Burka Band: Arty with Conviction

I'm totally blown away by this music and story. Burka Band is an electronic music group consists of three Afghan women. The group has never performed in Afghanistan but two of the members have performed in Germany. Burka Band is now disbanded. The vocalist now lives in Pakistan. The band members' identity as musicians has remained undisclosed despite their popularity in Germany and on the Internet. Using pseudonym "Nargiz", the drummer has commented on the difficulties of performing music in public in Afghanistan. Read more here.

In their "Burka Blue," they sing about Muslim women's practice of wearing a burka. Most of the lyrics are descriptive. But their deadpan, Cibo-Matto-esque [and Yoko Ono-esque!] vocal delivery strikes me as being slightly ironic. Their outfits - an enormous burka-like fabric that covers not just their heads but their entire bodies - seem to me an extended, arty expression of a burka. I don't know how it feels to be wielding a burka, like an instrument, or an extension of the body. But this makes me think that "Burka Blue" is beyond irony because it's not just about the musicians' distance from the cultural norm. It may have something to do with a kind of elaboration of the cultural practice. This elaboration is both subversive and sincere, with a kind of religious conviction [maybe this interpretation is informed by my recent reading of Michael Muhammad Knight's The Taqwacores].

Listen to the original track of "Burka Blue" and a remix by Barbara Morgenstern. Read about the production process of the song and the formation of the group.

All I know is that my curiosity of Burka Band surpasses my desire to work on my dissertation right now. [I think I'm addicted to blogging now.]

Ameiloooo Covers Thao's "Bag of Hammers"

A Google Alert directed me to a YouTuber Amelioooo’s cover of Thao Nguyen’s “Bag of Hammers.” I dig the harmonizing "bass line" played on the lower strings of the ukelele. There's a little bit of vocal de-tuning, characteristic of Thao which, I think, requires an added inebriated effect to make it work. Expect to hear a fun, smart performance using ukelele, salt shakers, and vocal harmony.

Here’s the original by Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, if you’re interested in making a comparison. What do you like/dislike about the original? What do you like/dislike about the cover version?


You Better Dance Or Else It's Your Loss: Bamboo Shoots Wields Rhythmic Discipline

I have a secret. I’ve been listening to Bamboo Shoots 2006 Blue EP non-stop since I saw their show at Alley Katz in Richmond, Virginia on March 15. This disc has been spinning in my car stereo system for about 6 weeks now. Its groove leeches on you and your internal organs. This disc is a party, whether you’re ready to move or not. No joke. I have been failing miserably at resisting the temptation to put this disc on repeat.

Based out of the New York metropolitan area, linking the Jersey suburbs, New York, and Brooklyn, the five-piece band Bamboo Shoots has been making groove-oriented indie eletro pop since their first show at the Pianos in New York City in 2004. The band stems from a close, long-term collaboration project between two friends Avir Mitra and Karl Sukhia that started in their pre-college years in South Jersey. Notably, in 2007, Bamboo Shoots won the MTVu Best Music on Campus contest after qualifying to be in the final round of 50 and then surpassing all other contestants by the grassroots support of votes from family and friends around the world. Packaged along with the prize were instant media exposure – a live performance on Late Night with Conan O’Brian – and a major record deal with Epic.

Before their load-in, Bamboo Shoots met me for an interview at a Thai restaurant nearby the club in downtown Richmond. They thoughtfully answered my questions about their music endeavors and experiences. They talked about the centrality of rhythm in their music, their South Asian musical influences, experiences of growing up within the South Asian community in New Jersey and negotiating their parents' expectations for professional career like medicine, engineering, or finance. Interestingly, Karl used the analogy of “coming out” to describe the process of divulging to his parents his passion and pursuit for music making. Our conversation evolved into an informal chat about music gear (geeky!) and their DIY plans for touring India [documented on the band blog]. At the end the interview, Shiv turned the table around and asked me about my research findings.

More photos from this performance

It was a particularly rainy and foggy night in Richmond, unfortunately. Despite the low turnout, Bamboo Shoots played a high-energy, crowd-pleasing set consisting of songs from their 2006 EP and the more recent “Hey Girl” and others from Music for Cotillions, a mixtape web release in spite of their contract with Epic. Ankur’s percussion was low in the mix - a disappointment, personally. Nevertheless, I had a blast moving to the syncopated rhythmic texture and tension between guitar and keys, drum set and bongos (and drum machine!). Who says that indie rock lacks rhythmic depth?

