Japanese pianist attacked in NYC in 2020 finds ‘will to return’ to music

tadataka unno
  • Japanese jazz pianist Tadataka Unno was brutally attacked by a group of youths in Harlem, New York, in late September 2020.
  • Two years after the attack, the 42-year-old musician shared that he has now found the will to return to music through the help and support of the people around him.
  • After spending five months in Japan, he decided to return to New York and conducted his first performance in the city since the attack at the Blue Note Jazz Club in Aug. 2021.
  • Unno also released his new album "Get My Mojo Back" in March to represent his desire to return to music and to express his gratitude to those who helped him during his recovery.
  • According to Unno, he hopes his music can inspire people toward better communication as "prejudice is about not accepting others, not even trying to understand them."

A Japanese jazz pianist who was brutally attacked by a group of youths in New York in late September 2020 shared how he has found the will to return to music.

Tadataka Unno, 42, was exiting a subway train in Harlem when his attackers yelled “Chinese!” at him and beat him heavily, resulting in an injury to his right shoulder.

The injury was so severe that a doctor told him he may no longer be able to play piano.

Unno, who is still undergoing physical therapy, told Nikkei Asia that over two years since the attack he continues to find it difficult to lift his right hand above his shoulder and is unable to carry heavy equipment for extended periods. 

The attack prompted the musician to avoid riding the subway and eventually leave his New York home. He stayed in Japan for about five months, where he took the time to rest and bring his child to his parents back home. He also made time to thank his musician friends who hosted charity concerts on his behalf to cover his medical bills and other expenses.

According to Unno, he was conflicted about whether to return to New York or stay in Japan permanently.

“One day I would think I made up my mind to return to New York, and then the next day I would be thinking I should live in Japan,” he was quoted as saying. “At one time, I was determined to return to Japan [for good].”

He eventually decided to return and conducted his first New York performance since the attack at the Blue Note Jazz Club in Aug. 2021.

Unno noted that it would have been “depressing if people told me ‘you did well,’ for returning to Japan after playing in Major League [Baseball],” referring to the U.S. as the “major league” for jazz.

Unno’s wife, whose idea it was to move to the U.S. back in 2008, also preferred the return to New York. As a couple, they had an agreement that even if they eventually decided to stay in Japan for good, he could play at least once in the U.S. before returning.

Unno shared that his new album “Get My Mojo Back,” released in March, represents his desire to return to music and his gratitude to those who helped him when he needed them the most. 

Unno told Nikkei Asia he is now hoping his music can inspire people toward better communication as “prejudice is about not accepting others, not even trying to understand them.”

“Music is the greatest gift from God … For me, it is important that I believe playing on will make a better world,” he added.

He plans on touring around the world again, with plans on stops in Tokyo, Sapporo and other cities this month.

 

Featured Image via Universal Music Japan

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