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.” (kacmedia.org)

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." Guardian.co.uk. 28 Apr. 2007. 26 Apr. 2009.
[6] “Interview with Koti Hu” USAsians.net. 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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTfVHKjT1GA

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) <http://asianweek.com/111298/coverstory.html>

Asian American Hip-Hop Musicians Wikipedia (March 17, 2009) <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Asian-American_hip_hop_musicians>

www. Aznraps.com

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, http://www.starla.org/articles/aam.htm, Retrieved April 20, 2009 Interview with James Iha, guitarist of the Smashing Pumpkins and A Perfect Circle

http://www.allaboutasians.com/asian-music5.html . “Asian American Pop/Rock at AllAboutAsians.com” 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 http://www.explode.com/media/asianrock.shtml – 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:

-ROSE ANN DIMALANTA (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rose_Ann_Dimalanta)

-KEVIN SO (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiCc4fzRJlk)

-JENI (http://margeauxs-mix.ew.com/2009/01/jeni-fujita-ind.html)




Cassie “Me & U” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6EJZtQjiYA
Amerie “One Thing” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xa1qaAcJG70
Amerie “Touch” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zs0tub17v3E&feature=PlayList&p=6D45D545ACE74C23&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=17
Cohen, Johnathan. “Diddy: Cassie CD Will Catch People ‘Off Guard.’” Billboard.Com. April 7th 2008. NY. Date accessed: 3/15/09 < http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003786642 >

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

[1] http://www.asianwisconzine.com/0808FredHo.html
[2] http://www.aajazz.org/
[3] http://www.asianimprov.org/about.htm
[4] http://www.aboutus.org/AArising.com
[5] http://www-personal.umich.edu/~akstill/CyberGuides/AsAm_CyberGuide/jazz.htm
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asian_American_jazz

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" (kacmedia.org).

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"

Asian American Pop

Asian American Pop


Asian American (AA) pop is the genre of mainstream musicians that are (in whole or in part) Asian American (America referring only to the US and not other countries in North or South America).  Although the definition of “pop” music constantly changes, the presence of Asian Americans has persisted, albeit in a backseat [1].  Some question the visibility of Asian American pop stars, such as New York Times columnist Mireya Navarro [2].  Others provide explanations to help clarify the dearth of AA musicians, including Andy Goldmark, former vice president of talent at Jive Records who stated, “Asian-Americans have tended to follow what’s going in the pop world rather than use the Asian-American path to invent new things” [3] and Oliver Wang, professor and music journalist at California State University, “Asian-American artists face other challenges. Making up only 4 percent of the country’s population, they are too small a market, and too fragmented in language and nationalities, to offer a solid springboard for its aspiring stars the way other ethnic groups have done” [4]. 


Early notable AA pop musicians include James Shigeta, a Japanese American singer who had a career in Las Vegas nightclubs [5].  Pat Suzuki, another Japanese American singer, was scouted by Bing Crosby and later appeared on popular TV shows such as The Frank Sinatra Show [6].  She also appeared on Broadway in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song. Other Japanese Americans include the well-known Yoko Ono, whose art and music career began before she met John Lennon.  Although a list of Japanese American musicians already exists on Wikipedia, here is a list of the more “pop” AA artists:  Marié Digby (Japanese-Irish American), Lisa Furukawa (alternative pop), Kina Grannis (Japanese-English-French-Welsh-Irish-American), Miki Ishikawa (part of teen pop band T-Squad), Jhene (African-American-Japanese-Native-American), Sean Lennon (son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono), Mallory Low (Chinese-Japanese-Hawaiian-Filipino member of girl band Party Slumber Girls), Olivia and Caroline Lufkin (Okinawan-American), Nikki, Miyoshi Umeki (in Flower Drum Song as Mei Li but also active as a singer off-Broadway), Hikara Utada, and Rachael Yamagata (Japanese-Italian-German).


Korean American pop stars include Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Susie Suh. 


Chinese American pop stars consist of Don Ho (Chinese-Hawaiian-Portuguese-Dutch-German descent), his daughter Hoku, Vanessa Hudgens (Filipino-Spanish-Chinese-Irish-Native-American descent), William Hung, Kelis (although R&B, her music still crossed over to the mainstream, she is African-American-Chinese-Puerto-Rican), Coco Lee (contributed to the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon soundtrack and was the first Chinese person to perform at the Oscars [7]), Vienna Teng, KT Tunstall (Chinese-Scottish-Irish and Scottish born), Lee-Hom Wang, and Vanness Wu. 


Filipino American pop musicians include successful record producer Chad Hugo of the Neptunes and Nicole Scherzinger (a mix of Filipino, Hawaiian, and Russian) of the Pussycat Dolls.  The Black Eyed Peas also has a Filipino MC, Apl.de.ap (usually referred to as Apl) who has incorporated Tagalog into some of his work, such as the song “Apl” and “Bebot.”  According to Rachel Devitt, using Tagalog in mainstream music serves as a political and social commentary on US-Filipino (post)colonial relations and the diasporia now living in the US: “‘The APL Song,’ ‘Bebot,’ and their videos lay claim to the hip hop diaspora, employing its transnational language to interpolate the annals of hegemony with the experiences that have systematically slipped into its cracks. At the same time, the songs and their videos tap into rich Filipino lineages of (post)colonial artistic and cultural resistance. Interweaving history and historiography, swirling story around story, ‘The APL Song’ and ‘Bebot’ draw multiple lexicons together into a performative vernacular that speaks to just what ‘contentless’ mainstream pop music is capable of” [8].  Other Filipino American pop musicians include Cassie (African-American-Filipino-West-Indian-Mexican), Jocelyn Enriquez (Dance-pop), Hoku and Vanessa Hudgens who are both part Filipino, Enrique Iglesias (Spanish-Filipino), Jennie Kwan (a member of Nobody’s Angel), Mallory Law (mentioned previously), June Millington (part of the band Fanny that signed with Warner Brothers Reprise Records in 1969, the second all girl rock band to be signed to a major record label [9]), Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, and Maile Misajon (member of Eden’s Crush).