The best way to enjoy their music is to throw all objects aside and feel the music through moving the body. Bamboo Shoots will perform on June 14 at Public Assembly in Brooklyn. The performance is a part of Northside Festival in Brooklyn that features NYC bands. At my next Bamboo Shoots’ show, I will ditch my duty to capture media. I will dance freely following their disciplined rhythm in abandonment. Who’s going to watch my field recording devices? Also, there better be some bopping and swinging en masse. Who’s in?

Heavy Metal in Baghdad Available for Online Screening

YellowBuzz's write-up about the film.

New Video: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's "Young Adult Fiction" Directed by Art Booparn

This is a video of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's song "Young Adult Fiction" just posted on Pitchfork TV. New-Orleans-spawned filmmaker/musician Art Boonparn shot it on Super 8. I'm impressed by the productivity of Art and the band. I remember Art saying that he was going to drop off the film he shot for this video the day we met to chat in the East Village on Monday, March 30. Video edited, done, and posted in less than 1 month!

Look out for some cuddle action, real human skeletons and warm eye pleasures.

Check out video project number 1 by the same team: "Everything With You"


Call for Students: Global Pop, Summer Session II @ UVa

street art in Taipei taken on my research field trip, 2007

I'm teaching a course this summer at the University of Virginia. The course is titled World Music: Popular Music and Transnationalism. Here's the blurb I've been using to publicize for the course:

MUSI 207 / 307: World Music
Global Pop: Popular music and Transnationalism

Summer Session II 2009: June 09, 2009 - July 07, 2009

This course applies theories of globalization, transnationalism, and postcolonialism to explore the relationship among popular music, identity, and geography. We will read critical interpretations of international and national icons such as Wyclef Jean (US/Haiti), Cibo Matto (US/Japan), Manu Chao (Spain/Latin America), and many others; and historical and ethnographic narratives about Reggaeton, Indonesian punk, Latino/a punk, African hip hop, British Asian dance music, Asian Pop (KPOP, JPOP, CPOP), Muslim American punk (Taqwacore), etc. while analyzing related audio-visual materials.

An in-progress version of the course syllabus is now posted.

It seems kind of strange to "advertise" for a course as if it's a product or a show. But it is my livelihood. Spread the word, please.


Pictures: Thao and The Get Down Stay Down in Charlottesville, 4/16/09

I really need to learn how to properly shoot with my SLR. Most of the time, I rely on my familiarity with the artists style of performance and their songs to anticipate photographic moments. My spontaneous shooting non-techniques lead to creative and happy accidents sometimes, or a trash can full of digital image debris at other times. I hope to develop some beyond-point-and-shoot photography skills this summer.

These are a few of my favorite shots at Thao and The Get Down Stay Down's most recent show at the IS venue in Charlottesville on 4/16/09:


Adam and member of David Shultz and the Skyline

Thao jamming with the guitarist of David Shultz and the Skyline

More pictures from this set.


YellowBuzz Makeover

I was talking with my friend Todd Pitt, a social media specialist, about Web 2.0 today. Our conversation inspired me to spread more blogospheric love.

Here's step one: a YellowBuzz makeover. I spent a part of this afternoon tweaking HTML and CSS and came up with this. The background image came from photo I recently took at the Thao and The Get Down Stay Down show at the IS venue in Charlottesville. I thought that it was about time to enliven the interface with some vivid colors.

Let me know what you think of the makeover!


Pictures: Bamboo Shoots @ Alley Katz, RVA 3/15/09

I finally got around to post the photos I took at the Bamboo Shoots show at Alley Katz in Richmond, Virginia on 3/15/09. I will follow up with a write-up in the next few days. Here are some of my favorite shots.

Avir Mitra

Karl Sukhia


Ankur Patel

Ankur and Ahmed Mahmoud

More pictures from this set.

Bamboo Shoots on CNN India!

Bamboo Shoots were interviewed on CNN-IBN India on their recent India tour. It looks like the Indian press loved Bamboo Shoots and that the band succeeded in spreading their passion for music.

More media and report from the Bamboo Shoots band blog.

