8.16.2007

Buzzing in NYC, part I: Hsu-nami

I’ve been hanging out in New York for the last several days – meeting and chatting with musicians, checking out shows.

On Friday night (8/10), I saw Hsu-nami at Desmond's Tavern an Irish pub in midtown Manhattan. The Hsu-nami is a rock band based out of New Jersey. On their Myspace, they self-identify as "experimental/progressive/other". To my ear, the band plays a variety of rock sub-styles including metal, psychedelic, prog rock, and even funk. In place of the lead vocal and guitar, there is an amplified erhu, a bowed two-string instrument often used in Chinese classical and folk ensembles. Jack Hsu is the erhu/violin player of the group. He fronts the band with impressive high-energy fast fingering and bowing on the erhu. The erhu is usually played seated; however, Jack plays it standing, almost like a rock guitar. His active body movement occupied the centerstage while accentuating the hyper sonic projection of the Hsu-nami.

Jack Hsu's rock erhu in Hsu-nami has self-consciously displayed the aesthetic tension between the electric modernity of Anglo-American popular music and the traditional organicity of a Chinese classical/folk instrument. The audience seemed impressed by Jack's newly defined rock erhu virtuosity - it cries like a glam rock vocalist at times and shreds like a metal guitar at other times; every now and then, it sings a Chinese folk ballad. Jack Hsu's innovative style of playing and techniques have managed to transform the erhu into a legitimate rock musical instrument. This kind of musical-cultural negotiation is no easy task, if you asked me.

3 comments:

Charlie said...
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Charlie said...

Sounds like a very interesting show. Can not imagine what the sound would be..."rock erhu".

wh said...

Interesting, indeed. Check out their myspace for some sounds - myspace.com/thehsunamirocks