Other famous pop AA musicians are Michelle Branch, a mix of Irish and Dutch Indonesian.  Norah Jones, the daughter of Ravi Shankar, is a blend of Anglo-American and Bengali-Indian descent [10].  Tony Kanal, bassist for American band No Doubt, is of Indian heritage (and originally from England).  Another American mainstream band from England with Asian American members is Bloc Party, with member Matt Tong on drums and backing vocals.


Finally, other famous Asian American musicians who have found some mainstream attention (ranging from moderate to high amounts) include Daphne Loves Derby (vocals of Kenny Choi, Korean American), James Iha (Japanese) of The Smashing Pumpkins (who now is also part of A Perfect Circle), Mike Shinoda (Japanese-European-Native-American) of Linkin Park, Doug Robb (Japanese-Scottish) of Hoobastank, Matt Wong the former bass and backing vocals for Reel Big Fish, Sean Paul (Chinese-Jamican-African-Icelandic-Portuguese), Hiro Yamamato the bassist of Soundgarden, and Teppei Teranishi the lead guitarist and keyboardist of Thrice.


All of the above has focused on specific Asian American musicians.  There exists, however, Asian American music genres, such as the emergence of remix music from the desi youth culture in New York City, or bhangra music.  Although bhangra is only indigenous to the Punjab, it serves nonetheless as a language for the second generation of South East Asians.  Most famous in this scene is DJ Rekha, a female musician who is attributed for “almost single-handedly spearhead[ing] New York's bhangra scene, Rekha is regarded as a pioneer in the South Asian music community” [11].





[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/04/fashion/04asians.html?scp=3&sq=asian%20american%20pop%20star&st=cse

[2]  Ibid.

[3]  Ibid.

[4]  Ibid.

[5]  http://www.goldsea.com/Personalities2/Shigetaj/shigetaj.html

[6]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Suzuki

[7]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coco_Lee

[8]  Rachel Devitt “Lost in Translation: Filipino Diaspora(s), Postcolonial Hip Hop, and the Problems of Keeping It Real for the ‘Contentless’ Black Eyed Peas”  Project Muse University of Washington http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/asian_music/v039/39.1devitt.pdf

[9]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_Millington

[10]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norah_Jones

[11]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DJ_Rekha


External Links:

[1]  DJ Rekha CNN Interview: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DJ_Rekha

[2]  Link to a list of Asian American musicians (not an exhaustive list, but extensive): http://aarising.com/aalink/musart.php

Monday, April 20, 2009

Asian Americans in Classical Music

Since the 1970s, Asian Americans have been gaining ground in the genre of classical music. “Asians comprise less than 5 percent of the total population of the United States, but at prestigious music conservatories, such as Juilliard, Eastman, Curtis, and the New England Conservatory, they make up a disproportionately high percentage of the student body.” [1] But this fact seems like a paradox. Why is it that so many Asian Americans, especially those of East Asian descent, occupy spaces in these prestigious schools of classical music, a genre that originated in the high society of Western Europe? “Asians’ success in this field is often thought to exemplify their assimilation into Euroamerican culture.” [1]
But does this seemingly successful assimilation mean that Asian American classical musicians have a strong political voice? According to Yoshihara, they do not. “Although Asian American musicians relate in different ways to cultural elements they identify as Asian, on the whole, most are not active in Asian American organizations or engaged in exploring political or cultural issues related to their Asian identity. Many are simply too busy practicing and performing to have time for such activities. Having spent as much as eight or ten hours every day practicing since early childhood and having placed a priority on music almost all their lives, these musicians tend to be removed not only from Asian American activism but also from any issues not directly connected to their lives as musicians.” [1]

According to Mari Yoshihara [1] there are different classifications for Asian American Classical musicians:
• Asian American
o Merely a descriptive rather than political/social identity
o Many are sheltered in conservatories
• International
o “discovered” by American teachers
• Immigrant Geniuses
o Midori
• Migrant Performers
• Transnational Offspring
• “Hybrid” Asians

