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”