More Wang Leehom's "Chinked-out" Tracks

I decided to post the rest of Wang Leehom's "chinked-out" tracks from his 2006 album Heroes of Earth.

Track 1 "Zai Mei Bian " (在梅邊) - check out the digital manipulation of Beijing Opera vocal samples and the rhyming in the end:

Track 2 "Mistake in the flower field" or "Hua Tian Cuo" (花田錯) - Wang plays an erhu solo in this ballad (he says in English, "Listen to my erhu):

Track 3 "Heroes of Earth" (蓋世英雄) - featuring Chinese American MC Jin (rapping in English and Cantonese) and syncopated rhythmic collage of Chinese percussion and vocals:


Experimental MandoPop?: Wang Leehom’s Compositional Chops

A couple of my students in my Music in Asian America seminar are writing their term papers on the Taipei-based ABC (American-born Chinese) pop singer Wang Leehom. Their projects re-piqued my interest in Wang Leehom’s music, particularly his 2006 album Heroes of Earth (蓋世英雄). At the last annual meeting of Society of Ethnomusicology, I heard a smart paper written by Anthony Sheppard, a musicologist faculty at Williams College. Incidentally, Sheppard taught Wang Leehom in college as Wang majored in music and took courses on world music and western art music.

Wang Leehom uses the term “chinked-out” to distinguish this album from the others. This project traces and builds on his Chinese ethnic roots. Referencing the academic discipline of ethnomusicology, Wang explains the creative processes of collecting and learning traditional Chinese music. Before jumping into a cultural critique of Wang for his usage of the derogatory epitaph “chink”, I want to make a few comments on his music.

I’m not a big fan of Mandopop love ballads. Digging through the songs on this album, I found four tracks of such chinked-out style. (I'm tempted to disrespect the integrity of the album to make a playlist of only the chinked-out tracks.) Wang deconstructs melodies and instrumentation drawn from Beijing opera and folk styles from the minority groups of China. Remixing and sampling these sounds, he recombines these elements while integrating them the common song form in pop and R&B genres. I’m impressed by his songwriting skills. In particular, I am impressed by his songwriting skills in track 9 of the album “Move Over” or "Rang Kai" (讓開). In this song, he mixes samples of Chinese cymbals and digitally synthesized bass beats with a bleak dissonant trumpet track providing a syncopated rhythmic environment for rhyming and the interspersing melody of “In the Summertime”. Wang’s diction changes from a straight-ahead hip hop rhyming style and R&B vocal style to a Beijing-opera inflection. A mash-up experimentation!

I’d love to sit down and analyze these tracks when I get a chance. But for now, I just want to put Wang Leehom on the map for YellowBuzz readers.

Here's the official music video of Wang Leehom's chinked-out ballad (track 2 on the album) titled "Mistake in the flower field" or "Hua Tian Cuo" (花田錯):


Thao and The Thermals 7" Release for Record Store Day

Thao and The Get Down Stay Down and The Thermals, a Kill Rock Stars compatriot, put out a 7" single recently. On the Thao side of the record, there is a previously unreleased track and a cover of "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind" by the Lovin' Spoon.

This split record is released by Kill Rock Stars for Record Store Day (April 18, 2009). Visit your local record store to get a copy of your own!

Bamboo Shoots Back from India Tour - Airport Security Blues

I was just browsing Bamboo Shoots' blog to follow their India tour. The tour is over. Ahmed, Ankur, and Avir flew back together. On the blog, Avir posted about their experience of being the subjects of a "random" search at the U.S. customs. I can't help but think: Is this a toned down version of racial profiling? It sounds like Avir (and maybe the rest of the guys in the band) experiences this regularly. Anyway, here's the story directly from Avir.

I thought that I have it bad traveling with my guitar effects and electronics across the Pacific or up and down the east coast. At least with me, I feel as if it is my gear -- and not my body -- that is under scrutiny. The dehumanizing treatment by airport security, I believe, is an example of what Foucault says about the state's disciplining of the body, although not quite as severe incarceration. Individuals are stripped of (their rights to have) garment, possessions, and privacy. My father, who travels between Virginia and Taiwan regularly, has a mildly subversive tactic dealing with airport security. With pride and a friendly smile, he always wears his khaki color baseball cap with the U.S. flag stitched in every time he makes an international trip. He told me that wearing this hat lessens his chance of being searched.