Asian American Classical Musicians
• Akira Tana [2]
o Born March 14, 1952 in San Jose California
o Self taught drummer
o Studied Jazz drumming
o Has worked with Al Cohn, Tete Montoliu, Spike Robinson, James moody, Dizzy Gillespie
• Yo Yo Ma [3]
o Born October 7, 1955 in Paris, France
o Took up cello at age 4
o Performed for JFK, with Leonard Bernstein by age 15
o Plays in Silk Road Ensemble
o Known for his smooth, rich tones and well considered for his virtuosity
o Has won several Grammys for various works on albums
• Midori Goto [4]
o Born October 25, 1971 in Osaka, Japan
o Taught violin by her mother
o Moved to New York to study at Juilliard
o Legendary performance at Tanglewood at 14
• Sarah Chang [5]
o Born December 10, 1980 in Philadelphia, PA
o Admitted to Juilliard School at 6
o By 8 was accepted to play with New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra
• Kyung-wha Chung [6]
o Born Mrach 26, 1948 in Seoul, South Korea
o Fame peaked in 70s when she was performing with Zukerman and Perlman
o By age 9 was playing with Seoul Philharmonic
o Moved to US at 13 to study at Juilliard
• Margaret Leng Tan [7]
o Born in 1945 in Singapore
o Studied at Juilliard at 16
o Most famous for performing on toy pianos and other unconventional instruments
o Pioneer in prepared piano playing
o Met John Cage in 1981 and worked together for 11 years
• Vanessa Mae [8]
o Born October 27, 1978 in Singapore
o Moved to England when 4 years old and known for making regular appearances on TV shows
o Violinist
o International professional debut in 1988
o Broke away from traditional classical music to enter pop music scene; appeared in Janet Jackson’s “Velvet Rope”
• Lang Lang [9]
o Born June 14, 1982 in Shenyang, China
o Began playing piano at age 3
o By age 5, won Shenyang Piano Competition and performed first public recital
o Featured soloist at China’s National Symphony’s inaugural concert at age 14
o Made Carnegie Hall debut in 2001 to sold out audience
o Performances are love by some, but reviled by others citing inexcusable, soggy rhythms and heavy phrasing
o Was a feature of the 2008 Beijing Olympics’ opening ceremonies
• Seiji Ozawa [10]
o Born September 1, 1935 in Shenyang, China to Japanese parents
o Because of sports injury, could not play piano so turned to conducting
o Became music director of Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1973, a position he held for 29 years
o Has also conducted the Metropolitan Opera, the Berlin Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, and Vienna Philharmonic
• Zubin Mehta [11]
o Born April 29, 1936 in Bombay (Mumbai), India
o Father was founding conductor of Bombay Symphony Orchestra
o Made conducting debut in 1958 in Vienna, and was then appointed assistant conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
o Became musical director and principal conductor of New York Philharmonic in 1978
• Tan Dun [12]
o Born August 18, 1957 in Changsha, China
o Composer most known for composing scores to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero
o Studied at Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing and Columbia
o Incorporates influences form upbringing in China, his classical training at conservatory, and contemporary composers in New York into compositions

Classical Music with Asian American Themes
• Pucinni’s Turandot
o Title comes from Persian word meaning “the daughter of Turan”; Turan is a region in Central Asia
o Puccini strove for a semblance of Asian authenticity so many influences from traditional Chinese can be heard
o Was banned in China for many years because the government saw it as an unfavorable portrayal of China
• Puccini’s Madame Butterfly
o Based on book about events that occurred in Nagasaki in early 1890s

[1] - Yoshihara, Mari. Musicians from a Different Shore : Asians and Asian Americans in Classical Music.
[2] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/akira_tana
[3] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/yo_yo_ma
[4] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/modori_gotō
[5] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Chang
[6] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyung_Wha_Chung
[7] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Leng_Tan
[8] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanessa_Mae
[9] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lang_Lang_(pianist)
[10] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seiji_Ozawa
[11] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zubin_Mehta
[12] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tan_Dun

Asian Americans in Musical Theatre

The genre of American musical theatre emerged in the first half of the 20th Century as a form of theatre that used integrated song and dance to move the plot forward. In terms of American musical theatre in relation to Asian Americans and Asian American music, there are two categories of discourse: 1) Representations of Asianness within the musical (musical and lyrical representations, characterizations, etc), and 2) Musicals that include Asian actors or actors of Asian descent.

Representations of Asianness within the American Musical

Since the beginnings of American musical theatre, there have been representations of Asianness in the plot. Perhaps one of the earliest representations of Asians in musical theatre was in Cole Porter’s Anything Goes (1934), which included two Chinese “converts” and reformed gamblers named Ching and Ling. Sir Evelyn also admits to having a one-night stand with a young Chinese woman, who is mentioned in passing.

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s South Pacific (1949) features main characters who are Asian. The musical is set on two islands in the South Pacific during WWII and certain songs within the musical, such as “Bali Ha’i,” evoke an island feel. However, according to Rodgers, the melodic themes of South Pacific were not based off of traditional island music, but were themes that he had imagined would sound like they were from the island [2]. The following Rodgers and Hammerstein production, The King and I (1951), also features Asiatic main characters. The musical is based on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens and tells the story of an English governess who goes to Siam to teach the king’s children. It includes European and Siamese cultures both in terms of content and musicality. This is demonstrated in songs such as “Hello, Young Lovers,” “Getting to Know You,” and “Shall We Dance.”

Flower Drum Song (1958), by Rodgers and Hammerstein, is the first musical to be specifically about Asian and Asian American cultures. Based on the novel of the same name by C.Y. Lee, the musical is set in San Francisco’s Chinatown in present time. The musical has four main characters: Linda Low, an Americanized female; Sammie Fong, an Americanized male; Mei-Li, a traditional Asian female; and Wang Ta, a traditional Asian male. The inclusion of characters of varying degrees of Asianness is used to juxtapose the Asian and the Asian American cultures. One criticism of the musical is of the song “Chop Suey” and how it “celebrates American culture as defined by a white popular culture, not the ethnic pluralism that the title suggests” [3]. Another criticism is of the song “I Enjoy Being A Girl,” which highlights the stereotypical qualities of an American girl. The musical emphasizes the importance of such “Asian” qualities as honor, family, and background.

