce and perform original music. Their recent album Lakas (meaning “strength” in Tagalog) reflects Era’s family migration story, growing up in the US and what shaped his Filipino American identity. The song “Mountains”, which is a reflection of his relationship with his father, is a favorite to perform. And Era’s sister Clarissa is featured on a few tracks. Sendai Era have performed around Seattle and along the West Coast.
Sendai Era continue to create for and highlight the Asian American community. They plan on more videos and profiles, full length videos, expanding outside of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest and sharing more stories across the West Coast of how folks are organizing and building community together.
Era answers a few questions below.
Was music always part of your lives? When did you decide to pursue it?
Music has always been a part of my life. I grew up with my both my parents singing at church, and my Dad playing the guitar. My mother was a part of the University of Philippines Concert Chorus in the early 80’s. They met each other at a talent show at a San Miguel factory they both worked at.
I never picked up singing or guitar, but I gravitated toward Hip Hop. Growing up here in the states, Hip Hop and black culture in the 90’s and early 2000’s was what resonated with my experience. I took the roots of music my parents had, and it was shaped with the hip hop culture with cyphers, art and creating songs with my mostly Filipino friends here in the States.
I decided to pursue music after graduating from UW in 2013. Before graduating, I was a member of Anakbayan Seattle. The community of Anakbayan really empowered me to create music that reflected our history. I began writing a lot while in school and performed with members of Anakbayan, but I began to create more with Sendai Era towards the end of my senior year. Mike and I met each other in the Civil Engineering department around 2012. After linking up we decided to make a few songs while in school. Since then we have been meeting every week since then, hitting up open mics and community shows. This is guy is one of my best friends, so it’s a blessing creating music together in the ways we have.
What inspired you to feature people in your community in your videos?
In summary, we started a short series in October for Filipino American History month of short 1 min songs and videos, and wanted to expand to how can we honor the community we are a part of today making history. Kuz history isn’t something in the past, but something that everyday people create.
How does it feel to create something that empowers the Asian American community?
It really is an inspiring process. We try to listen and hear out the community we spend time with, and then create a song and video based on what was shared and the feelings that were conveyed all in one day. It’s all one vibe and really empowering to create something inspired the amazing people we have the privilege to meet.
How important is representation and diversity in your work?
For this project, we really aim to highlight primarily people within Filipinx community, but also aim to connect and link to those struggling through forced migration and displacement. We hope to work with members in the community you may have heard of that is doing good work, but also the amazing workers, students, teachers, mothers, youth and so many others who we all should learn from and listen to.
What is your favorite content to create? And some of your favorite projects you’ve produced?
By far this storytelling series has been really fun. It gives me life to create art directly inspired by so many amazing leaders. Off top, I think the video we were able to create with Jo and her family in PDX as really fun, and we are looking forward to visiting PDX again real soon.
Do you have certain messages and themes you cover in your music?
The message we hope to convey is that the stories we hold are linked, and that the problems we face aren’t isolated. We hope that by sharing these stories, we can also inspire communities to organize and solve the problems they are facing. We believe only the people, not institutions or representatives alone, can really uplift and change our communities for the better. And we hope even more that we connect our lives with those surviving and fighting for change abroad. And that we not only play a role and fighting for our families here, but we also stand with those all over the world who deserve justice.
What are some of your favorite performances?
I think one of my favorite performances was opening for Bambu at the Crocodile last year. It was an honor to be invited to open for Bam, and it was an amazing experience being on such legendary stage alongside my Sister, Mike and the community here in the PNW.
What/who has been instrumental in your personal and creative growth?
The community organizations and the youth I have the privilege to work with have hella helped me grow, and have heavily influence how I write, and what I choose to convey in my music. Want to really shout out the high school students I’ve gotten to know who are organizing their own student groups and advocating for their rights as students of color here in Seattle.
Do you have any upcoming events you’d like to share?
We are really honored to join the Beatrock Crew in celebrating their 10 year anniversary in October! Definitely want to invite anyone in the area to come celebrate!
All photos by Leo Carmona