Embracing Cross-Cultural Identity: A Work of Art

Posted On: March 1, 2012

My name is Haikaa, I am a singer-songwriter and I was born in Brazil and I have studied and lived in the US and in Japan. The contradictory notions of right or wrong that I was exposed to led me to develop a “chameleon-like” personality and I could have spent my entire life going from one identity to another depending on where I was.

Fortunately, music wasn’t going to let me keep such an exhausting pattern of behavior. The driving force behind my music has always been the urge to express myself. That means that basically I had to understand who this self was in the first place. What I slowly began to understand was that the values that I appreciated in myself and in others were the same regardless of culture or circumstances. I like to say that there’s no such thing as American honesty or Brazilian tears or even Japanese fulfillment. By identifying the underlying values that were important to me regardless of where I was or who I was interacting with, I began to develop a stronger sense of who I am in essence.

On the title track of my latest album “Work of Art”, I celebrate this understanding and the sense of self-acceptance that emerged out of it. Even though my discovery came as a result of the multicultural experiences in my life and my passion for music, I felt strongly that this message was quite universal. In order to express this musically, I started looking for people who would want to do versions of the song “Work of Art” in their own language based on the concept of “Six Degrees of Separation”. I asked my friends who then referred their friends who in turn introduced me to their acquaintance and thus “The Work of Art Global Project” was born. In a period of one year and a half, I had already recorded the song in 20 languages with the help of more than 40 collaborators across the globe. I even recorded a video where I sing parts of the song in 19 languages

I approached each of the versions as a new poem and not a translation as I wanted to convey the core of the message respecting the different cultural contexts. For example, what may sound like assertiveness in English could come across as an incredible display of arrogance in Japanese. So, while the focus on the original English version is on self-acceptance, the Japanese version has a greater focus on the feeling of hope and understanding. It is more geared towards the society and not the individual, which I think is actually a strong characteristic of Japanese culture.

Navigating through different cultures and embracing new aspects to your lifestyle is an incredibly enriching and unique opportunity. I only knew two of the lyricists that worked on this project. I managed to connect with all the others based on values that we share as human beings because in essence, we are a lot more similar than different. However, the differences are here to make our world more interesting and diverse. By embracing new cultural aspects, I think we become more colorful individuals.

If you wish to download a free mp3 of “Work of Art”, just go to .
Thank you!!!


Love has led me to live a life
that gives me lots to sing about.

PS – Believe it or not, I still don’t have any version in an Indian language!!! So if anyone out there would like to give it a try, please get in touch with me at , thank you.

Haikaa Yamamoto, the author of this guest post, has also authored the book What is Diversity. Take a look at the blog owner’s review by clicking here.

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