Other musicals that are set in Asia or are about Asian characters include Pacific Overtures (1976), with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and Miss Saigon (1991), with music by Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyrics by Alain Boublil and Richard Maltby, Jr. Pacific Overtures is about the Westernization of Japan and features musical themes built around the pentatonic scale, which is used in traditional Asian music. Miss Saigon is based off of Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and tells the story of an American soldier fighting in the Vietnam War who falls in love with a Vietnamese prostitute. It includes certain traditionally Vietnamese elements in songs such as “The Ceremony (Dju Vui Vai),” but also images of the American Dream in songs such as “The Movie in My Mind.”

Although the Tony Award winning musical Avenue Q (2003), with music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, is not specifically about Asian or Asian American characters, it does deal with subjects such as racism and stereotypes. Its ensemble cast features a Japanese American character, Christmas Eve, who is married to a Caucasian male. In the song “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” a song about racial slurs and discrimination, she sings about how the term “Oriental” is “offensive.” Her strong Asian accent and fractured English is highlighted in the song “It Sucks to Be Me” as she sings “It suck to be me! I say it Sucka-Sucka-Sucka…” [4].

Asian Actors or Actors of Asian Descent in American Musical Theatre

During the early stages of American musical theatre, Asian or Asian American characters were often portrayed by actors in “Yellowface,” who were not Asian or of Asian descent [5]. For example, the original Broadway cast of South Pacific starred Juanita Hall, an African American actress, as Bloody Mary, an islander from the Pacific islands [1]. Hall also starred as Madame Liang, a Chinese American character, in both the Broadway and film versions of Flower Drum Song. At the same time, Flower Drum Song was one of the first musicals to feature a mostly Asian cast [1].

In the 1990’s, the production of Miss Saigon in London’s West End became highly controversial since casting directors had decided to cast European American actor, Jonathan Pryce, as the Eurasian pimp. The casting of a non-Asian actor in an Asian role was protested by the Asian American Theatre Company and many Asian American artists. However, “[producer] Cameron Mackintosh and his associates maintained that casting Pryce in the lead was purely an artistic decision” [6]. Despite the controversy involving the casting of Pryce, he continued to play the role of the pimp after the show moved to Broadway [1].

Ironically, another star of the original cast of Miss Saigon, Lea Salonga, was the first Asian actress to play the role of Eponine in Les Miserables on Broadway, a musical about the French Revolution [1]. She has also played the role of Fantine in the same musical.

Another well-known Asian American musical theatre actress is Ann Harada, who originated the role of Christmas Eve in Avenue Q. She has also played the traditionally Caucasian role of Madame Thenardier in Les Miserables on Broadway [1].

[1] www.ibdb.com
[2] Broadway: The American Musical, PBS documentary
[3] Wang, Oliver. “Between the Notes: Finding Asian America in Popular Music”
[4] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPvZVdHDB4E
[5] Yellowface by Krystyn R. Moon
[6] Wei, William. “Who Am I? Creating an Asian American Identity and Culture”

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pssshhh, Ain't You Chinese?

Huong's 3/24 response

“Yeah, I’m Chinese. And what?” I think this opening line to Jin’s song, Learn Chinese represents the crux of the message he tried to get across to his audience. According to Wang, Jin “flips the race card back by embracing his racial differences and uses them to ridicule his rivals.” Listening to Learn Chinese for the first time, I didn’t pick up on some of the subtle references towards his ethnicity, but upon a closer listening, I heard the familiar pentatonic scales with the lowered 3rd scale degree playing in the background in a very twangy “Asian” way. But then over top of this very stereotypical Asian sound, Jin is rapping, “STOP, the chinks do it again/ This ain’t Bruce Lee, ya'll watch too much T.V” This creates for himself an identity as an Asian American rapper – but not one to be lumped with every other Asian American – he is unique.
I think Jin’s whole idea of uniqueness and breaking away form stereotypes really comes across in the skit titled, Chinese Beats. Again, I think this track really hammers home Wang’s argument that Jin was flipping the race card to break free from stereotypes very well. The DJ that is supplying beats for Jin is under the impression that Jin would want to have all the very oriental sounding beats and effects in his music because in all the beats that he has laid down, there are these elements. In the first beat, you can hear the stereotypical cymbals and oriental sounding instruments somehow being altered to sound even more oriental. Then again in the second beat, you can hear the pentatonic scale with a zither like instrument also being altered to make it sound more foreign and oriental. Jin rejects all the beats that the DJ has laid down and says that “I am trying to change the game.” I really like the last line of the skit, “pshh. Aint you Chinese?” said by the DJ laying down tracks of which none were picked by Jin to use. I think it throws in the face of the listener the fact that Jin is not going to be your stereotypical Asian American artist, but that he is trying to break these bounds and create his own image.

