Upcoming Events: the Hsu-nami Residency at UVa

I've helped organize a UVA Music Department series of events upcoming this week featuring The Hsu-nami: an unique erhu-rock band from New Jersey (http://hsu-nami.com). Erhu is a Chinese two-string fiddle. Frontman Jack Hsu plays it amplified and shreds it like metal guitar. I met these guys during my field research for my dissertation in New York. The band's two-day residency consists of a performance and a workshop. Details below.

My band Dzian! (http://dzian.info) will perform with The Nakashi Dancers and members of Fire in the Belly (belly dance group).

The Taiwanese Student Association will sell bubble tea at the concert. Come out and celebrate Halloween with us with your costumes, LED's, and happy dancing feet!

Both events are FREE. Please spread the word!

The Hsu-nami Concert, with opening band Dzian!
8:30pm, Saturday, October 30, 2010
The Haven (First and Market St, off Charlottesville Downtown Mall)

The University of Virginia McIntire Department of Music presents a performance by The Hsu-nami, an internationally-renowned progressive rock band from New Jersey. The Hsu-nami became known as the first “progressive erhu rock” band in the world, integrating an amplified “erhu”, a two-string spike fiddle used in Chinese classical and folk music, into an instrumental progressive rock sound. The Hsu-nami’s music is marked by virtuosic erhu melodies and shredding licks in place of vocals, intertwined with heavy guitar riffs, tasteful guitar solos, funky rhythms, and metal-driven rock drumming. Featured in the 2008 Summer Olympic in Beijing, the Hsu-nami’s track “Rising of the Sun” was used as the theme music representing the Chinese Basketball team.

Charlottesville's own nakasi band, Dzian!, will open for The Hsu-nami with a set of Asian a-go-go, surf and garage rock.

Special thanks to our media sponsor, C-Ville Weekly. The Hsu-nami performance is an Arts Enhancement Event, supported by the University of Virginia Provost's Office to increase awareness of and support for the arts. For more information call the McIntire Department of Music at 434.924.3052.



The Hsu-nami Workshop
3:30pm, Friday October 29, 2010
RM 107 Old Cabell Hall, University of Virginia

Members of erhu-prog rock band The Hsu-nami will discuss the band’s unique creative processes and multicultural performance experiences in an interactive lecture. Jack Hsu will demonstrate his "rock erhu" techniques, while discussing traditional and alternative usage of the erhu (a Chinese two-string fiddle). All is welcome.


Nakasi in Longtan

I was admitted into the “Nakasi academy” – figuratively – last Sunday. The sound of a horn drifted across the pond reaching us visitors at the Longtan 龍潭 Temple in Taoyuan. I hurried across the bouncy suspended bridge to the other side of the pond to find a middle-aged, bearded man playing an alto saxophone to a karaoke track coming out a single-speaker PA system.

A musical cowboy, the bearded saxophonist was wearing a white straw cowboy hat decorated with eighth-note figures, treble clef, and other symbols of musical notation, and a pair of matching white-framed glasses. His indigo blue jeans, tugged into his shiny white ankle boots, were similarly adorned with music notational figures. He danced around a stage enclosed by waving flags. These are greeting flags made by the artist himself: “Welcome!”; “Come and dance!”; “Listen with joy; No worries; world peace.” The heavy afternoon shower quickly put a pause to the concert.

I asked to buy the homemade CD-Rs. Another man asked me if I wanted the shakuhachi or the saxophone CD-R. I said, “Both!”

“Here you go. I’m sure your parents would really enjoy these CD’s.” The man happily handed me both CD's and then explained that he’s the shakuhachi player on the recording. President Wu is the president of the Taiwan Shakuhachi Society and gave me his business card. He was surprised that I knew how to say shakuhachi in Japanese. He asked where I come from. I said that I’m Hakka and was visiting Longtan because this was where my grandparents grew up.

“How old is your father?” The musical cowboy asked.

Read the entire post.


A Real Nakasi Experience at a Music Store in Taipei

I had a real Nakasi (那卡西) experience at a music store in Taipei yesterday. The day market had already broken down for the day. I danced around fruit crates and veggie display, making a snack stop at the veggie bun shop across the street. A sign that says “Accordion” is erected indicating the name of the store. Excess signage is a stylistic necessity. One sign catalogs the musical items for sale: saxophone, keyboard, accordion, guitar (Hawaiian), flute, etc. Another sign lists other non-material products such as repair services and lessons. Hung vertically on the veranda is a nylon-string classical guitar enwreathed by un-lit Christmas lights. Accordion shares a storefront with a Chinese herbal shop. I asked the man sitting at a table inside the herbal shop to see if Accordion is open. In Taiwanese, he indicated that I should ring the bell.

