Pitzer Spotlights

2005-2006 Spotlight Archives

Chikara Kurahashi ‘00: An Alumnus Who Knows a Little Something about Hip Hop

Giant Panda
Giant Panda members Maanumental, Chikaramanga (Chikara Kurahashi '00), and Newman (Alex Newman '99)

If you attended Pitzer College between 1996 and 2000, you undoubtedly heard of or knew Chikara, a master DJ who spun on Thursday nights at the Grove House. If you visited his dorm room, you would have seen his DJ equipment and witnessed him spending countless hours perfecting his “art.”

No longer spinning just locally or for weekend parties, Chikara has made a career out of his passion for music. He is a member of a three man band along with Alex Newman, a 1999 graduate of Pitzer College. In 2005 their hip hop band, Giant Panda, released their first CD “Fly School Reunion,” which is available for purchase at major chains and amazon.com. The name of the CD plays off high school reunions and the golden era of hip hop in the 90’s. The CD has been very successful in Japan where the group is yet to tour, but a country where the popularity of hip hop is growing.

Giant Panda has toured in the United Kingdom and Ireland and will begin a West Coast tour in the U.S. this October. Their second CD will be out in Japan at the end of 2006 and in the U.S. in spring 2007.

Chikara’s music is inspired by the LA hip hop outfit People Under the Stairs, as well as old time jazz and soul musicians like Miles Davis and Bob James. The songs produced by Giant Panda focus on everyday life and the individual experiences of the group members.

Chikara initially came to Pitzer in 1996 to attend the PACE (University and Professional English) program and decided to stay for a bachelors degree. “My major in Organizational Studies prepared me for the business aspect of my career in working for my label company tres record, he said.” Chikara still appreciates what he learned in Professor Kate Roger’s case studies class: “I apply the critical thinking skills that I acquired while analyzing business cases to my label company.”

“I am living my dream job,” Chikara states with enthusiasm.

Around Los Angeles, you might find Giant Panda playing at the Troubadour or the Knitting Factory. For more information about Giant Panda, visit www.tresrecords.com.

--Susan Andrews