Chris A Tuesday Resp

Listening first to rapper Jin's track "Chinese Beats" and reading the skit's lyrics/conversation, I immediately picked up on Jin's use of sly humor but also, his maintenance of a distinct seriousness essential to hip-hop songs and the quintessential rapper image. Since Jin is Chinese, the opposing character in the skit who proposes multiple beats proposes all which aim to express Asian identity through the music and instrumentation. While hearing the beats the [guy] is dropping for Jin, Jin maintains his sanity and his patience in hearing these ignorant representations of 'Orientalized' music. After multiple beats resounding repetitively with synthesizers of somewhat nasally timbred plucked strings, Jin finally exclaims “I need that fire yo I need something different: I'm trying to change the game.” After one final try of a beat with the same instrumental characteristics and including a small flailing female voice, the producer displays total misunderstanding of Jin's goal in finding a beat, calling her “Chinese Caroline”: mocking the tasteless blend of cultural elements and eventually calling it absolute garbage.
In the rhythm of “Learn Chinese” (another Jin track which resonates with Asian-American self-awareness and pride), Jin's ethnic identity is conveyed through the song's lyrics as well as the musical imagery, yet the style melds more into contemporary hip-hop than those beats heard in “Chinese Beats.” In “Learn Chinese,” the beat gravitates more around the bass movement, which seems to have a uniquely twanged timbre compared to the excessively booming bass many rap beats strive for. As the chorus arrives, its distinctly plucked and highly “Orientalized” tone displays a smoother blend of cross-cultural elements, unattainable in “Chinese Beats” due to their highly Americanized sounding appearance. In lieu in extracting the Asian-American identity of the performer as the highlight of the musical instrumentation, Jin (in “Learn Chinese”) promotes his identity by conveying it within the context of the hip-hop music, adding subtle “Orientalized” instrument lines which he cleverly raps over expressing his strength in Asian-American identity. By speaking the language of hip-hoppers (using traditional contemporary templates for his songs(including a booming bass, memorable chorus, and also a verbal rap hook), his message becomes clear and resounds with the listener following a listen.
Oliver Wang, in an analysis of “Learn Chinese” highlights Jin's ability to verbally debunk cultural stereotypes of Asians in his rap. Not only are his lyrics as mainly positive on this front, but his music conveys this same point as well. Through his seemless blend of notoriously African-American hip-hop elements with some foreign, almost “Oriental” timbres, Jin is able to exact his identity as an Asian American hip-hopper in two ways: on both musical fronts. In an earlier example in this same article, Chops of the Mountain Bros. (Asian American musicians) sang, on "Invisible man": “sit in the aisle in the back of class silent//'cause I can't relate//debate is about race, today that makes me out of place//only a two-sided coin so me I'm thru trying to join...//I'm disagreein with steven believin even the blind could see//that ebony and ivory could never be applied to me" (pg 7), summing up American racial awareness and also displaying the dichotomy of race in our society. Relating directly to the lyrics of Jin, which also echo the same feeling unnecessary of disclusion in the highly dichotomous racial view of mainstream society, both lyrics attempt to attack Asian-American mis-representation in extremely clever ways. Although their commercial successes have not attainable on the large scale of superstar-dom, both groundbreaking acts definitely blaze the trail for not only Asian-American, but also, other minority musicians to show their own unique identity through song and lyrics.

the undefeated champ, the asian american lyricist: jin

In attempts to cross boundaries placed on the hip-hop industry (attributed to its origins and roots as primarily an African American art form), a large majority of Asian American hip hop artists have decided to emphasize their talents, rather than focus on their racial identity, as if not to allow their ethnicity to function as a gimmick for their success. This allows audiences to focus on their talent as an artist as a means to counteract the opinions of their critics. This phenomenon plays a role in obtaining success for other non-black hip-hop artists. I can easily recall Eminem’s debut and how hip-hop fans received him: “He’s pretty good for a white boy.” But was it the Eminem’s race that made him a successful rapper overnight, or was it the concept of his “real” or “gritty” upbringing that made him relatable to hip hop audiences?

Similar to Eminem, Jin crosses racial boundaries by becoming one of the most famous Asian American rappers. I remember watching BET’s 106 & Park each Friday to see who he would challenge and even how ecstatic I was upon his induction into the Rap Battle Hall of Fame, after being undefeated for (7) weeks. Looking back I have to question what was the “it” factor that made Jin so successful? What made audiences acknowledge his potential? Oliver Wang argues that, “[R]ather than downplaying these [racial] differences as previous rappers had, Jin strategically embraced them, drawing attention to his race, in attempt to minimize it” (Wang 55). It was no secret that Jin was Asian American and he consequently chose not to neglect his identity in his quest to become a successful hip-hop artist. Wang argues, “Jin recognized that his audience could not ignore his racial difference, and he was effectively daring potential critics to make an issue of it” (Wang 56).

Jin directly addresses his racial identity several of his rap songs; he tackles race by intending to refute stereotypes of Asians (or Asian-Americans). Listening to at least one track on Jin’s debut album The Rest is History offers substantial evidence as to how Jin goes about proving himself as a rapper. Wang’s analysis of Jin’s first single “Learn Chinese” supports the notion that Jin “racialize[s] himself without being prompted” (Wang 56). He opens the track with the line: “Yeah, I’m Chinese […] and what?” Here, Jin lays it out on the table that he is Asian and it’s almost as if he dares any contender to challenge him. The track’s rhythm is very much a typical hip-hop beat, “laced” with an Oriental riff, one would say. In addition to the music, Jin’s lines are full of countless stereotypes of the Asian, followed by lines that reject these stereotypes. Instead of the Chinese delivery man, Jin asserts this new identity of the hypermasculine Chinese man; a gangster who, in turn, represents all Asian Americans, which is portrayed through the lyrics of “Learn Chinese”: “The days of the pork fried rice and the chicken wings / coming to your house by me is over” or “and the only po-po we know / is the pigs on the hook out by the window.”

I do agree with Wang’s analysis and would even go beyond it to say that the reason for Jin’s success can be attributed to his approach and attempts to merge two identities that don’t necessarily fuse well: his Asian-American identity and rap as an African-American form of music. Whether or not this fusion functions as a gimmick, it certainly can account for Jin’s mainstream success and his existence in the rap industry. Even the title “Learn Chinese” alludes to the idea that audiences will accept Jin, as an Asian American and as a rapper.