I looked and spotted another sign, “to inquire about musical instruments and lessons, ring the bell.” I rang the bell, connected to a home sound system with mismatched speakers mounted above the closed counter space. A male voice answered. I stated my interest for a guitar. He asked, “nylon or steel string?” I said, “steel string. Actually I’m looking for an electric guitar, preferably a used one.” A middle-aged man with a buzz cut opened the window at the counter.

He wanted to know if I’m a serious buyer. “I always get customers who come here wanting to try out my used instruments, but they never make any purchases. They always go for the new instruments now made in China. What I have here is the good stuff—Taiwanese-made instruments. If you want the cheap stuff, you could order the Chinese-made guitar combo that comes with an amp and gig bag for NT$3700. I’ve got those in the warehouse as well.”

I assured him that I’m interested in his second-hand instruments. “I normally bring my guitar to places I visit. But I left it at home this time. Since I will be here in Taipei for more than a month this time, I’d really like to have a guitar around me.”

“Where are you from? Nan-bu (The South of Taiwan)?”

“No, I just came back from America. My father works right down the street at San Xing Dental Clinic.”

He fretted as he dug out a few old guitars that looked to have been manufactured in the 1960s or 1970s. “Some customers try these out. I’m not even sure if I want to part with these guitars.” He picked up a short-scale guitar yellow on the front side. The backside of the instrument seems to have been spray-painted in blue. He took out a red, made-in-Japan guitar of the Fender Music Master style; and a maroon Gibson SG copy with a bigsby whammy bar and a faint “Kay” manufacturer sticker. I couldn’t figure out which company made the other instruments. These guitars seem well-made, but dusty. The strings are rusty. The frets are worn away. Their necks are short-scale than what I’m used to. He noted this as a desirable quality.

"These are good guitars. But they're not fen-da."

The shop owner took out a small Orange amp. “This is a good amp. It was made in Korea.” He plugged in the SG copy. He tuned the guitar by ear playing a major scale, instead of matching the pitches between strings. What an unusual way of tuning it, I thought. I took the instrument, after tuning it for a second time. I started playing some surf rock (The Ventures) and Japanese/Taiwanese enka. He went inside and took out more instruments.

I played more. He seemed thrilled. “That one is called ‘Pipeline.’ We used to play that tune all the time when we were selling medicine, playing in front of temples.”

“Cool! Why ‘Pipeline’?” I asked.

“Ru-nau. For the crowd. You know, it’s The Ventures!” He said while smiling. “I know all those songs that you just played. You know, that song ‘Tears and Wine,’ in Japanese, ‘Sake wa …’. I know that song.”

“What do you play?”

“I play piano.”

He scurried to the back of store to pick out a few more instruments. I heard a faint sound coming out of the speakers. The TV monitor now shows a young boy playing melodies on a violin. An older man accompanies him while playing on a lap steel guitar. Drums and bass sounds are filled in by a pre-programmed keyboard sample.

He said, “See, that’s me. And that’s one of students playing the me-ro-di (he said it in Japanese).”

“Oh you play lapsteel too?”

“Yes, that’s Hawaiian guitar. La-pu-gi-ta. If you want to have a business, you better make sure that you know what you’re doing. What I offer is quality.”

I recognized some of the tunes from the Japanese enka and the so-called “world famous music” repertoire. He went back inside and fast-forwarded to another track on the video. Now it shows him playing an electric guitar. “In the beginning of the song, I was playing the me-ro-di (Japanese). But now I’m playing the ko-ru-do (“chord” in Japanese) to accompany to the main melody on the violin.” A similar keyboard rhythm sample is played in this performance.

“Oh, do you have a band? How long have you been playing?”

“Yes, I have a band. I was playing when there were still black and white televisions.”

He disappeared again. I started picking a few classic nakasi tunes. The video came on again. This time the camera focuses on a diva-esque middle-aged woman singing using a classic karaoke-tone reverb-heavy tone on the mic. A middle-aged man with glasses plays the accompaniment using a combined strings and piano sound on an electronic keyboard. That man is the shop owner. He said, “This was a recording session at TV station. I charge a lot for performances these days. I charged them NT$8000 a day for that session. You go there to record. It takes time to set up. And in case of NG, you have to play the same thing over and over again…”

“I need to start charging people for looking and trying out my instruments. Like your father, I can charge a co-pay of NT$200. That way, I won’t go bankrupted. What do you think? Which guitar do you like? How much do you want to offer for them?”

“I like the yellow guitar because it has a nice tone.” I told him that I’m looking for a guitar with a sweet vintage tone. “But the problem is that this guitar won’t stay in tune.”

“You could have it for NT$2000. It should stay in tune once you start tuning it.” He assured me. He went behind the counter and took an electric tuner out of a box. Then it became clear to him that the guitar does not intonate correctly. I felt bad. He knew that he wasn’t able to offer what I was looking for.

