Brazil in the Aina

Name: Sandy Tsukiyama
Job: Radio show host
Experience: Six years

Tsukiyama has lived an interesting life: She trained on the koto, a traditional Japanese stringed instrument; worked as a tour guide for Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking visitors to Oahu; taught Spanish in public schools; sung in flamenco, salsa, mariachi, Brazilian and Latin jazz groups; and now breeds rabbits. But one of her favorite jobs is hosting “The Brazilian Experience,” a two-hour music and culture program at 4 p.m. Saturdays on Hawaii Public Radio. “It’s really the bright spot in my week,” she says. “It’s turned out to be my music therapy.”

Tsukiyama studied Spanish at Roosevelt High School and earned a degree in ethnomusicology from UH-Manoa, where she also studied the Brazilian Portuguese language. Starting in 1980, she spent three years on a Rotary scholarship studying the language, folk music and culture in Brazil.

Personal connection:  
In 1908, the first Japanese laborers emigrated to Brazil to work on coffee plantations and, today, it has the biggest Japanese immigrant community in the world. “I have lots and lots of relatives down there,” she says. “And, with the advent of Facebook, I’ve been getting to know a lot more of them.”

How she got the radio gig:    
In the early 1990s, Tsukiyama started teaching Spanish at Stevenson Middle School and singing with a salsa band. One of her bandmates, Ray Cruz, hosted a salsa show on HPR and is the assistant operations manager, When the late Don Gordon fell ill and the station needed someone to host his jazz show, Cruz encouraged her to fill in temporarily. Six years later, Tsukiyama is on payroll there and has been hosting the show ever since. “That first show, I just danced out of the studio that night. I loved it.”

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