What is Jin trying to do? What does he contribute to the rap? Well, he has demonstrated with his songs and his style that even Asian American can conform to the rules of the rap game. His style, music, and the story he tells appear to be just as contrived as any other rapper out there. He has contributed nothing but the sterotypical rapper in an Asian American wrapper.

Yes, he confronts his Asian American appearance head-on. Wang states that Jin's goal was by "tackling his racial difference head on...he attempted to get his potential audience to look past his race and focus on his talent" (Wang 57). But the problem I see here is that, we don't get any deeper than he's Chinese. What unique experience does he bring to the table other than the fact that he doesn't look like the average rapper?

"Chinese Beats" is interesting as it plays up the Asian sounds using a high pitch "ting" and picking sound that is associated with China. It's a funny skit that just repeats the same sound over and over again in a different rhythmic form. Jin goes from irritated to completely angry, as he states he's "trying to change the game" and the beatmaker keeps giving him the same thing.

"Learn Chinese" is an oversexualized, overly violent version of Chinatown. The beat grooves easily underneath Jin's witty rap with Chinese phrases and words thrown in between the chorus. The bridge consists of a chorus of women first singing and some Chinese and then immediately goes into the women singing in English about the sex appeal of "Mr. Jin" Jin tries to dispel the image of Chinese men being weak and unmasculine by surrounding himself with hoards of beautiful, exotic black and Asian women who praise him.

Well, I guess if Jin's goal was to "change the game", he hasn't changed much of it.

responding to Jin

I believe Oliver Wang is wrong when he accuses Jin of "willingly racialized himself without being prompted." It's true that "Learn Chinese" opens with the statement: "Yeah. I'm Chinese ... and what?" Oliver Wang interpreted this as both an affirmation and a challenge, effectively "daring potential critics to make an issue of it." However, even before listening to the tracks, it was my interpretation that this song wasn't starting with challenge, but a continuation of a meta conversation and his answer with a dismissal. After listening to the two tracks, which also happen to be sequential, one notices that the end of track 8(Chinese Beats) ends with the line "psh! ain't you Chinese?" This confirms my original thought that this wasn't a challenge but a response. It makes sense that Jin composes and arranges his tracks as a whole, and this was just a way to bridge two tracks.

I think that Steven and Mia's interpretations of Chinese Beats amply describes what Jin was trying to do with this track. My basic interpretation of it is that Jin doesn't want his race to be the only characteristic that people know about him. I think by having this track as a skit on the album instead of a song highlights the importance of the meaning. Jin easily could have created a song with lyrics that express the same meaning. However, often a song with a meaning hidden in the lyrics, the meanings go misinterpreted or even missed. I think by conveying his message by this skit, it would be hard for a listener to miss or misinterpret.

I find it interesting that no one thus far has offered up a full interpretation of "Learn Chinese" and that most have only focused on the first line "Yeah, I'm Chinese and what?" I admit I don't listen to rap, nor do I know anything about lyrical analysis but I thought it would be fun to try. While, I don't get the point of this message, I feel that some parts have more meaning than the literal translation. For example the chorus "Ya'll gonna learn Chinese" I don't believe it can be taken literally that someone is going to learn the language Chinese, I take this as a play on the sometimes ambiguous meaning of the word "Chinese." Does "Chinese" refer to the language or the people? I think in this case, Jin is saying he is going to educate the listener on Chinese people. The line "When the pumps come out, ya'll gon' speak Chinese" I believe this means that when you see the truth about Chinese people, it's going to be scary like going face to face with a pump shotgun, and you'll be speaking gibberish(like Chinese sounds like to most people, at least specifically to the audience Jin is singing to). This idea is reiterated with the lines "And the battle of the gun is gonna make you speak another language and amigo I ain't talking about Spanish". I see Jin as trying to break the model minority myth, to show that Asians can be dangerous, something to be feared. Jin seems to be saying, I might not be Bruce Lee but I'm still to be feared. "This ain't Bruce Lee, I watch too much TV. this is a game of death when I aim for your chest". I think the line "And the only po-po we know is the pigs on the hood out in the window" also has a double meaning. It first gives the imagery of a pig hanging outside a restaurant in Chinatown, however, pigs on the hood out in the window may be implicating a more violent scene of a policeman killed and splayed across the hood of a car. Either way, it seems with the line "the only po-po we know," seems to be saying that Asians have to look out for themselves, because they do not have law enforcement on their side. I bet that as a class we can probably do better than what I have done alone. I think it would be interesting to see what people think of some of my interpretations.

You want to say I'm Chinese/ son, here's a reminder/ check your Timberlands/ they probably say "Made in China"