“Forget it,” he seemed irritated. “It’s a waste of time. I don’t want to sell you anything. The kind of guitar you’re looking is at least NT$8000.” He asked me to go. I apologized profusely. I asked him for his surname hoping to reconnect with him. He seemed offended and gestured for me to leave.

What could I do to restore Mr. Accordion’s trust? Should I go back there to buy the yellow guitar? Should I maybe take some lessons from him? Ideas are welcome.

///// More pictures from the original post on my travelogue Sleeplessly Yours.


Searching for Nakashi: Guitar of the Hot Springs Village

Berklee Professor DJ Hatfield (@shoutacre) will be MC’ing and singing a Taiwanese Nakashi song (according to @Jack_Hsu’s tweet today) at Passport2Taiwan Fest at Union Square on May 30, 2010.

I'm particularly psyched about the strong Nakashi presence at the event. Hatfield’s song of choice is 溫泉鄉的吉他 (roughly translated at the "The Guitar of the Hot Springs Village"). I remembered hearing this song on a cassette titled “Taiwanese Oldies” that I took from my mom’s collection last year. The sad minor-scale melody and slow “cha-cha” rhythm (with a guiro sample!) in the song resemble many other songs of its kind - Taiwanese/Holo version of Japanese enka. My Youtube search gives me a sense that this is a popular Nakashi (那卡西) standard even now.

I love this performance by Ah-Lan Band. It was put on by the Beitou Nakashi Cultural Development Association. The spinning disco light, keyboard and sax melancholia, and the heavy vocal reverb project through a cloud of sadness. It looks like we might be accompanying DJ Hatfield’s singing at Passport2Taiwan. Stay in touch for details!

[This post (originally here) represents my new focus: a "Search for Nakashi" project. This series of content exclusively related to Nakashi will be posted on website for Dzian!, my nakashi surf rock band. Read an introspective post on Dzian! and my personal relationship to this music.]


Riding the Wave of Excitement with Dawen

The west-coast-based, Soul/R&B singer Dawen has accomplished much and is expecting much more to come. He has been a guest blogger for Bicoastal Bitchin’ and Slant Eye for the Round Eye. On his U.S. and Asia tour for his debut album American Me, he is blogging for MTV Iggy. A few weeks ago, Dawen performed with Macy Gray on UStream!!! I just found out that the stream is archived. (Dawen reminds us to "fast forward to 22 min. to hear my perform "I Try" for her.")

There's more on the creative front. He's recorded and recorded videos for two covers. Here's Dawen's cover of the Black Eyed Peas' "Imma Be":

This is a promo video for Declare INDIE: happening tomorrow night (Friday) in Chicago, April 16th at The Abbey, 2430 W. Grace St. near the Blue Line Addison stop. Dawen himself has produced this showcase featuring Asian America music talent. Come on out, folks in Chi-town! Check out the Facebook event page. Follow the DeclareINDIE on Twitter.


Press Release: Love4Haiti, 1/23 - a Spectacular Night of Art, Music, and Dance to Benefit for Haitians in Need

Dear Yellowbuzzers,

I've been checked out due to over-commitment. But this is one important commitment. Along with artists/musicians/students, I am co-organizing an art/music/dance SPECTACLE to help raise funds for those in need in Haiti. See below for event details.



Peter Traub
Wendy Hsu

January 18, 2010


Love 4 Haiti: A spectacular night of art, music, and dance to raise funds for Haitians in need, January 23, 2010

(Charlottesville, VA, USA) - A team of Charlottesville's artists, musicians, and students, with the support of local food and book vendors, are coming together for an art/music benefit event to raise funds for the people of Haiti on Saturday January 23, 2010, at Random Row Books.

Love 4 Haiti will be an evening of music and art offerings from local artisans. A silent auction of art works, gift certificates, and dance lessons will begin at 5pm. A kaleidoscopic program of Charlottesville's performing talent follows, including: Fire in the Belly (bellydance), Dzian! (world surf rock), Jdavyd Williams and the Basement Bhaktis (kirtan), Natty Peeps (roots reggae), Shootin Moon (acoustic), Matt Jones (acoustic), Secretly Y'all (storytelling), and many more. Delicious food options donated by local restaurants will also be available for purchase.

All the proceeds will be donated to organizations behind the earthquake relief efforts including Partners in Health (PIH), International Rescue Committee (IRC), UNICEF, and GHESKIO. This event is co-sponsored by Random Row Books, UVa's Global Development Organization, The Bridge PAI, and HzCollective.