After a quick search for TSA culture jamming, I found a video/performance activist project by Evan Roth. The aim of the project is to produce "ongoing research, activism, and performance that aims to give citizens an active voice in the theater of security":


Media Player Now Installed + New MP3 Downloads Now Posted

I just found a convenient media player to mount on this blog. From now on, it's much easier to stream and download MP3 files from YellowBuzz. To stream, hit the arrow; to download left-click on the link to "save link as."

Here are a couple of tracks by Thao and The Get Down Stay Down that I just found:
"Bag of Hammers"
"Beat (Health, Life, and Fire)"

Here's one by Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers posted on Love Shack, Baby:
"Woman Sets Boyfriend on Fire"

And don't forget to check out the MP3 downloads listed in the right panel of the blog interface.


Thao @ IS, Cville now!

Thao and The Get Down Stay Down in Charlottesville tonight. The picture is kind of blurry because it was taken on my phone. :(


Hsu-nami Approaches Stardom

New-Jersey-based erhu rock band Hsu-nami just released their second CD: The Four Noble Truths [available on CD Baby]. I bought a train ticket and left on the Amtrak at the butt crack of dawn from my town in central Virginia in order to catch their CD release party at Arlene's Grocery in lower east Manhattan on 3/28/09.

Crammed into the basement of Arlene's Grocery was a sea of Hsu-nami fans. The band is well loved by a strikingly heterogeneous crowd. From disparate communities--the band's college buddies to Taiwanese student groups such as FTSANY and ATANY, as well as Asian American organizations such as CAPA, and Taiwanese American groups like Passport to Taiwan and TaiwawneseAmerican.org--they stood and danced in synchrony to celebrate this event. I joined two other videographers in the front row of the audience to shoot the performance with my old-school mini-DV recorder and SLR camera. Next to me stood Irene of FTSANY, an avid Hsu-nami fan who started the Hsu-nami Street Team. She boasted to me that she brought at least 40 people to the show. I commended her for her work.

Hsu-nami's performance was spectacular that night. Jack's erhu performance had an impeccable sound and intonation. Jack, Brent, and Tony exchanged solos stepping in the spotlight, shredding on their respective instruments with precision and strength. Derril and John fired rapid and powerful bass tones. Four bodies moved in formation some times pairing up, other times prancing to the pulse of the music. These guys knew how to excite a crowd. By the end of the night, the staff at Arlene's Grocery stayed, however voluntarily or reluctantly, for a few post-last-call encores to accommodate the zealous partiers.

Between the end of the set and the band’s encore reappearance, one 20-something-year-old guy shouted from the audience, almost in desperation, “I want your erhu.” Presumably he was impressed by Jack’s performance. Maybe this is the beginning of a testament to Jack’s erhu-rock-stardom. They’ve got the fandom, the hype, and the cross-cultural connections. I’d say, Hsu-nami is fast approaching where they want to be.

Here are some of my favorite shots of the show:

Jack on erhu




More pictures from this flickr set.

Pictures: Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers

I took some pictures with my nice camera at Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers' show at the Mercury Lounge in New York on 3/28/09. Here are some of my favorite shots from the evening.

More photos captured at this show. I posted a review of this show earlier this month.


My Transpacific Musical Experience: Grapefruit Experiment + Nigel Brown in Taipei, Summer 2008

Nigel Brown, yours truly, and Carey Sargent @ Nanhai Gallery, 6/27/08

I finally got around to posting the live tracks from a performance I did last summer in Taipei. This time it was my duo, Grapefruit Experiment. At this show, we invited our friend Nigel Brown to sit in with us. Originally from Australia, Nigel is a Taipei-based computer/accordion improviser who is one half of 12 Dog Cycle with Alice Hui-Sheng Chang. The duo is now actively performing during their temporary residency in Paris.

One of the tracks from our collaboration:

Visit here to download or listen to the other tracks.

Dodging Bombs, Playing Heavy Metal: Reflecting on the Film Heavy Metal in Baghdad

What's it like to be an Iraqi musician playing music of "foreign", "Western", or American influences? How does one live as a musician or an individual in contemporary Baghdad? Produced and Directed by Eddy Moretti and Suroosh Alvi and presented by VICE magazine, the documentary film Heavy Metal in Baghdad offers some answers to these questions contributing to a much needed public discourse about the social life of Iraqi citizens living on the cusp between life and death. The film premiered on the Sundance Channel last month.

