Music in Asian America Seminar

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Traditional Asian American Music: Idea Sketch

The umbrella term “Asian American” as applied to music may attempt to unite all forms of music stemming from Asian Americans into one category, but traditional styles of music from many different regions have influenced what Asian American music is today. These different traditions over the years have crossed boundaries and come together, providing much influence in some techniques and instruments used in Asian American music as well as becoming popular activities like Taiko. These regional styles differ in many ways, and it proves important to ascertain a background knowledge of these forms in order to better understand modern Asian American musical influence.


-pansori- long vocal and percussive music played by one singer and one drummer
-pungmul- drumming, dancing, and singing
-sanjo- played without a set rhythm, shifting tempos.
-zither and geomungo (6 stringed zither)
-haegum (2 stringed fiddle)
-daegeum (flute)
-piri (oboe)
-jing (large hanging gong)
-buk (barrel drum)


-oldest forms = shomyo (Buddhist chanting) and gagaku (orchestra court music)
-biwa hoshi- storytellers accompanied by lutes
-Min’yo- lute and taiko. Umbrella term for “folk” including work songs, religion songs, children’s songs, and festive songs
-Okinawan folk- uses different instrumentation than mainland Min’yo folk, and uses scales other than pentatonic which is found in min’yo
-biwa- lute
-shinobue (flute)
-sanshin- okanawa
-shamisen- used in mainland folk, unlike sanshin in Okanawa


-Bauls- mystic minstrels
-Bhangra- lively form of music and dance- festival of Sikhs
-Bhavageete- form of expressionist poetry and light music
-Dandiya- dance oriented folk
-Lavani- uses Dholak, song and dance


-Chinese opera
-Chinese folk
-Tibet- important in Tibetan Buddhism
-Guangxi- southern China
-Yunnan- southwest China
INSTRUMENTS (link to other wiki pages)
-Woodwind/persussion- dizi, sheng, paigu, gong
-Strings- erhu, zhonghu, dahu, banhu
-Plucked strings- guquin, sanxian, ruan, etc

Reggae in Asian-America: summary of findings

Reggae in Asian-America is a relatively unexplored area of study but there are musicians who have been successful. Byron Lee, Apache Indian and other Asian-American bands have succeeded in the reggae genre and there is a definitely Asian presence in Jamaica as well as other Caribbean communities around the world. Many attribute the ultimate success and widespread appeal of reggae music to the Asian presence during the early 70s, when the reggae genre was receiving attention from mainstream audiences. Pioneers like Byron Lee and Thomas Wong can be credited for the early success of dancehall, reggae, soca and other Caribbean-inspired musical genres.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wiki Brainstorm

Here's the list of the musical categories that we brainstormed in class:

Rock/subgenres (Yapei)
Musical Theater
Spoken Word
Folk/Acoustic (Ashley)
Traditional (Sarah)
Soca (Nureya)
Reggae (Kelsey)

Let's figure out who wants to cover which musical category for the rest of the term.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chinese New Year Celebration

The Chinese New Year celebration this past weekend was very entertaining. There were displays of traditional Chinese dance, music and art among many other forms of artistic and creative expression. While the various forms of entertainment were very unique and engaging, I found the racial makeup of the audience and participants particularly interesting. Although this was specifically a Chinese festival, there were black and white audience members, as well as others from the many different countries in Asia. Similarly, the music, dance, and tai chi groups were made up of members from various ethnic backgrounds. This was not only visually interesting but it also highlighted the power of racial and cultural diversity. While everyone was different, racially, they were able to come together in celebration of a common festival. Everyone contributed, and there was essentially unity in diversity.

Coming to this festival, as a non-Asian, I felt that the event made the Chinese culture more familiar and accessible for people of other races and ethnicities. Often, unfamiliar cultures are seen as foreign and, in many ways, frightening and strange, but this event made it easier to understand aspects of Chinese culture, because unusual traditions or customs were introduced in more familiar ways. For example, they presented very ornate and theatrical costumes, traditional Chinese styles that seemed unusual to the average non-Asian viewer. The fact that these outfits were presented in a fashion show, made it more comprehensible to the audience members. In addition, the Chinese language is a very mysterious and intriguing aspect of the Chinese culture and by having a table where the audience could have their names written in Chinese was a very clever way of introducing the Chinese language in a more familiar, less intimidating way. Overall, the event was well attended and very well executed and I thought the festival was successful at giving the audience a sample of Chinese culture and tradition.