Love 4 Haiti
Saturday January 23, 2010
5pm - midnight
Random Row Books
315 W. Main St (Main St and McIntire Rd)
Admission $5

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=260281781865

Contact: love4haiti.event@gmail.com
Wendy Hsu [wendy.f.hsu@gmail.com] | Peter Traub [ptraub@gmail.com]


The Hsu-nami on Found Musik

I've been working on my dissertation chapter on the Hsu-nami the last couple of months. Today I finally got around to watching some of the Hsu-nami's video footage that I had saved over last fall.

The Found Musik video feature of the Hsu-nami is particularly well-done. It contains a band interview and the performance footage of "Entering the Mandala" in its entirety, shot in high-definition. I always love the second half of the song when the tempo goes into double-time. The contrast between melodic lyricism and speed-driven shredding brings out the best of the Hsu-nami thrill. Buckle down, everyone!

Found Musik 4: The Hsu-Nami from Don Fisco on Vimeo.


Tim Be Told: Free Mp3 Download & Tour Dates

Charlottesville's soul-driven rock band Tim Be Told released an exciting EP From the Inside last fall. Here's an opportunity for Yellowbuzzers to download their track "Analyze." Enjoy!

Tim Be Told charges forward in today's postmodernist hybrid sound bringing out the best of American soul and rock. Their sweet soul-driven rock tunes have impressed me since I first saw them perform at the UVa Amphitheater back in 2007.

Go see them live in action!! Tour Dates:

Jan 12 2010 White Rock Coffee Dallas, Texas
Jan 14 2010 Kick Butt Coffee Austin, Texas
Jan 15 2010 Fort Bend Community Church Missouri City, Texas
Jan 16 2010 Houston Chinese Church Houston, Texas
Jan 17 2010 Fort Bend Community Church Missouri City, Texas
Jan 18 2010 Private Show Los Angeles, California
Jan 19 2010 The Living Room Los Angeles, California
Jan 20 2010 University of California Irvine Irvine, California
Jan 22 2010 Hollow Body @ TRiP Santa Monica, California
Jan 23 2010 Stanford University Palo Alto, California
Jan 24 2010 South Bay Sa Rang Community Church Torrance, California
Jan 28 2010 Livingwater Church Berkeley, California
Jan 31 2010 Bay Area Chinese Bible Church San Leandro, California
Feb 3 2010 Oregon State University Corvallis, Oregon
Feb 4 2010 Skagit Valley College Oak Harbor, Washington
Feb 5 2010 Ethnic Cultural Theatre w/New Heights Seattle, Washington
Feb 6 2010 Evangelical Chinese Church Seattle, Washington
Feb 9 2010 University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Colorado Springs, Colorado
Feb 10 2010 Chinese Evangelical Church of Denver Denver, Colorado
Feb 12 2010 The Chapel w/Fundamental Elements St. Louis, Missouri
Feb 15 2010 Elbo Room w/Lucrezio Chicago, Illinois
Feb 17 2010 The Canopy Club w/ guests Urbana, Illinois
Feb 18 2010 Ohio State University Columbus, Ohio
Feb 20 2010 Ishan Gala Benefit Concert Charlottesville, Virginia


Upcoming Series: Understanding Bollywood through music

This sounds totally interesting. I would be there in a heartbeat if I lived in the Bay Area.


Kearny Street Workshop presents:

Understanding Bollywood through music

Every Tuesday starting March 2nd, 2010 7:00pm-9:00 until April 6th, 2010 from 7:00pm-9:00pm.

Located at: KSW@PariSoMa, 1436 Howard St. San Francisco, CA 94110

Join Robin Sukhadia in this 6 session exploration of the magical aesthetic of Bollywood film music. Through screenings, discussions, in-class performance demonstrations, field trips (SF International Asian American Film Festival), and guest lecturers, students will deconstruct the arrangements, themes and structure of Bollywood film songs from the 1930’s to present day.

Bollywood film songs will be used to examine the larger context of South Asian culture. Film-viewing, readings, lecture, and discussion will introduce students to Bollywood dance/costume, issues of gender roles and marriage, reaffirming the values of family and duty (dharma), Hindu-Muslim conflicts, and the resurgence of nationalism. Films will be in Hindi with English subtitles; no knowledge of Hindi or Indian culture is required to take this course.

Special focus will be given to some of the great film composers, including SD Burman, Naushad, RD Burman and AR Rahman. The influences and impact of playback singers such as Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Rafi and Mukesh will also be explored. Sequences from the following landmark Bollywood films will be presented for discussion: Maqbool, Omkara, Mughal e Azaam, Dil Se, Sholay, Qurbani, Silsila, Jodhaa Akbar, Lagaan, Devdas, Umrao Jaan and more.

Registration is $180 individual or for a recession bust bring a friend! Which in turn will bring both registrations down to $150.

For more info or to register please visit kearnystreet.org/understanding-bollywood-through-music


Interview of Yours Truly in The C-Ville

The C-Ville did an interview as a part of the Open Studio series of me recently. Here's the interview: