Independent Rock in Hong Kong

While browsing Rice Cooker, a resourceful blog on Southeast Asian (punk) music, I stumbled upon a video on made by Will McCallum of Journalism and Media Studies Centre, University of Hong Kong. This short video features the story of art rock group Chochukmo and other Hong-Kong-based indie rock bands who struggle in the cultural landscape dominated by Cantopop, a mainstream commercial music genre spawned locally.


Like an Ethic: What I Learned from Michael Jackson

During the first 12 years of my life in Taiwan, I was hooked to the practice of "keeping up" with the latest in pop culture in Taiwan and abroad. Through my connection to extended family in the U.S., I was able to obtain nifty cultural artifacts such as Ghostbusters model kit, Strawberry Shortcake blanket, Batman board game, Garfield puzzle set, and New Kids on the Block book covers (only then to find that American textbooks are much larger than their Taiwanese counterparts). The internationalization Toys "R" Us allowed me a more immediate access to American pop culture. I remember asking my parents to take me to the newly built Toys "R" Us in Taipei so I could pick out the items on my birthday wish list. The tremendous selection of made-in-U.S.A. toys in the store was both fascinating and overwhelming.

One day, my uncle, who's only 12 years older than me, said that he had gotten tickets to see Michael Jackson's concert in the largest indoor sports arena in Taipei. Well-versed in American pop music because of MTV (my parents were among the first people to install cable television once it became legal in Taiwan in the late 1980s), I learned of Michael Jackson's high status within the American music industry. I was thrilled to experience the real Michael Jackson live. With our inexpensive tickets, we sat way up high in the stadium among not-so-hardcore international fans of Michael. Witnessing Michael moon-walking across the multicolored stage in his white outfit, although not understanding the lyrics of all his songs, bewildered me.

The King of Pop wielded magic that night. Without understanding the context of American society--racial dynamics, gender relations, etc--I was overtaken by the performance power of Michael Jackson at the age of 9. It was mesmerizing, not like a Disney-sque fairy tale but more like a documentarian snapshot of the American life. Maybe it was the spectacular stage production, the screaming fans, or the astronomical performance venue, or some combination of these things, I remember it as a quintessential "American" experience. Maybe it was then that I became obsessed with live music performances. Maybe it was my first ethnomusicological moment.

After I moved to the US with my family, one of the first things I learned about was the entrenched racial tension between the American blacks and whites. Michael Jackson's "Black or White" suggested that there could be a middle ground, or least it was cool to celebrate social harmony across racial divide. Michael's playful, anti-binary ambiguity in gendered and racial terms compelled me like an ethic. This was my secret identification with MJ.

Like the whole rest of the world, I am mourning the passing of Michael Jackson. I choose not to talk about his life as a celebrity and judge him based on the highly mediated information regarding his biography. Instead I focus on the effects of his music, dance, and artistry as they resonate with my experiences as an Asian American individual and a music lover. Rest in peace, Michael.

Asian American / transnational musical tributes to Michael Jackson

Asian American / transnational musical tributes to Michael Jackson:

Bamboo Shoots did a mash up of the Indian (Bollywood) Thriller video with their song "Hey Girl." The syncing between the audio and the video is almost impeccable. Well done, guys!

David Choi, a self-made Youtube star, recorded a cover of Michael's song "Ben." David Choi uploaded this video two days before MJ's shocking death. The somber sincerity profused in this performance, rather ominously, coincides with the world's lament over the loss of MJ.


My Students' Creative Use of Media for an Assignment

My students in MUSI207/307 "World Music": Popular Music and Transnationalism made a video instead of a typical reading discussion today. The assignment asks them to have mastery over the assigned reading and come up with a list of discussion questions. Along with the interactive video, these questions were read by one of the students in class [not included in the video]. And following each question was a class discussion sprung off from the question. I thought that this video 'discussion' was very creative and entertaining, perhaps verging on being 'inappropriate' for a class. But - I decided to post it to 'show off' these students' creative use of digital technology. Yes, I am proud.


Video: Who Are The Kominas?

In this video, the Kominas discuss the community aspects of taqwacore. They also talk about their lyrical and asethetic ambivalence between satire and politics. They mention the South Asian affiliations and various streams associated with the Kominas. Maybe this is the reason that Omar Waqar sits with the Kominas as if he's one of the Kominas. Can I be a "Komina" too?

I'm working on booking a show in Charlottesville for the Kominas and Omar's new band Sarmust. Look out, Charlottesville!


Shilp Ray's Outdoor Acoustic Set @ Northside

Because of fatigue from my day job (now teaching a summer school), I missed the entire weekend's festivities at Northside Festival, for that matter. Thanks to blogs and other indie media outlet, I can catch some moments of fun in Billyburg this weekend.

Here's Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers playing an acoustic set at the corner of North 6th and Wythe @ Northside Festival. Video, courtesy of Johnny Diamond at The L Magazine.

Here are some pictures of Shilpa's set posted on The L Magazine blog.

Press Release: 'Hay Qua' Unveils Jam-Packed, Out-of-the-Box Line-Up of Rising Asian American Innovators

From Food to Fashion: 'Hay Qua' Unveils Jam-Packed, Out-of-the-Box Line-Up of Rising Asian American Innovators

"Hay Qua!" Mini-Fest
Saturday, June 27th / 10-4PM
The Bitter End (147 Bleecker St)
Register: www.thatsneaat.com

NEW YORK, NY (June 13, 2009) -- New York is the stuff of dreams, and "Hay Qua!" celebrates this day and night. On Saturday, June 27th, the mini-fest is celebrating big with an impressive roster of passionate, creative thinkers/performers who have continuously pursued their dreams.