Chinese New Year

I also didn’t really know what to expect when attending the Chinese New Year Celebration. I had friends that were involved in planning the celebration and have been for the past few years, but they didn’t talk much about it and I had no idea what I would see when I came to the mall. I walked in to see many more people than I expected, and I thought it was great that they sectioned off the whole section of the mall for this. To me, it seemed like the CSA and the two that announced placed a pretty big emphasis on a juxtaposition of American culture as well as their Asian heritage which I think really speaks to the notion of “Asian American”. Some were dressed in more traditional attire while some were dressed in contemporary tshirt and jeans. In this same vein, I thought it was very cool that the two announcers spoke in both English and (I’m guessing) Mandarin. This may have been for the simple fact that some attendees may only be Chinese-speaking but I find that hard to believe in today’s society. So I interpreted this choice as a way to include the influence from both cultures into the celebration. Those of Asian descent could experience the announcements of the program in English, as well as experiencing it in their native cultural language, which I also thought contributed a lot to the Asian American notion.
Another thing that I thought was very cool was the performance by the little girls from the Charlottesville Chinese dance school. They were dressed very traditionally including their hair, and they performed their dance using pink fans, which is very traditionally Chinese. I found it fascinating to watch their parents and see how proud they looked to see their children taking part in an event reflecting their cultural roots. From watching all of these events, especially this performance, I realized how important the juxtaposition of these two cultures, American and Chinese, are to most of these people. They take pride in the roots from which they come and also embrace aspects of American culture. It was definitely a new experience for me to see all of these things coming together in one place and I thought it was great. The program did a great job at bringing in elements of both, really emphasizing this “Asian American” feel.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Asian American Religious Music (Reprise)


Asian immigrants and Asian-American college students are among the fastest growing group of Christians in the United States, Korean Americans specifically. Three fourths of Koreans in the US and 20 percent of Chinese Americans identify themselves as Christians. Vietnamese and Filopinos tend to associate themselves more with Catholicism, influences being France and Spain [1]. The church has been a place of stability within the Asian American community since immigration to the United States since, being established early on by Korean immigrants in the early 1900s. Churches served as political, cultural, and socials centers for Asian Americans who faced discrimination from society. Most practices with the Korean and Chinese churches remain closely tied to Anglo Protestants, except for the use of Asian languages and a practice called tongsungkido, or a “call out prayer” during which people simultaneously pray, which is used is in Korean American churches, believed to have been derived from Korean Shamanism.

College campuses are seeing a huge influx of Asian American organizations pop up and converts. Many of these ethnic based Christian organizations do not reject any doctrinal or belief systems of their white counterparts, but these organizations provide Asian Americans with a sense of community, homophile relationships, and opportunities for upward mobility within the organization (Kim) [2].

Paul Yoon comments on the saturation of music through the worship service at a Korean fellowship in Flushing, New York. In the Korean American Church is “used to mark the boundary between the mundane and the sacred” (Yoon 24) [3]. Music styles within the first generation Korean American churches tend to learn towards traditional hymns and Anglo-Saxton styles of worship, while now churches are incorporation Contemporary Christian styles of music. Most consider their practices to be universal. But this is only one part of the spectrum. Asian American religious music embraces various types of American genres from R&B and hip-hop to rock. These are styles brought in by the newest generation of Asian Americans. In Paul Yoon's dissertation on Korean American church music, he discusses the musical worship style of 1.5 and second generation Korean Americans. Tongsongkido is a "cry-out-loud" prayer practiced within the Korean American church. Korean American church music among this generation could be classified as Contemporary Christian. "Every FPEM service that I attend started with guitar-based contemporary praise music and that night was no exception. The praise team consisted of a drummer, a bassist, a guitarist/singer, backup singers, a pianist, and a flutist..." (Yoon 8).

Korean American Christian Media is a website that features not only Christians artist making songs of worship, but also artist that have claimed to be Christian. They don’t limit themselves to strictly songs, films, and media made specifically for Christians.

Its mission statement is as follows

"As we strive to be the premiere network for 1.5, 2nd, and 3rd Generation Korean Americans, we aim to produce creative and thought-provoking content that genuinely serves the needs of Korean Americans today. While highlighting churches, organizations, businesses, and individuals in the Korean community, KAC Media provides services, employment, and programs to empower and develop emerging young artists in the arts, film, and media
It is our hope that with every story and with every effort, we bring people one step closer to God" [4].

