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Maria Hinojosa: This is Latino USA, the radio journal of news and cultura. It’s Latino USA. It’s Latino USA. Welcome to Latino USA. I’m Maria Hinojosa. We bring you stories that are underreported, but that matter to you. Overlooked by the rest of the media. And while the country is struggling to deal with these problems. We listen to the stories of Black and Latino students.

A united Latino front. A cultural renaissance. Organizing at the forefront of the movement. I’m Maria Hinojosa. ¡No se vayan!

Mimy Succar: Woman is special. All the women have a lot of power. You can do everything. You can work, you can take the children, you have to be strong in your mind and you have to say, I can do it, I will do it. I am the boss. So, whatever you want, do it!

Maria Hinojosa: From Futuro Media and PRX, it’s Latino USA. I’m Maria Hinojosa. Today, how one mother dreamed of superstardom, but waited decades to get there. Performer Mimy Succar and her producer and son, Tony. (MUSIC.) 

Maria Hinojosa: Mimi Succar, a talented singer and performer, burst onto the music scene in 2023, with her debut solo -album, “Mimy & Tony,” a collaboration with her son, Tony Succar. And yet it took her decades to get there. 

The Japanese-Peruvian family moved to Miami from Peru in the late 1980s. Mimy had a small musical group with her husband, Antonio, when their kids were young.

But with three children, her dreams of superstardom were put on hold as she dedicated her days to her family. And then one day, her children, Claudia, Tony, and Kenyi, started showing interest in the band, and they began to sit in. 

Tony, now an accomplished percussionist, composer, and producer, achieved success very young, when in 2019, at the age of 33, he won the coveted “Producer of the Year Award” and “Best Salsa Album” at the Latin Grammys.

So, more than three decades after Mimy’s arrival in Miami, the critically acclaimed album “Mimy & Tony” was released and nominated for a Grammy in 2024. It includes some collaborations with heavy hitters like La India, Orquesta de la Luz and Jose Alberto “El Canario.” 

Today, Mimy and Tony, show us how with the right timing and your family, nothing can get in the way of your dreams. (MUSIC.)

Mimy Succar: My name is Mimy Succar. I’m from Lima, Peru, but my, ¿cómo se dice la ascendencia?. 

Tony Succar: My ancestors. 

Mimy Succar: Ay, my ancestors from Japan. 

Tony Succar: And I am Tony Succar and I am Mimy Succar’s son. That means I am from also Japanese descent, was born in Peru, but my father is Spanish, Lebanese, and Mexican, also born in Peru. 

Mimy Succar: Nikkei for us is the person that we have Japanese ascendence, but we born in another country. 

MUSIC: “Del Japón llegó la luz de un sol naciente. Del Perú el sabor latino de mi gente.” 

Mimy Succar: I consider that we are a very special people, “Nikkei”, because we have both Japanese and Peruvian. 

MUSIC: “Soy la hija y la voz de dos continentes. ¡Salsa caliente!”

Mimy Succar: A lot of my generation doesn’t speak Japanese. My grandfathers talk to us in Japanese, but we answer in Spanish.

En la Segunda Guerra Mundial. 

Tony Succar: World War II. 

Mimy Succar: Peru was aliado. 

Tony Succar: Peru was an ally. 

Mimy Succar: With USA, our grandfathers was very difficult for them para sobrevivir. 

Tony Succar: It was very difficult to survive in Peru. 

Mimy Succar: In Peru, no? 

Tony Succar: Because there was a lot of discrimination.

Mimy Succar: Yeah. 

Tony Succar: Towards the Japanese people in Peru at the time. That’s why you didn’t learn the language. 

Mimy Succar: Yes. Conservamos siempre the Japanese tradition. But we have also the sabor, the happiness. The very friendly because the Latin people is like this. 

MUSIC: “Dejaste tanta poesía en el corazón de mi Perú.

Mimy Succar: I always love to sing. All my life. 

MUSIC:“Admirando cosas viejas, hallé un poema.”

Mimy Succar: I start to sing in Japanese. Our grandparents always wants to hear the Japanese music. Then when I met my husband, that he play the piano, we have a little band in Peru, but Peru was very, very difficult. In the 89, more or less, we don’t see any future for our children. I have three kids, right? So the whole family came here.