The film documents the story of an Iraqi heavy metal band Acrassicauda tracing its transformations from rehearsing in the basement of a commercial building during Saddam Hussein's regime, through dodging bombs while facing death threats after the U.S. invasion and the reactive insurgences, to fleeing to exile in Syria. The story focuses less on the band's music than on their lives as musicians and Iraqi citizens living in tumultuous war violence and tribulations. It also shows the emotional centrality of this music in the lives of these musicians and fans. Acrassicauda's drummer Marwan Riyadh describes his powerful connection to heavy metal succinctly: "If I didn't play drums as hard as I can, I'm going to kill someone."

Acrassicauda perform a show powered by a generator at the Al-Fanar Hotel in Baghdad, 2005.

One member of Acrassicauda says, "It's so amazing that we're still talking and breathing." Since the making of the film, Firas al-Lateef, Marwan Riyadh, and Faisal Talal of Acrassicauda have fled to Istanbul, Turkey. Recently, they resettled in the United States, with the help of International Rescue Committee and the director/producer of the film Alvi, now living in New York, New Jersey, and Michigan. They're working hard to get their ends met, finding instruments.

In Iraq, the band identified with the West and the United States singing in (North American) English, listening to Metallica, and wearing Slipknot tshirts. I'm anxious to follow the band after their relocation to the U.S. How will they survive in the U.S. declining economy as Iraqi refugees and musicians? How long would it take before they have sufficient time and funds to start playing music again? How will they distinguish themselves from all other U.S. metal bands? What will they write about in their songs? Will they change their sound?

A couple of weeks ago, Terry Gross of Fresh Air on NPR did a 40-minute interview with lead singer Faisal Talal, drummer Marwan Riyadh, and director/producer Suroosh Alvi. The interview highlights the in-between status of their political existence and the experiences of their forced migration. On the NPR story page, one can also screen the entire film. For those interested, VICE has made a page for those who consider making donations to the band.

Declare INDIEpendence: Upcoming AA Music Showcase in Chicago

Dawen Wang and COCOhead Productions in association with the Foundation of Asian American Independent Media presents:

Declare INDIEpendence! 2
Wednesday, April 15th
2011 W. North Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
17 and over

Featuring: Spark*Shop, Lanialoha & Kupono, Cynthia Lin, Wallet-Sized Photo
with host Narciso "Seeso" Lobo, DJ Huu T. Ly and special guest: Dawen



Press Release: Taiwanese American Cultural Festival

This came through today. Johnny Hi-Fi will be performing. I saw them last fall. They were fun!

Aborigine Performers Cross the Ocean for San Francisco Show
Taiwanese Aborigine Singers Come to Union Square

San Francisco, California, May 9—On May 9th, San Francisco's Union Square will come alive with the sounds of traditional Taiwanese folk music when Taiwanese Aborigine music group O-Kai A Capella Singers performs in their American debut.

The O-Kai singers have performed at the National Concert Hall in Taipei, as well as in Shanghai, Vienna, Milan and Rome. However, this is their first West Coast performance. Their cultural festival appearance will be followed by a May 10th performance at the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival.

The O-Kai A Capella Singers, who are from the Atayal tribe, one of Taiwan's 14 recognized aboriginal groups, will perform on Union Square as part of the 17th Taiwanese American Cultural Festival. In 1999, Congress designated the second week in May as Taiwanese American Heritage Week to recognize the contributions of Taiwanese Americans. This year's theme, "Green Taiwan Touch Your Heart," celebrates Taiwan's natural resources and the island's advancements in green technology. Food, demonstrations and interactive displays will also be part of the celebration.

In addition to the O-Kai Singers, the main stage will feature another Taiwanese folk group, the Hsieh Yuwei Ensemble, which will also perform at the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, as well as Taiwanese American performers such as the indie-rock group Johnny Hi-Fi, which was featured as an "Artist of the Month" in Billboard Magazine's Underground series.

The Taiwanese American Cultural Festival runs from 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday, May 9th, 2009. Please see www.sftafest.org for more information.

If you would like to interview any of the performers or organizers for the festival, please contact Shawna Yang Ryan or Pam Tsai at the above emails.