Inspire is a Christian music production that features Asian American artists.
Inspire '08 is put together by Inspire, a Christian organization dedicated to giving emerging Asian American artists a platform to showcase their music. Their goal is to try to reach out to the young Asian American community with edgy music and inspire them to follow their dreams. INSPIRE was founded by youth pastor, Jeff Yoo and former singer, Hannah Lee in November of last year. "We really both have a huge heart for worship," said Lee. "We saw other organizations like Kollaboration that were targeting Asian Americans, and we wanted to do something for the community as well, Christian or non-Christian.” (

Asian American Christian Artists/Groups

Koti Hu-Taiwanese American artist [6]
AK & Jabez- Korean male rappers from UCLA
The Nehemiah Band- Male group from Los Angeles
Lyricks- Korean male rapper from Northern Virginia
Manifest- rapper from Virginia
Downbeat- Four member R&B and rap group [4]

Islamic worship music is not popular due to conflicting views on the purity of music. But, taqwacore is a genre of punk music contrived by the Michael Muhammad Knight, author of The Taquwacore. It is a type of punk music dealing with Islam. The Kominas are a Punjabi band that use this to express their attitude toward American Islam.

In an interview with Muslim Playwright Sabina England says this about the future of Tacquacore

"It's gonna get bigger. A lot of Muslim kids are tired of being told what to do, how to think, what to believe in, and how to act, by their parents. There are 'the angry muslim kids' who wanna grow beards and pray five times a day, and then there are the OTHER 'angry Muslim kids' who wanna get drunk and say a huge big 'fuck you' to the Muslim population. Or maybe they just don't care and wanna sit at home and not think about Osama's video speeches about how America is the Great Satan" (Butt) [5].

[1] Yang, Daniel. "Why Chinese and Korean Americans Adopt Christianity." Daniel Yang. 26 Apr. 2009 .
[2] Kim, Rebecca Y. "Second-generation Korean American evangelicals: ethnic, multiethnic, or white campus ministries?" BNet. Spring 2004. 7 Apr. 2009 .
[3]Yoon, Paul. Christian Identity, Ethnic Identity: Music Making and Prayer Practices Among 1.5 and Second-Generation Korean-American Christians. Diss. Columbia University, 2005.
[4] "Mission Statement." Korean American Christian Media. 28 Apr. 2009 .
[5] Butt, Riazat. "Islamic street preachers." 28 Apr. 2007. 26 Apr. 2009.
[6] “Interview with Koti Hu” 28 Apr. 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Asian American Hip-Hop

Hip-Hop in Asian America






Asian American Contribution to Hip-Hop

Hip-Hop, began in the 70s as a musical genre and culture, by African Americans in the Bronx, New York. Typically it involves rapping over a rhythmic beat or “free styling” over a DJ’s turntable skills. Hip-hop consists of rhyming to the accompaniment of a beat, and usually entails storytelling by the artist. Beyond rap, hip-hop has extended to become a culture that involves disc jockeying, dancing, more specifically breakdancing, fashion, and language.

In an effort to cross the binary racialization of hip-hop (strictly black and white industry), hip-hop in Asian America emerged in the 1990s in various regions of the United States, by Asian Americans who represented diverse backgrounds under the umbrella term Asian Americans. Since its development as a sub-genre, several artists have contributed to the hip hop community and culture through three ways: the fusion of traditional Asian music with popular music in America, the transition into mainstream culture, and the offering of new perspectives to hip-hop. "Hip Hop is American. I mean we're Asians, but the problem is we got to look at ourselves as American before we look at ourselves as Asians. Just because you're doing hip-hop doesn't mean you're doing a black thing. You're doing an American thing," says Ted Chung, Marketing VP of Doggystyle Records. Because of the constant discourse regarding identity politics, Asian American hip hop music has been praised and simultaneously been criticized for its context and how much artists promote their racial identity through their music.


Lyrics Born (Japanese American rapper; half of duo Latryx)

Asiatic Apostles

Yellow Peril

Seoul Brothers

Mountain Brothers (Chinese American rap group)

Key Kool (Japanese American rapper)

Jamez (Korean American rapper)

Jin (Chinese American rapper)

Shing02 (Japanese American rapper/producer)

M-Flo (trio: rapper, producer & DJ) (Japanese-American)

Seamo (Japanese American rapper)


DJ Phatrick

DJ Qbert

DJ Rhettmatic (Filipino American DJ)

Invisible Skratch Picklz

DJ Babum

DJ Shortkut


Chad Hugo (half of production duo The Neptunes)

Dan the Automator


CHOPS (producer for Young Jeezy, The Game, Bun B, Lil’ Wayne)

Timeline of Asians in Hip-Hop



1990s Early Asian American Hip-Hop

Early Asian American Hip-Hop began with Asian American artists performing independently on college campuses for example; for the most part, these artists and/or groups were politically charged. Artists and groups strived to let their voices be heard, as well as challenge and encourage change and differences within the music industry and the hip-hop sector. Some politically based groups include Asiatic Apostles, Yellow Peril, and Seoul Brothers.

