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"

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