Thao in charlottesville 4/16

I found this poster at a pizzeria in my town today. Thao and the Get Down Stay Down will be coming through Charlottesville next Thursday 4/16. Who wants to join me?


Press Release: LUMINANCE

This came through in my email a few days ago.

The Loft at UC San Diego Presents

Featuring Sam Kang, Olivia Thai, Seriously, and Jennifer Chung
The Loft at UC San Diego
Friday, April 10, 2009 / 8:00 PM
Doors: 7:30 PM
UCSD Price Center East, 2nd Floor
La Jolla, California
General Admission: $8
UCSD: *Pay As You Can
858.534.TIXS or www.theloft.ucsd.edu

The Loft shines a light on these rising Asian-American stars. Watch them illuminate the stage as they break into the mainstream.

Facebook Event: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=69479474928&ref=ts
Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=73174582106

YellowBuzz <3 Media: Free MP3 Downloads

I decided to add a new section to YellowBuzz. This section lists all the free mp3 downloads that I've encountered in my research. These downloads have either been posted by the artists themselves or with their permission. I thought that I would make it more convenient for everyone to access them.

The list is placed on the panel on the right side of the blog interface under the heading "MP3 Downloads." Let me know if you come across any other downloadable songs!

Also, I'm now on Twitter!


Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers: Vocal Prowess and Ecstasy

Brooklyn-based Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers came head-and-body strong on stage. Formerly of the critically acclaimed Beat the Devil, with her immense vocal presence, Shilpa Ray enveloped the medium-sized performance space at the Mercury Lounge in the lower eastside of Manhattan on March 28, 2009. She pumped the bellows of her vintage harmonium, in glossy black paint with gold trims, generating a powerful harmonic pulse. [The harmonium sound, however, could be louder in the mix, in my opinion.] Playing the harmonium at a rock show, I learned, is no easy task. Shilpa’s harmonium kept sliding off of its platform. But this didn’t deter her and the rest of the band from putting on an ecstatic show. With a zealous vigor, Shilpa flexed her vocal cords while brandishing her arms, shoulders, and head to harness energy.

With a whimsical sense of humor, Shilpa entertained her audience laughing and telling jokes and stories between songs. She started talking about languages. “I wish it’s my second language but I was born here.” Someone in the audience asked, “What’s your second language?” She replied, “My second language is Bengali.” She chuckled and then went onto to explain, “Bengali are the people who would pick up their shoe and then throw it at the people they want to pick a fight with.” She then started telling a story of how her uncle taught her how to put a shoe in the face of a guy at a fish market. “And I was six!” With a playful ferociousness, gesturing the Bengali technique of shoe-threat, she growled at the audience, “You’re enjoying our music, right?” The crowd was sold on her stage charisma.

The band didn’t seem like they had a set list for the evening. Shilpa screamed, “Coward!” Then she launched into the harmonium intro of their song “Coward Cracked the Dawn.” A great song! The radio edit of this song can be downloaded from RCRDLBL_. Also, available as a free download is "Filthy and Free" on Brooklyn Vegan.

Shilpa Ray extend the capacity of both of her sounding mechanisms - voice and harmonium. It was BIG. I think the powerful sound of Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers projected far into the neighboring borough of Brooklyn on the other side of the Williamsburg Bridge that night.

Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers will be releasing their first album in the spring. The band just announced some dates for their Midwest tour. Go see them!

Here’s Shilpa Ray’s solo performance of “Beat St. Louis” on MTV Iggy.


SXSW, Part 4: Meeting Steven Chen of The Airborne Toxic Event

The last of my adventures at SXSW was meeting Steven Chen, the guitarist of L.A.-based The Airborne Toxic Event. The band just signed with Mercury Records. When I found out about their SXSW appearance, I sent a message to TATE's manager. Steven wrote back expressing eagerness to help with my project. We made plans to meet at the Driskill, a hotel on highly adorned classical architecture one block away from 6th Street in downtown Austin. On Saturday, I texted TATE's manager when I arrived at the hotel. He apologized that the band was running behind their schedule and was still at the Rolling Stone interview. I waited. [I think I saw James Iha in that same hotel lobby.]

My connection to Steven Chen makes a fun story. My cousins Pete and Dan grew up in Arcadia near L.A. Last summer when I visited them in California, I told them about my dissertation topic on American indie rock musicians of Asian descent. Pete said that I should talk to Steven Chen, a family friend who got his first guitar lessons from Pete. Pete apparently helped Steven pick out his first guitar when he was a kid.