In 1991, Steve Wei, Scott Jun, and Christopher Wong also known as Styles, Chops, and Peril, respectively, formed the rap group The Mountain Brothers at Penn State University.

In 1995, Rap duo Key Kool (Japanese American) and DJ Rhettmatic (Filipino American) released their debut album Kosmonautz independently.

In 1996, The Mountain Brothers release their single, in the same year they won a rap contest sponsored by Sprite. This breakthrough year enabled them to become the first Chinese American rap group to be signed to a major label.

1998 was a year of re-emergence for Asian American Hip-Hop. After the release of Kosmonautz by Key Kool and DJ Rhettmatic, Asian American rap appeared to be dying out earlier than anticipated. According to scholar Oliver Wang, “in what seems serendipity, the latter part of 1998 has seen the release of hip-hop influenced albums by three Asian American artists [Mountain Brothers, Jamez, and DJ QBert], each representing a very different set of aesthetic and geographical perspectives” (Wang).


In 2004, Jin was the first Asian American to be signed to a mainstream recording label Ruff Ryders. Chinese rapper Jin initially became interested in rap by listening to the radio first and later on began writing. In a Washington Post article, Jin states, “Then I started going to the record store and demanding, like, 'Yo, what's the newest artist out?' ... Eventually that made the transition from listening to starting to write my own rhymes ... and then the hobby just turned into my life" (Wartofsky). Most of his fame can be attributed to his performances in various freestyle rap battles, most of which were considered underground. BET’s hip-hop program, 106 & Park hosted a series of rap battles where MCs would challenge that week’s champion. After winning for seven weeks straight, Jin became the second rapper to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. A recording contract with Ruff Ryders followed thereafter.

Contributions to the Hip-Hop Community & Culture

Asian American Hip-Hop artists have contributed much to Hip-Hop’s already rich history. An industry often restricted to black and white musicians has been permeated by some of the most talented Asian Americans. While breaking racial boundaries, Asian American Hip Hop artists, producers, DJs, and breakdancers have all acknowledged Hip-Hop’s origins and do in fact acknowledge its African American foundations. Asian American contributions to the Hip Hop industry have exemplified their expansion and continuous evolution of hip-hop as a musical movement and culture.

Fusion of traditional Asian music with American music

Jamez, born James Chang, originally from Los Angeles moved to Flushing, Queens, is a prime figure in the fusion of the Asian and American cultures. O his debut album Z-Bonics, he demonstrates and incorporates traditional Korean music with hip-hop. He uses hip-hop as a form of social commentary to advocate social and political empowerment, which demonstrates his support of hip-hop as a means of having one’s voice heard. Jamez uses a traditional Korean musical instrument, Poongmul drumming, accompanied by beats to create his music. "So many of us are influenced by Western standards of beauty, speech and music. I want to expose Asian Americans to their rich legacy of music. Our beat of life," Jamez says.

Transition into mainstream culture

Artists like The Mountain Brothers and Jin have transitioned into mainstream American culture for various reasons. These artists have signed with major record labels, giving them exposure to different audiences.

Offering of new perspectives/innovations to Hip-Hop

Artists are utilizing a myriad of modes for gaining exposure in the hip-hop world. Groups like the Mountain Brothers have chosen to release their music independently through the Internet, for example. DJ Qbert, for example, uses new technologies on his albums. He fuses electronica with hip-hop because he believes the future of Hip Hop should include new innovoations.


Mountain Brothers’ Chops Interview:

Chad Hugo in the Studio

Jin Freestyle against BET’s 106 & Park Freestyle Friday Reigning Champion


Le, C.N. 2009. "Martial Arts, Video Games, & Hip-Hop." Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. (March 17, 2009).