“I’m no Eminem/ but I’m not wack either/
The only reason you compare me to him/
Is because I’m not black either.”
These lyrics from the song “I Don’t Know” are a clear indication of Jin’s awareness towards his Asian identity and its function in the hip-hop world. As Oliver Wang stated, “Jin was intimately aware of how race played into perceptions of him…both [he and Eminem] played up their racial difference as a way to disarm potential critics” (56).
In his song “Learn Chinese,” Jin acknowledges the issue again with his terse and introductory exclamation “I’m Chinese…and what?” According to Wang, this is both a challenge and an acknowledgement of his Asian identity, his way of “calling-out” the critics before they do it to him. The lyrics also point to a desire from Jin to establish his own place in the rap world as an MC not modeled not on others. Jin does not want to be aligned with Eminem, the other non-black rapper, but rather prefers being “China man.” Finally, he challenges Chinese stereotypes in his song hoping to create a Jin devoid of such images as a delivery boy or Bruce Lee and instead build one on the ideas he provides like, “And your girl, she love the Jin motion, rub it on her body like body shop lotion.” While he confronts the effeminate Asian male stereotype often lamented by the Asian American community, the alternative he offers is not necessarily any better. Is a nerdy, feminine Asian man any better than a hypermasculine misogynistic Asian male? In my opinion, no. It’s simply trading one bad fortune cookie for an old piece of watermelon – in other words, he switched stereotypes: “Jin failed to create an alternative to the problematic construction of black masculinity; he was merely changing the face of it” (Wang 56).
An interesting part of Jin’s “Learn Chinese” is the typical Orientalist riff he utilizes, a rhythm often associated with Asians and what was examined earlier in the year in Flower Drum Song. His intentions are unclear on whether incorporation of the stereotypical sound was meant to be satirical, but it would logically follow from Jin’s attentive lyrics and his racial awareness that he employed this background against his words for a reason. Perhaps this was his juxtaposition of traditional (or what has been traditionalized for Asian American) versus new, American’s vision of the East living in the West as oppose to Jin’s vision of the East/West embodiment.
“Chinese Beats (Skit)” offers an insight into Jin’s struggle to effectively and comfortably fuse his race and his music. His rejection of the “Chinese Beats” at the end of the track and his vocal frustration speak to the obstacles he faces: the always prevalent suggestion of using Orientalist riffs and the expectation for him to like Orientalist riffs because he is Asian. While I commend Jin for his smart rhymes, I cannot but agree with Wang on his statement concerning Jin’s face over black masculinity. His “black” masculinity does not hide the fact that women are moaning his name while embracing his “Jin motion.” Should we celebrate? The new Asian American male paradigm is a Chinatown gun-totting, sex machine. But in order to be fair, Jin’s lyrics should then be held to the standards of his peers, which, if anything at the time, were more than willing to encourage this machismo behavior. Should the responsibility fall on Jin, as an Asian American male, to uphold different virtues? Or does this suggestion just circle back to the model minority?

"Chinese Beats" and "Learn Chinese"

According to Oliver Wang’s article “Rapping and Repping Asian,” Jin has been called “the Golden Child” perhaps largely due to his success and exposure in the hip hop world. Since hip hop is an industry that has closer ties with the African American community, both Jin and other rappers such as Eminem have had a more difficult time being accepted. One reason for their success, according to Wang, is that “both played up their racial difference as a way to disarm potential critics.”

Listening to Jin’s tracks “Chinese Beats” and “Learn Chinese,” both tracks display the fact that he is Chinese very openly and address and attack some of the prejudices against being Chinese. In “Chinese Beats,” Jin displays his power and influence since the track is mainly about how he does not approve of the beats or material that he is presented with. Unlike the stereotypical images of the Asian male, Jin really asserts himself in this song and voices his opinions. By doing so, he portrays an image that is the opposite of the passive, demasculinized Asian male.

In “Learn Chinese,” Jin does add certain “Asian” elements within the music. The rhythm of this song is especially interesting. They seem to be syncopated, which is a common expectation of Eastern Music that is not necessarily true. However, in closer examination, the beats are not actually syncopated, it just sounds that way. The issue is in the 3rd beat as the rhythm goes 1, 2, 3+, 4. At times the 3rd beat is de-emphasized by using a quieter percussion instrument or left out all together. Other times, the 3rd beat is emphasized with a louder instrument. This unexpected twist creates an illusion that the beats are syncopated when they are actually fairly straightforward. This song also includes certain Asian elements such as the use of pentatonic scales in certain riffs. What’s also interesting is that the song was produced by Wyclef, so this is another example supporting the idea that non-African American rappers need African American producers to be successful.

Jin’s ethnic background is made obvious in these songs. Wang’s analysis only focuses on the lyrics and not the music itself. He states that in a way, Jin kills “the archetype of the Chinese delivery boy in favor of a hypermasculine Chinatown gangsta.” Wang also says that Jin may have portrayed Chinatown in a negative manner since he emphasizes the dangerous aspects of the neighborhood, a stigma that residents of Chinatown have been trying to get rid of for years.

I agree with Wang in that Jin does come across as hypermasculine through the use of sexual images such as. I also agree with Wang in that Jin falls into “problematic constructions of black masculinity” by rapping about being a gangster in a dangerous neighborhood. However, Jin does combat the discriminations and stereotypes placed against him and does include some aspects of his ethnicity in his music.

As for the negative images, hip hop music is a genre that portrays hypermasculinity, violence, and is demeaning to women. So unless people decide to stop buying music with these negative images and the genre changes, successful hip hop artists and artists who are trying to become successful will continue to make music with these themes.

Jin Assignment - Mia

At the turn of the century (2000), Asian American hip hop artists began to use their Asian American identities in a new way -- to influence the way their audiences perceived race. Jin, arguably the most famous Asian American hip hop artist of the past decade, “strategically embraced them, drawing attention to his race in an attempt to minimize it.” (55)

At the beginning of “Learn Chinese,” Jin states “Yeah I’m Chinese…and what?” For Wang, this is both an affirmation and a challenge to his racial identity. By blatantly calling out his heritage to the public, Jin was “effectively daring potential critics to make an issue of it.” (56) Aware that “race played into the perception of him,” Jin sought to address the issue head on. (56) With the incorporation of pentatonic scale or “oriental riff” throughout “Learn Chinese,” Jin is further identifying his ethnicity and challenging critics to comment on his ethnicity.

