Japa’s musical journey began at age 7 when she started taking piano lessons – something that she is extremely grateful for to this day. In grade school she joined the school band playing clarinet. In college she joined the famous Leland Stanford University Marching Band, after seeing them play and thinking, these guys are having too much fun without me.”
When asked what she wanted to play, she said trumpet. They gave her a horn and taught her to play. After graduation, she kept on with the band but decided to switch it up a bit and took up the sousaphone (giant marching Tuba). January 2000 she “marched” with the Stanford Band at the Rose Bowl parade playing the sousaphone while riding a unicycle. That year she was seen out at Burning Man doing just that – except without any clothes on.
Meanwhile, a classmate from her freshman year at Stanford suggested they started a rock band together. Why not? Susan went to the music store and bought a guitar. At first the due was guitar and trumpet. Then Japa (then Red) bought a bass and the band “Eating Like Truck Drivers” was born.
Hits for the band included Japa’s first compositions on bass, “Fairy Tale Song”, “On the Fritz” and “AHREF”.
ELTD went through a series of different drummers, one of the first introduced her to Kundalini Yoga where she then got exposed to mantra, chanting, and received the name, “Japa” which means to repeat, meditate, or chant the name of God.
“When I was given this name by Yogi Bhajan in 1999 I thought, hmmm…there are so many names of God. Which one to chant? So…I made a compilation of names of God and put them into a song. So here it is. Bottom line: It’s all God!”
A spinoff project with one of the other drummers, Deona “Stx” Parfet, led to a band called “The Debutantes” which recorded a full length album under that name.
Japa also later teamed up with a former ELTD drummer named Julie Andrews, with whom she formed a band called “SuperNova” with Julie on guitar and piano with Japa on accordion and sometimes clarinet. They produced two albums, “SuperNova Gold” and “SuperNova: A Christmas Album”
It was about this time that Japa picked up the guitar for the first time and started composing more and more. Travels to India, Brazil, along with crushes on boys (and a couple girls) led to songs like “Ganga River”, “For You”, “Light on the Shore” and “Barco do Paz”. Plus, this number, received while traveling with The Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers at their 4th International gathering in Dharamsala, India.
During a fateful 40th birthday party, Japa and Julie reunited for the first time in years and a late night fireside jam turned into the birth of a new musical incarnation: “Buenos Nachos” with Lauren Arrow. The band donated a great deal of their time playing concerts for Bread and Roses, bringing old time favorites plus their own originals to retirement communities, shelters and homes for the disabled. The big hits were the band’s “sandwich songs” which comprised of mashups like “La Bamba” with “Great Balls of Fire” and “Twist and Shout” with ?? (some band trivia for you. who knows it?). Japa’s contributions of “Radha Krishna” “The Moth” and “Kiss Down Noriega” were also fun to perform with the group.
Here we are playing “Rocky Raccoon”
“Know you Rider” was another good one from this era.
Time passed and Julie and Japa struck out on there own to form yet another musical incarnation, “Down in Front.” Then they reunited with ole buddy Deona (another former drummer of Eating Like Truck Drivers), and the power trio was complete. The three played live throughout the Bay Area, and recorded a full length album of mostly Japa originals including “Fallen for You”, “One Kiss, Tommy,” and the album’s title track, “The Donut Shop”.
At the same time, Japa rekindled her love for the piano, started taking lessons again with master Fredrick Nighthawk, and a whole new body of work was born, including original songs like “My Bible Smells like Whiskey” and this fun cover, “Aint Nobody Here but us Chickens”
In 2015, Japa joined the West Coast Songwriters and began performing at their monthly competitions in Berkeley, San Francisco and San Rafael. Songs like “The Moth” and “Sugar Lime” won awards for best performance while “A Damn Good Goodbye Kiss”, won “Best Song Title” from the Berkeley chapter in 2017.
When left to her own devices, Japa recorded and produced inspired true life songs with videos such as “Sell your Bike and Get a Job”
In 2015, Japa (playing accordion) teamed up with her good buddy Sam Frangiamore (on guitar) and the two of them formed a polka band one day on a beach in Baja, Mexico. Later that week they held auditions and a young Russian gentleman with a ukulele was accepted into the band. “The Big Bang Surfers” was born.
Later, Japa connected with said Russian dude, Max, and yet another incarnation was born – their son Boris! Now the band needs to hire a babysitter when they want to have rehearsal, but that hasn’t stopped them from live concerts from the Baja featuring such hit numbers as “Blue Bells of Scotland”, “Danube Waves” and of course, “The Beer Barrel Polka”
Aside from that, Japa has been developing her solo piano act which she most recently performed at the Todos Santos Women’s Music Festival in March 2020. Hits included “Morse Code”, “The Blue Ballin’ Blues” and “Man on the Side of the Road”.