Rap's freshest face is Asian American By Alona Wartofsky | Special to The Washington Post

Asian Americans and Hip-Hop By Oliver Wang (1998) <>

Asian American Hip-Hop Musicians Wikipedia (March 17, 2009) <>


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Asian-American Rock Music

From near the birth of rock music, Asians and Asian Americans have had their hands in creating extremely relevant and ground-breaking contemporary music. Many of these artists, through their unique styles and experimentation, have contributed with major progressions in different compositional technique, purpose, and even (in the case of Japanoise) general genre creation.

Earlier Rock
FANNY – Most likely the first all-female rock band to sign with a major label - fronted by two Asian Pacific American women (Filipinas Jean/June Millington).
JOHN & YOKO – released Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins in November 1968; John Lennon and Yoko Ono collaborated to form a very progressive audio art broadening tonality of music. Combining elements of futurism, Zen philosophy, and racial/gender equalities, the two thematicized the female body and symbolized the role of women in society through their avant-garde compositions highlighting Yoko's wailing vocals
YOKO ONO'S PLASTIC ONO BAND - Band formed by Yoko Ono which has only recently begun to be credited with having a major influence in the progression of rock music, particularly on musicians, grossly disproportionate to its sales and visibility (much like the Velvet Underground, cohorts of Andy Warhol).

BLONDE REDHEAD- comprises of Kazu Kakino, Maki Takahashi, Simone Pace and Amedeo Pace and is known for its dissonant and chaotic sound. Although Takahashi has left, the band continues to record and their sixth album is due out in early 2007.
BITCH MAGNET – Post-Hardcore band of late 80's early 90's led by singer Sooyoung Park
BIG HEAD TODD & THE MONSTERS - Led by Todd Park Mohr, of German, Korean, and Native American descent
CIBO MATTO – a New York City rock band fronted by two Asian American women- Cibo Matto (crazy food, in Italian) write their lyrics primarily on food
"EAR OF THE DRAGON" a compilation album of Asian American indie rock bands including Seam, Versus, Aminiature, Skankin' Pickle and J Church, is released in 1995, followed by the inevitable multi-band tour
HARVEY DANGER - rock/alternative band from the late 90's which rose to fame in 1998 with “Flagpole Sitta” - includes multi-instrumentalist Jeff Lin
METALLICA- Kirk Lee Hammet (lead guitarist) of Filipino, Chinese and Irish descent
MOIST - David Usher (Thai/Jewish) was the lead singer of Moist.
NO DOUBT – ska band which hit rock superstardom in 1995 with its release "Tragic Kingdom." One of their first hit singles, "Don’t Speak," is about the end of the romantic relationship between lead singer Gwen Stefani and Indian American bassist Tony Kanal.
SEAM – indie rock band active 1991-1999, and led by guitarist/vocalist Sooyoung Park (of Bitch Magnet)
STATIC-X – Los Angeles industrial metal band- Japanese guitarist Koichi Fukuda was one of the founding members.
(also, see Japanoise *link)

Bow Wow Wow's- ANNABELLA LWIN OF "BOW WOW WOW - their music ranges from simple, goofy, non- sensical tunes to complex, crisp pop masterpieces. Their music has been described as a pastiche of Latin and African beats, 50's rock-n-roll, and spaghetti western soundtracks placed together with an incredible sense of humor and vigor.
CAROL BUI – Asian American hard rock guitarist from Washington DC with influences ranging from Madonna, to Fuzagi and the Beatles
DEFTONES - Chino Moreno (vocals), Stephen Carpenter (guitar), Chi Chang (bass) and Abe Cunningham (drums) combines elements of punk, pop, hip-hop and traditional metal. The new album, the Deftones' sixth (including a 2005 rarities collection), presents another dynamic collision of atmosphere and metal guitar as singer Chino Moreno soars and tumbles through the ether, fueled by wonder and alienation. It is a sound both agonized and wistful, the kind of contemplative shoe-gazing rock that occurs when you're doubled over in agony.
DIALATED PEOPLES - The group DJ, Babu, is of Filipino descent and is a member of the DJ crew Beat Junkies.
ENDA – four-piece alternative rock band including Valerie Moorhead and Jennifer Yee, two Asian-American singer songwriters
HOOBASTANK - Led by Doug Robb (half Japanese/half White)
LINKIN PARK - Mike Shinoda (lead vocals / m.c.) & DJ Joseph Hahn (DJ, sampling, BG vocals) are part of this successful and popular group.
P.O.D. ("Payable Upon Death") - Asian Pacific Islander American (Guam) cousins Sonny Sandoval (vocals) and "Wuv" Bernando (drums) lead this group
Sum 41 - The band includes Dave "Brownsound" Baksh, who is of South Asian descent, and broke onto the charts in 2001 with their album “All Killer No Filler”
SUSIE SUH - upcoming artist on a major American label
TRUST CO. - Alabama-based band features guitarist James Fukai
UNWRITTEN LAW - band's eclectic blend of punk and ska features Pat Kim on bass. Their 2005 CD is titled "Here's to the Mourning."
YELLOW CARD - Ventura-based punk quintet is led by Sean Mackin - a "Hapa"
THE YEAH YEAH YEAHS - Lead singer Karen O is of Polish and Korean parentage, and was born in South. She is known for her livid stage antics and quirky sense of style.
RACHAEL YAMAGATA – upcoming American born/educated singer/songwriter of the new decade
(also, see Japanoise *link)