Steven, the rest of his band, and their manager eventually showed up. He introduced me to TATE. We sat down at the bar and chatted for almost an hour. He told me stories about his Taiwanese parents and their expectations, as well as his former career in music writing and masters thesis project on Asian American filmmakers. We had a fabulous time exchanging stories about our careers, families, and perspectives on Asian American social issues.

I unfortunately missed TATE's performance that day because I had to catch a flight out of Austin. I found two really good SXSW pictures of Steven (taken by Joshua Hammond) on another blog. I look forward to seeing them perform in the near future. Rock on, Steven!


SXSW, Part 3: Embodying "Geography" with Thao and The Get Down Stay Down

The buzz on the street was to go see Thao at Momo’s on Friday night at SXSW. It was our first SXSW official showcase experience. The event required a SXSW conference badge (which costs about $600!!) or a $10 admission fee. The conference distinguishes the showcases from the “day parties” by booking big names at established venues for the showcases. Arriving early, we discovered an entirely different crowd at the bar. Clad in business casual attires, the badge-holding music industry representatives, major or indie, congregated around the bar while mingling and passing business cards over the music of Austin’s neo-Soul/R&B group T-Bird and The Breaks.

I hovered in the back while gearing up for Thao’s set. I heard a car pulling up in the street and people walking up the fire escape stairs in the back of the building. Thao and I exchanged greetings as she walked through the back of the bar to enter the green room. A total fan girl, I rushed over to the front of the stage to secure a good spot for the show. I met a number of young badge-holding Thao fans who were taking pictures of themselves and transmitting these digital images via their shiny iPhones. Unabashedly I made my way through the increasingly thickening crowd and camped out in front of the center monitor speaker onstage.

Thao and her band The Get Down Stay Down began their set after the announcer introduced them. After the first (new!) song, Thao greeted the crowd. “Good evening. It’s a pleasure to see you. We wore collar shirts for you, except for Willis who prefers the V-neck.” The crowd embraced Thao’s quirky, small-townish humor. Thao took her audience on a profoundly pleasurable ride bellowing out the chorus sections of “Beat (Health, Life and Fire)”. During “Geography”, we fan girls and fan boys in the front row ripped our throats singing parts of the song, while Thao briefly turned away from the mic to listen to our screaming vocals. I took full pleasure in abandoning myself during Thao’s crybreaks making myself believe in the pains of social and emotional distance. It’s been a long time since the last time I dived into a full-fledge vocal participation at a show. Touched by our participation, Thao said, “We were beautiful on that. I think we just made love. That was gorgeous.”

check out other SXSW pics

Another highlight was Thao’s playful reference of Salt ‘N’ Peppa’s “Push It.” As if beat-boxing wasn’t enough, Thao rapped over the beat she set off in our heads, rhyming the verse, “Yo, yo, yo, yo, baby-pop / Yeah, you come here, gimme a kiss / Better make it fast or else I'm gonna get pissed / Can't you hear the music's pumpin' hard like I wish you would? / Now push it.” She made a riot in the crowd.

The band played a full-hour set. But the Thao “Beat” continued to ring in my head for the rest of my Austin trip.

Austin radio station KUT recorded the evening's sets. One can download the live audio recording and view video segments of Thao’s set.


The Kominas - Taqwacore Muslim Punk

Last night on the Asia Pacific Forum, a radio program devoted to social issues, politics, and culture in Asian America, featured The Kominas, a Boston-based Taqwacore Muslim punk band. The name of the band "Kominas" in Urdu means "scumbag." Like many punk bands, The Kominas write and play politically charged songs, in their case, concerning with issues such as homophobia in the American Muslim community, anti-colonialism, immmigration, etc. Having a strong transnational presence, the band has worked to introduce punk to Pakistan. More recently, The Koaminas played at SXSW 2009 in Austin (I'm bummed about missing their set) and in Brooklyn last weekend. They expect to play in Brooklyn again, under the Brooklyn Bridge and tour extensively in July. Keeping checking their Myspace for their tour dates!

Listen to the APF segment on the Kominas.

My hope is to review their CD Wild Nights in Guantanamo Bay some time in the near future.