In 2005 Kevin became the first foreigner to enter and win awards at the Hirosaki and Kanagi Championship tournaments for Tsugaru Shamisen.
Kevin grew up in Misawa, Japan just outside of the Air Base. During that time Kevin studied cello, and played Rock guitar everyday as a hobby. At the age of 14 he saw the great master Takahashi Chikuzan giving a live performance and was deeply moved. Since that time he truly wanted to play Tsugaru Shamisen. However when he turned 18, Kevin moved away from Japan and began to live in southern part of California (close to Los Angeles). There he studied music composition, guitar and even took some studies in the Indian Sitar. The school was Cal Arts school of music.
At the start of 2003 Kevin began to take lessons in Tsugaru Shamisen from Kazuo Yasukore while visiting his parents in Misawa city. He took three months off and devoted many hours a day to practicing Shamisen. Later in 2004 Kevin returned to Japan again to continue his studies with Akihito Narumi, leader of the group Shirakami.
Kevin currently lives in Santa Cruz, California where he teaches Tsugaru Shamisen and guitar at the New Music School in Santa Cruz. He has also joined several famous American bands (including Secret Chiefs 3 and Estradasphere) as the first American Shamisen Rock musician to release CDs and tour the country. In fall of 2004 he formed the epic Death Metal/ Funk/Prog Rock extravaganza which became known as GOD OF SHAMISEN. These God of Shamisen shows would include Human Sacrifice, Tibetan bowl Meditation, and would feature ultra Shredding Shamisen riffs mixed with Insane Metal drumming and howling guitar, bass and keyboards. Guest musicians will often jump on stage including violinists, accordian players and even Rappers! In this way Kevin is truly revolutionizing the world of Shamisen by introducing a whole new hip approach to this once ancient instrument and by creating a steadily growing collection of new compositions that reflect the modern world just as accurately as Tsugaru Shamisen once captured the landscape and spirit of northern Japan.
Nao Nakazawa, born in Nagano, Japan in 1977, has been interested in the art of film making since his youth. As a teenager, he set his goal to study film in the US and produce movies of his own. He moved to San Luis Obispo, CA in 1996 to attend Cuesta Community College. In 1999, he transferred to the University of California, Santa Cruz to study film and digital media.
After graduating in 2001, Nao moved to Stockton, CA where he worked for a small corporate video production company, Moonshadow Productions, as a senior editor and videographer. Under the direction of the owner, Dr. Charlie Chapin, Nao received 22 national awards including Telly Awards, The Videographer Awards, The Communicator Awards, and Vision Awards. The documentary videos, "Meth: A Dark World & Deadly Epidemic" and "Calling Home", were selected for Best Documentary and the Indelicato Award at the Delta Film Festival in 2003 and 2004 respectively.
Through his life long study of classical violin, Nao has garnered a great appreciation for music of many kinds. In the spring of 2004, Nao had the opportunity to combine his love of filmmaking and music by following the developing career of his friend, Kevin Kmetz, who studies the traditional Japanese three string lute, Tsugaru Shamisen. After two and a half years in the making, Nao completed a documentary film about Kevin called "The Birth of California Shamisen".
Nao is always interested in using his skills in film and video in new and exciting ways. He has recently returned from a one month national tour with the band, Estradasphere, working as a videographer for the production of the band's DVD as well as the video projection artist for their multi-media stage art. He is concurrently producing several experimental video projects and taking part in the production of a dance and multi-media collaboration which will be performed live in the summer of 2007.
Nao currently resides in Oakland, CA and works for Tokyo Television Broadcasting Co. in the San Francisco Bay Area.