I have an aunt that live long time here and she told me, Mimy, why you don’t have a group of music with your husband like you make in Peru? We have to learn more Cuban music, you know. Merengue, salsa, cumbia, everything. We don’t have anybody to help. That’s why I said, it’s okay. I have a band here on the weekends, it’s good. But yeah, the other level will be very difficult. Maybe my husband and me have to fly to concerts, another country. And how can my children be? So I said, maybe in the future, But now, no, my children is more important. 

Tony Succar: Now she’s 64 and she’s nominated to a Grammy, and now her children pushing her forward and like, and she gets to enjoy this moment in such a gratifying way. 

MUSIC: “Sonaba un disco viejo, y me llegó hasta el alma, poesía…”

Mimy Succar: Tony and my children born in that ambiente, ¿cómo se dice? 

Tony Succar: We were born in that atmosphere. 

Mimy Succar: In that atmosphere for the music. Because we always have to ¿ensayar? 

Tony Succar: Rehearse. 

Mimy Succar: Rehearse in our house. 

Tony Succar: I started showing interest in music, I think I was like four or five years old. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a soccer player, but then when I got into real music, like in terms of being an actual professional in it, everything changed.

Mimy Succar: And he wants to play something with us. 

Tony Succar: I started playing actual drums at the age of 13. It’s definitely something I liked to do. 

Mimy Succar: We saw that Tony have something special for the music. We said, with my husband, Tony will be different because we are here for him. 

Tony Succar: My mom and my dad and my whole family, my wife, everybody was in function of let’s support Tony.

Mimy Succar: You have to be responsible and disciplined. This is a career. 

Tony Succar: Never like did they ever say like he’s gonna do maybe an album with his mom, like nobody. My dad was the only one that was like, Tony, you should do something with your mom eventually. I was thinking about her as like my mom. You know, like oye, like I gotta help her financially with this thing, or I gotta help her with something with the house, the internet went out, I gotta go fix the internet. 

The moment I was in “The Voice Senior” my mom did that surprise. 

The Voice: “Ella es Mimy, la mamá de Tony, Mimy llegó desde Miami para sorprender a Tony Succar.”

Tony Succar: It was a big moment. 

The Voice: (MUSIC.) [“Eh Mama!”] Tony: “¡Esa es mi mama!”

Tony Succar: It made me reflect on many things. That’s when I was like, you know what, I’m going to honor them with at least producing a song. So that’s how it all started. All of a sudden this huge album came about it. (MUSIC.)

Mimy Succar: In Japanese, we have a word that says “Oyakoukou.”. “Oyakoukou” means that the children has to be very grateful with the parents. We always respect a lot our parents, our grandparents, and for me, that Tony and Kenyi make for me this beautiful album and they produce with love. 

When Tony was working on the album, he told me, “Mom, I want you to sing something in Japanese. Why you don’t sing the song that you always sing to us?” The Sukiyaki. Sukiyaki was a Japanese song that was very famous in the 70s, in the 60s. 

MUSIC: “Sukiyaki”

Tony Succar: It was written during the Second World War, so there was a lot of trauma. So it was a song to just pick everybody back up. 

Mimy Succar: Sukiyaki, the meaning of that song is esperanza, hope.

Sukiyaki is a food. 

Tony Succar: It’s a really delicious plate of food of meat. And it has nothing to do with the original meaning or lyrics of the song. The meaning is actually look to the sky. (MUSIC.) So your teardrops don’t fall. (MUSIC.)

And the song’s name was “Ue Muite Arukou”. There was, um, an artist that he was British, he did a cover to the song in an instrumental version and when he went to his label and they’re like, what’s the name of the song? He’s like, Ue Muite Arukou and they’re like, get any name, put it on it, like, I really love that sukiyaki dish, you know?

He was like, oh, sukiyaki, I like that. 

MUSIC: “Sukiyaki, aquella noche en Japón nunca lo olvidare”

Tony Succar: The song became a huge hit. 

Mimy Succar: And in Japan now, it’s very famous again, because the old people remember that song. 

