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bluegrass and country music artist
vocals, guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle
"Kazuhiro Inaba has emerged as a
highly regarded Japanese banjo and guitar picker."
- Bluegrass by Richard D. Smith
Kazuhiro Inaba has established himself as one of top professional bluegrass artists in Japan.
Since the start of his career, he has performed widely in Japan and the United States, and he has recorded with some of the greats in bluegrass music today, including Buddy Spicher, Butch Robins, Mike Compton, Keith Little, and Sammy Shelor.
Kazuhiro Inaba continues to spread bluegrass music to audiences in Japan, as well as share his own heartfelt love of this American music form with audiences in the United States.
Hailing from the Kansai area of Japan, Kazuhiro ‘Kaz’ Inaba was born in Osaka in 1960, and currently lives in Nishinomiya City, Hyogo, Japan.
Inaba started playing the 5-string banjo when he was fifteen years old.
While growing up, his biggest influences were his father (also a banjo player) and his brother, a top-shelf mandolinist. Inaba and his brother began performing bluegrass music in the Kansai area of Japan in the mid 1970s.
In the early 1980s, Inaba made his first trip to the United States where he made his first inroads into the American bluegrass scene.
In 1983, he took second place in the bluegrass banjo contest at the Old Fiddler's Conventionin Galax, Virginia.
As he became more established in his chosen career as a professional musician, Inaba made more and more appearances at festivals and music venues in the U.S. and Canada.
Among the places he has had the honor to perform at are the McLain Family Festival, Galax Fiddler's Convention, Grass Valley Bluegrass Festival, Wintergrass Bluegrass Festival, Salmon Arm Bluegrass Festival and Kamloops Bluegrass Festival, and the Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival.
Whenever he is in Nashville, Inaba often performs at the Station Inn. On one visit there, in 1995, he shared the stage with Keith Little, Bobby Hicks, Don Rigsby, Randy Howard and Missy Raines as the Bluegrass Brothers.
In 2007, Inaba joined Butch Robins' World International Bluegrass Band as the lead vocalist and guitarist. The band performed several shows in Virginia including a spot at the IBMA 2007 Fan Fest, and on the TV program "Song Of the Mountains", which was later aired on PBS.
To date, Inaba has released seven solo albums. His first, ‘Shore To Shore’ came out in 1986, followed by his second, 'Hard Times, Come Again No More' three years later.
The IBMA selected one of Inaba’s tracks ("Worries On My Mind") for inclusion on its 1992 'Long Journey Home', a collection of music by various bluegrass musicians from around the world.
Throughout his recording career, he has worked with many well-known musicians on his albums, such as Herschel Sizemore, Bobby Hicks, Butch Robins ('Goin' Across the Sea', 1993); Buddy Spicher, Bobby Hicks, Randy Howard, Ronnie McCoury, Roland White, Gene Libbea, and Gene Wooten (‘Dixie Dream’, 1998); Buddy Spicher, Bob Moore, Kathy Chiavola, Keith Little (‘Teardrop on a Rose’, 2003); Buddy Spicher, Lloyd Green, Hargus "Pig" Robbins, Charlie McCoy, Pete Wade (‘Country Recordings’, 2009).
In 1994, Inaba formed his own production company, Office White Oak, which among other things, organizes concert tours for bluegrass musicians to perform in Japan. The first of these was a charity bluegrass concert following the 1995 Hanshin/Kobe earthquake which featured Inaba along with Butch Robins,
Dudley Connell, and Andy Owens. Since then, Office White Oak has organized several Japan tours for artists such as the Lonesome River Band, Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers, Butch Robins (banjo), Larry Stephenson (mandolin), Keith Little (banjo), Dudley Connell (guitar), Frank Wakefield (mandolin), Sammy Shelor (banjo), and Mike Compton (mandolin). Besides concert promotion, since 1998, Inaba also organized yearly trips to the U.S. to allow Japanese fans of bluegrass and country music to visit famous places connected to the music and its performers and hear the music firsthand.
Naturally, Inaba is also busy performing music in Japan. With an active schedule, Inaba adapts his performance style to fit a variety of venues and audiences, either going solo, or as leader of his group, Bluegrass Ramble.
The band, formed in 1999, won first place that same year and the next year at the National Bluegrass Championship in Shiga, Japan. Marking its 10th anniversary, the band had the honor of performing at the 2009 Country Gold festival in Kumamoto.
Also a bluegrass festival organizer himself, Inaba has held his annual Kazuhiro Inaba Bluegrass Camp in Minoh, Osaka since 2012.
Inaba had Bluegrass Buddies Japan Tour with Mike Compton (mandolin), Keith Little (banjo) and Blaine Sprouse (fiddle) in Tokyo, Kumamoto, and Osaka in 2016.
In 2018, Sammy Shelor (banjo) played as a guest on one of Inaba’s concert series in Kobe in 2018.
In 2014, Inaba has been selected to perform at Wayne Henderson Music Festival & Guitar Competition in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia. Inaba was accompanied with the legendary fiddler, Bobby Hicks, Butch Robins, Scott Freeman and Mark Ramsey.
Inaba has made TV and radio appearances in Japan.
He also holds workshops to teach people about classic country songs at several culture centers in Osaka, Kobe and Tokyo.
Through singing and explanation, he acquaints participants with the background of the songs and the culture of American music.
Selected Discography of Kazuhiro Inaba
1986 Shore To Shore (RC-107)
1989 Hard Times, Come Again No More (RC-109)
1993 Goin' Across the Sea (HHH-CD-104)
1999 Dixie Dream (CCCD-0166)
2002 Country Songs For Singing' (SBR-1001)
2003 Teardrop On A Rose' (CCCD-0216)
2009 Country Heart (SBR-9001)