In “Chinese Beats” however, Jin seeks to demonstrate something different. The producer continues to play tracks for Jin that have east Asian instruments as part of the beats including the zute family of sting instruments, specifically the pipa? This skit is a parody, as the producer cannot look past Jin’s ethnicity to provide him with a beat that does not include some kind of “oriental riff.” The two go through numerous tracks, as Jin states, “thats coo' u know but I need something different yo…” But song after song has an Asian sound that Jin seeks to distance himself from.

In this sense, we see too sides of Jin: one embracing his ethnicity and the other shying away from it. He knows that by using sounds that are associated with his East Asian heritage on EVERY one of his tracks, he will begin to hurt himself as he becomes more of a novelty and becomes less “universal.” Universal is something that Jin aims to achieve as he attempts to illustrate a commonality between himself and his audiences.

Wang goes on in the article to draw comparisons between Eminem and Jin in the hip hop world. Wang boasts “Jin and Eminem prodded listeners to confront the specter of race, forcing skeptics to confront their own biases.” (57) The two hip hop artists are able to make this very sensitive issue more identifiable. Jin asks his audience to find a commonality and “rather than broadcasting these issues just to an Asian American audience he sought to educate and entertain a broad, implicitly multiracial audience.” (59)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Jin and his sick skillz

As a Chinese-American rap artist, Jin acknowledges that he is not only a member of the hip-hop community but also represents Asian America as well. Unlike the Asian rappers before him, Jin embodies the new breed of Asian rappers who take the initiative and “strategically embraces” (as Wang points out) his racial differences. Jin makes his ethnicity visible to his audience—making sure his listeners know that he is not afraid of being different. As Wang points out, rap and hip-hop both have close ties with the black community. Even though this creates many difficulties for Asian American rappers, Jin’s success is proof that there can be a “viable space of acceptance and success” for future Asian American rappers.

In looking at Jin’s single, Learn Chinese as well as the skit that precedes it on his CD, we can focus on the intricacies of Jin’s music, and see how he deals with the issues of race and identity. Starting with the skit, Jin purposely brings to the forefront the racism which he faces on a daily bases. Instead of glossing over such phenomenon, Jin uses the skit, in which an individual brings to Jin some beats and demos, to show the ignorance and assumptions of those around him in the industry. As the skit opens, Jin is heard being very receptive(and possibly optimistic) of potential material—but visitors comments reveal questionable tastes. As the beats start to play the individual states “it’s like my Chinese club joint,” and later exclaims to another sample “It’s Chinese Outkast…Chinese Caroline.” All the while, Jin becomes more dismayed at the samples lack of any quality or style. (And impatience at this individual’s shallow belief that since Jin is Chinese, everything he does must be somehow Chinese as well) These samples are purposely made to sound “Orientalist,” full of discordant plucks of strings and virtually pentatonic scales. Jin is eventually fed up and proclaims “When the fuck does the beat drop?!” Followed soon by “That shit is garbage!” The other individual, in a sincerely exasperated tone (seemingly shocked that Jin, the Chinese rapper, would be so against his samples full of “Asian style”) replies”Pssssh, ain’t you Chinese?”

The track then immediately transitions over to his song Learn Chinese. The first line has Jin, almost replying to where we last left off with the individual, “Yeah I’m Chinese, and what?!” We see through the skit (its overt sarcasm and witty use of the ignorant individual) as well as Jin’s reaction and reply that he is not afraid to address the issue of race. Furthermore, as Wang states, Jin “flip[s] the race card back on his opponents by embracing his racial differences and then using it to ridicule his rivals.” (53) Even though Wang is talking specifically about Jin’s freestyle approach, we can clearly see Jin’s use of his ethnicity in order to make those who are ignorant of the complexities of race (like the individual in Jin’s skit) appear as the real loser. In doing so, Jin forces the audience to recognize his ethnicity and respect him for it.

Assignment: Analyzing Jin

Analyze Jin’s tracks “Chinese Beats” and “Learn Chinese” on his album Rest is History. Both tracks are posted on Collab. Read the lyrics:

"Chinese Beats"
"Learn Chinese"

Listen to the rhythm closely. Your analysis should focus on Jin’s expression of his ethnicity. Discuss what Oliver Wang says about Jin and “Learn Chinese.” Comment on Wang’s interpretation: you can support or challenge his claims by offering your own interpretation of Jin’s tracks.

Post your analysis on the class blog by 7pm, Tuesday March 24. And make sure that you read your peers' posts and comment whenever appropriate.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wikipedia Assignment 3: Sketching a Draft

Great work, everyone! Make sure that you take the time to read everyone's post and comment on them.

Here's the list of the guiding questions that will help you formulate the next draft. Some of these questions may be more relevant than others for you.
  1. What stands out the most in your research? Is it history? Number of figures? Important figures? Dates? Representational styles? Communities? Scholarly literature? Connections to historical/social events?
  2. Which scholars/writers have written on your subject? What do they say about it?
  3. What is the significance of this genre in Asian America?
  4. How are you defining "Asian American" in your research?
  5. What strategies are these musicians (or the music industry) using to represent themselves?
  6. Is everything empirical and factually supported?
  7. Is there anything that would fall into another section?
  8. Is there anything that would fall into the introductory section?
Next Wikipedia Assignment Due: April 14, 2009. Plan ahead!