Capturing the attention of not only college radio, but critics and American musicians alike, a wave of artists originating from Asia have had a profound impact and definite success operating in multiple sub-genre's in American rock music. Although the influence of these Asian musicians has no genre-bounds, one of the most prominent of these movements within the rock genre is the surge of noise bands many have come to refer to largely as 'Japanoise' These groups include:

ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE - Japanese psychedelic band
AFRIRAMPO - Noise rock band from Osaka, Japan
BORIS - Japanese psychedelic/drone metal band
THE BOREDOMS – Japanese noise rock band
CUI JIAN - "Father of Chinese Rock Music combines traditional Chinese instruments and melodic sensitivities with Western rock.
DO AS INFINITY - Japan's popular hard rock band
EVERY LITTLE THING - pop rock group from Japan featuring Kaon Mochida (vocals) and Ichiro Ito (guitar)
MAD CAPSULE MARKETS - hard rock band from Japan
MELT BANANA - experimental noise band from Japan
N.E.X.T. - Korean metal, industrial, rock & techno punk band
RUINS- Experimental Japanese rock duo
ANOUSHKA SHANKAR - tours and performs classical Indian music with her father Ravi Shankar

Other resources on Asian- Americans in Rock music:
Cho, Jim (1998 March). James Iha takes a bow. Asian American Magazine,, Retrieved April 20, 2009 Interview with James Iha, guitarist of the Smashing Pumpkins and A Perfect Circle . “Asian American Pop/Rock at” Retrieved March 25, 2009 – An extensive list of websites focusing on Asian music and bands (underground and more mainstream)

Kim, Pil Ho. "Little Chang, Big City: Asian Diaspora in American Independent Rock" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Montreal Convention Center, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Aug 10, 2006 Retrieved April 20, 2009

Moorhead, Valerie Are Asian-dominated bands just another gimmick?. Re-orienting Rock, Retrieved March 25, 2009, from – an informative article discussing racial aspects in rock and media. An excerpt: "Due to their lack of presence in mainstream American rock, Asian American-led bands may automatically be viewed as a kind of marketing gimmick, which coincides with the recent influx of Asians in the media the last several years. However, Asian Americans have had long-standing, solid ties"

Traditional Music

The traditional music of Asian Americans ranges from unique instruments to fanciful folk song and dance. Each region of Asia has its own distinct types of traditional music.

China: There is a vast collection of traditional music in China. String and wind instruments are an important part of much of the traditional music compositions. Examples include the pipa, erhu, banhu, suona, and guqin. Many traditional and folk musicians utilize these instruments. The variations of rhythm, beat, tone quality, and embellishments in traditional Chinese music are highly distinctive and unlike their Western counterparts. This is mainly due to the unique sounds and playing styles of traditional Chinese musical instruments. China is also renowned for its Chinese Opera. There are as many types of Chinese opera as there are dialects. The most popular form is Beijing/Peking Opera. Operas contain many aspects of performance, including acrobatics, singing, orchestra band, as well as actors and dialogue.

Notable artists include Gao Hong, Liu Fang and the Twelve Girl Band.

Japan: Japan has very diverse types of traditional music. The oldest is Gagaku. Other types include Biwagaku, Sokyoku, Nogaku, Shakuhachi, Shamisenongaku, and Minyo. All of which revolve around certain types of musical instruments. Notable instruments are the Koto and the Taiko drum. The Koto is used in Sokyoku and is a zither with 13 strings. Today, most players of the koto belong to either the Ikuta or the Yamada School. The playing techniques and sitting techniques are slightly different and certain music pieces belong exclusively to one school or another.