MUSIC: “Sukiyaki, yo le puse la salsa, a tu sabor japonés.”

Tony Succar: To record the music video in Japan was amazing. Like I think it was one of the most epic experiences of my life. 

Mimy Succar: When he told me to make a video in Japan, I said, “Oh my gosh, it would be wonderful.” 

Tony Succar: I really finally was able to feel connected with my true culture because although I’m Peruvian, right, or I’m Miamian, like very tropical, very Latino. I have things that are in my heart that are part of like my DNA, that is Japanese. 

Mimy Succar: They are very methodic, disciplined, very perfect everything, everything perfect. 

Tony Succar: I felt finally like, wow, like this is, now I understand why I’m like this, like there’s other people that are like this as well and that look like me.

It was probably one of the most life transforming experiences that I was able to have, and I would’ve never happened if I wouldn’t have done this project. 

MUSIC: “Hoy es tú día, tú día es hoy.”

Mimy Succar: My first album that is exitoso. 

Tony Succar: Successful. 

Mimy Succar: Successful is because my producers, my children’s, produce this with love. So always will be with my family. 

Tony Succar: It’s a business for us now, right? So we’re able to inspire people like crazy around the world. 

Mimy Succar: The people connect with us, right? The family is the most important in the life.

Tony Succar: I think she’s leaving a legacy that’s much bigger than what she ever thought she could, and I think that’s the best reward. Now she has her own career, you know, she just recorded with Gloria Estefan, like, and Sheila E. and that’s pretty amazing. 

MUSIC: “La vida está esperándote allá afuera… Hay sueños que te quedan por vivir.” 

Mimy Succar: Y, los tiempos de Dios son perfectos, ¿cómo se dice? 

Tony Succar: God’s timing is perfect.

Mimy Succar: It’s perfect. God wants to salir al mundo. 

Tony Succar: He wants you to show yourself, you’re in the world. 

Mimy Succar: In the world, but with my sons, with my children. 

MUSIC: “No te quedes sentado, pensando en el pasado. Porque quien solo llora…” 

Tony Succar: I learned a lot through her, without really paying attention to it, just as a subconscious. I’m super thankful and proud. I’m here because of her and her sacrifice as well, as a mom and I have to do that same thing with my dad because he’s like the motor behind this entire thing and excited of what’s to come. (MUSIC.)

Mimy Succar: Tony. Thank you very much for all the support, all the sacrificio.

Tony Succar: Sacrifice, sacrifice.

Mimy Succar: Sacrifice to give me this present to be escrito in our life. 

Tony Succar: Written down in the history of our life.

Mimy Succar: In the history of our family. You can do everything. You have to be strong in your mind, and you have to say, I can do it. I will do it. You never have to forget how you start. If I start with my family, with my family at the end of my life. For me, this is my Grammy. (MUSIC.)

MUSIC: “Con Tony y Mimy Succar! Hoy es tú día, y vivelo! Vive y sueña, siempre libre a tu manera!”

Maria Hinojosa: This episode was produced by Jeanne Montalvo and edited by Haley Sanchez. It was mixed by Julia Caruso. The Latino USA team includes Victoria Estrada,  Reynaldo Leaños Jr., Andrea López-Cruzado, Glorimar Márquez, Marta Martínez, Mike Sargent, Nour Saudi, and Nancy Trujillo. Peniley Ramírez is our co-executive producer.

Our director of engineering is Stephanie Lebow. Our marketing manager is Luis Luna. Our theme music was composed by Xenia Rubiños. 

I’m your host and executive producer, Maria Hinojosa. Join us again on our next episode. And in the meantime, look for us on all of our social media. I’ll see you there.

Hasta la proxima. ¡No te vayas! Ciao.

Stephanie Lebow: Funding for Latino USA’s coverage of A Culture of Health is made possible in part by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Latino USA is made possible in part by the Tao Foundation and W. K. Kellogg Foundation, a partner with communities where children come first.

Tony Succar: Satisfactory family. ¡Claro! Satisfactory family. 

Mimy Succar: (LAUGHS) Yo no sé.

Tony Succar: Let’s go.

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