Taiko is the name for the small round stick drum used in Noh and Kabuki and the large stick drum that plays such an important role in Kabuki sound effects. But there are many other traditions of stick drum ranging from the smaller festival drums, to the enormous drums played with great vigor in the newer performances of Japanese percussion well known around the world.

Notable artists include Reverend Shuichi Thomas Kurai, Kazue Sawai and Michiyo Yagi.

South Asia: One major type of traditional music that originated from India is Bhangra. Bhangra is a lively form of folk music and dance that originates from Punjab. There is a wide variety of drums and other musical instruments that accompany Bhangra. Bhangra has also recently enjoyed a surge in popularity worldwide, both in traditional form and as a fusion with genres such as hip-hop, house, and reggae.

Recent artists and producers include Punjabi MC, Malkit Singh, B21 and Bally Sagoo.

Asian Americans in R&B

There are two different types of Asian American musical artists in the R&B genre: Asian American artists who downplay race in an effort to appeal to a broader audience and Asian American artists who use their race to openly discuss their ethnicity and identity through music.

(1) Asian American R&B Artists who minimize the impact of their Asian identity

Artists such as Cassie, Amerie and Kelis are popular as a result of their efforts to downplay their racial differences and appeal to a larger mainstream audience. Similar to Hip Hop, many R&B artists of Asian decent find that “listeners hear them differently on whether they’re already known to be Asian American.” (Wong 252) R&B artists who are Asian American try to limit initial perception to their sound in an effort to achieve mainstream success. These artists acknowledge that it is harder to receive the acclaim their white and black counterparts receive if they acknowledge their ethnicity into their music.

Mainstream artists like Cassie, who’s father is Filipino and mother is of Caribbean, Mexican and Native American heritage does not make explicit references to her father’s Asian heritage or its influence on her music and identity. Her big hit “Me & U,” released in 2006, sold over 1 million digital downloads and was a dance club success (Cohen). “Me & U” could be sung by a number of R&B artists of various ethnic backgrounds as the song pertains to a typical heterosexual relationship situation experienced by all ethnicities.

Other R&B artists such as Amerie, create similar music in which discussion of their ethnicity is downplayed. Songs with themes of love, hate and difficult relationships are more common. Amerie, daughter of an African American father and a Korean mother allows herself to move between identities, sometimes embracing her African American heritage while appealing to urban radio airwaves and sometimes embracing her Asian heritage singing in Korean -- competing with non-Asian artists such as Ashanti and Tweet.

Many of the best known and most popular Asian American musical artists tend to be multiracial Asians ('hapas') Successful multiracial Asian solo artists include Norah Jones (Asian Indian and White), Michelle Branch (Indonesian and Irish), and Amerie (Korean and African American). Many believe that record executives feel multiracial Asian American artists are more "culturally acceptable" or "marketable" to American consumers. These producers are more eager to promote the multiracial Asians than monoracial Asian American artists. (Writers, Artists, Entertainers: Asian Nation) . The generalization of Amerie's songs topics is common among R&B artists. In singing about love, Amerie is able to appeal to a wider audience and achieve greater popularity but she is also keen to incorporate some Asian features into her music, whether words from the Korean language or symbolism in her music videos. Asian images are used to display attractive exoticism that is intriguing to mass culture.

Other artists like Amerie are Kelis (whose father is African American and mother is Chinese and Puerto Rican) and Debelah Morgan (of African American and Indian heritage). All of these artists are of mixed Asian decent and another ethnicities. Being mixed allows artists to highlight one identity over another when important. More often, it is the African American identity that is highlighted as R&B is typically seen as originating from African American culture.

(2) Asian American R&B artists who incorporate their Asian identities into their Music

These artists and bands are typically less well-known because their musical aesthetics and politics are appreciated by a smaller audience, usually Asian Americans.

These artists include:







Cassie “Me & U”
Amerie “One Thing”
Amerie “Touch”
Cohen, Johnathan. “Diddy: Cassie CD Will Catch People ‘Off Guard.’” Billboard.Com. April 7th 2008. NY. Date accessed: 3/15/09 < >

Le, C.N. 2009. "Writers, Artists, & Entertainers." Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. (March 16, 2009).

Wong, Deborah. “Speak it Louder”

Afro Asia By Fred Wei-han Ho, Bill Mullen pg 306

Asian American Jazz

Asian American jazz is a genre of jazz that arose in the late 20th century in the United States. Asian American jazz is often characterized as a hybrid music based off African American jazz with Asian influences. Prominent Asian American jazz artist, Fred Ho, characterize his music as “imbued with the traditions of Asia, Africa, and their respective diasporic hybrid forms”[1]. One trait that sets Asian American jazz apart is that Asian instruments can often be heard playing along with standard jazz instrumention. In the beginning of the movement, most artists were either Japanese or Chinese. However, there are now more Asian American musicians from different ethnicities including: Filipino(Susie Ibarra and Gabe Balthazar), Indian (Vijay Iyer), and Iranian (Hafez Modirzadeh).

The San Francisco Asian American Jazz Festival(1981-2006) was a long running and important part to the development of the Asian American jazz movement. However, this festival is no longer held and is now replaced by the Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival. The goals of the Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival are to: present the best in contemporary Asian American music, featuring a roster of internationally renowned artists from across the country whose works helps to define what is Asian American music.[2]

Another important aspect that led the development of Asian American jazz movement was the formation of record labels. Francis Wong and Jon Jang founded one of the first labels to cater to Asian-American artists, Asian Improv Records. Based in San Francisco this record label was formed in 1987. However, Asian Improv Records no longer function as a record label anymore. It is now carried on as Asian Improv aRts an organization which plays a heavy role in holding the Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival [3]. Another Asian American record label was AArising. However, like Asian Improv Records, AArising is no longer an active record label. AArising now serves as a non-profit web resource about Asian Pacific Americans in the entertainment world[4].

Important active artists this genre include: Tatsu Aoki, Hiroshima, Asian Future, Fred Ho, Glenn Horiuchi, Vijay Iyer, Jon Jang, and Francis Wong[5]. Hiroshima is one of the longest running Asian American jazz bands. The band was formed in 1974 and is still active. Hiroshima released their latest album, “Little Tokyo” in 2007.

Musicians associated with the Asian American jazz movement[6]

* Gabe Baltazar
* Anthony Brown (musician)
* Jeff Chan
* Jiebing Chen
* Bobby Enriquez
* Gene Ess
* Hiroshima
* Fred Ho
* Glenn Horiuchi
* Jason Kao Hwang
* Susie Ibarra
* Vijay Iyer
* Mark Izu
* Jon Jang
* Jin Hi Kim
* Robbie Kwock
* Liu Qi-Chao
* Lee Pui Ming (based in Canada)
* Melecio Magdaluyo
* Miya Masaoka
* Hafez Modirzadeh
* Meg Okura
* Gerald Oshita
* Jordan White
* Francis Wong


Asian American Religious Music

While there is much information available on the various practices of different religious worship styles, little information is available on the music of Asian American specific worship. In that respect, it's important to highlight not only artist that are creating religous music, but artist that are affecting mainstream music that claim to be a follower of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, or other religions.

The Korean American Church in America is a forerunner of Asian American Christian practices. In Paul Yoon's dissertation on Korean American church music, he discusses the musical worship style of 1.5 and second generation Korean Americans. Tongsongkido is a "cry-out-loud" prayer practiced within the Korean American church. Korean American church music among this generation could be classified as Contemporary Christian. "Every FPEM service that I attend started with guitar-based contemporary praise music and that night was no exception. The prais team consited of a drummer, a bassist, a guitarist/singer, backup singers, a pianist, and a flutist..." (Yoon 8).
Also, there appears to be a wider acceptance of secular styles of music within the Korean American church. The Korean American Christian Media website, which caters to young Korean Americans states their mission statement as follows

Korean American Christian Media (KAC Media) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that is committed to spreading the message of God's love and grace through online and television media.

"As we strive to be the premiere network for 1.5, 2nd, and 3rd Generation Korean Americans, we aim to produce creative and thought-provoking content that genuinely serves the needs of Korean Americans today. While highlighting churches, organizations, businesses, and individuals in the Korean community, KAC Media provides services, employment, and programs to empower and develop emerging young artists in the arts, film, and media.
It is our hope that with every story and with every effort, we bring people one step closer to God" (

The KAC does not just feature artist making Christian music, but Christian artists using a variety of mediums such as famous rock band Seriously

While much information about Islamic worship music in the US in scarce, there exist other artists who use Islam as the topic of their music. Taquwacore is a type of punk music dealing with Islam and The Komainas are a Punjabi band that use this to express their attitude toward American Islam.

Yoon, Paul, "Christian Identity, Ethnic Identity: Music Making and Prayer Practices Among 1.5 and Second Generation Korean-American Christians"