In inviting the renown presenters to share their ideas/insights, projects, and anecdotes, "Hay Qua!" hopes to inspire its audience to revisit their own dreams, to draw inspiration, to connect with one another, to wonder, to take away something new, to bring something forth. To witness the beauty of the human imagination at work.

A sampling of imaginative minds at "Hay Qua!":

Alex Nguyen, Trumpet Player // www.alexnguyenmusic.com
Ali Wong, "Best Comedian 2009" by SF Weekly // www.aliwong.com
An Xuan Nguyen, Owner of 'BEP' // www.beprestaurant.blogspot.com
Bao Nguyen, Photographer // www.baonguyenphotography.com
Doan Hoang, Director of 'Oh Saigon' // www.ohsaigon.com
Ina Adele Ray, Director of 'El Paso, Vietnam' // www.adeleray.com
Jared Rehberg, 'Operation Babylift' // www.thebabylift.com
Kim Spurlock, Director of 'Buoi Chieu' // www.kimspurlock.com
Phong Bui, Publisher of 'The Brooklyn Rail' // www.brooklynrail.org
Tam Ngo, Reviewer for 'Serious Eats' // www.seriouseats.com
Thu Tran, TV Host of IFC's Food Party // www.thutranthutran.com
Tracy Nguyen, Publicist for Estelle // www.iprmktg.com
Tuan Bui, Owner of 'An Choi' // www.anchoinyc.com
Vinh Hua, Spoken Word Artist // www.vinh-hua.com
Yen Ha, Partner at FRONT STUDIOS Architects // www.frontstudio.com

But hurry, folks. The "Hay Qua!" + Kollaboration Combo Tickets are now $50 and are only available until 6/22, or until it's SOLD OUT – whichever comes first! Join others from as far as Canada, California, Oregon, Arizona, Louisiana, DC and and as close as Philly and Connecticut. And if you're in a group, email thatsneaat@gmail.com for the group discount and accommodation help!

Contact: Lisa Nguyen
Communications Director
(303) 808-136

An Old Video of Kite Operations

This is an older video (circa 2007) of Kite Operations playing "The Last Flight Out Left Without Warning" off of Heart Attacks, Back to Back. Ready for some sweet guitar feedback and noise!

Kite Operations will be releasing their third album Festival in September. Expect to find order within chaos, and chaos within order.

Kite Operations - the Last Flight Out Left With No Warning from KOA Records on Vimeo.


Pictures: Chthonic's New "Taiwanese" Look

Chthonic released pictures of their new look. Here's one:

How is this different from one of their older press release pictures? Like this one?

They shed the black marks around facial organs and put on hell-money-like patterns instead. In this way, they have de-blackmetal-ize themselves and re-Taiwanize their look. I wonder what inspired them for their new look.

When I gave a paper at SEM, someone in the audience thought they look like the American (pop) metal group KISS. Maybe they would despise this connection too.


Chthonic Announces New "Taiwanese" Metal Look

Chthonic, extreme metal band from Taiwan, just announced "a new look" at the "Farewell to the Old Style" concert in Taipei. In this new look, they are purging all the black metal references in their makeup. Chthonic's vocalist Freddy emphasized that their facial makeup was always inspired by Taiwanese Taoist rituals and art. He said,“The facial mask of ‘eight generals’ and ‘Kuan-Jiang-Shoe’ were always the main inspirations for our look. I also customized a row of big fangs according to ‘Kuan-Jian-Shoe’’s face. It will be great to put them on when performing on-stage.”

The new look marks the band's identity as just an iteration of European black metal style, but as unique metal form of its own. As important themes, sorrow and tragic stories take central roles in Chthonic's artistic content.

It is no surprise that any bands project the uniqueness of their image. But for Chthonic, part of their unique identity is informed by a brand of Taiwanese nationalism. This new look, I interpret, is a statement of Chthonic as a uniquely "Taiwanese" metal group, apart from other metal bands in the world, particularly of European origins. I wrote about this identity formation more explicitly in an article for Amalgam.

Read the original post "Chthonic Reveals Their New Look" by the band.

Check out the new look at the "Farewell to Old Style" concert:


Clorox Plus Thao Minus Vocals?

The new Clorox commercial features the instrumental introduction of Thao Nguyen's song "Bag of Hammers." What happened to Thao's off-kilter, infectious vocals?

What ya think? I think Clorox *wiped* away all the grit in what Thao calls "dirt pop", a distinctive style that fuses catchy tunes with a raw, messy sensibility.

Here's the original "Bag of Hammers."


Prepping for Meeting Omar Waqar

Enthralled by Omar Waqar's words and music in my research, as an effort to prep for my meeting with Omar, I decided to post a few words.

Omar Waqar is the musical anchor of DC-based hardcore band Diacritical and Sarmust, his new "Indie Rock / Dance Punk/ World" project, described as "Tabla and electric guitar have joined forces to create a musical world where Qawwali becomes Punk and Ghazal becomes Indie Rock" on Omar's website SuchRecords.com. Also a poet, Omar recently published Gardens For the Lush, a collection of Sufi-inspired poems and lyrics. The book is available as a PDF posted on the Such Records site.

To read more about Omar Waqar, check out a great interview recently posted on Averroes Press.

Here's a video featuring Omar in Muslims' America: the Rock n Roll Muslim. This is part two of the 8-part series.


Tim Be Told Tours To Benefit Freedom In Creation

I sat down with the guys in Tim Be Told and chatted about music and life at a coffeeshop near the UVa campus in Charlottesville tonight. They offered me insight into their music, worldview, and the relationship between the two. They also addressed my intellectual concerns and non-intellectual curiosity generously with thought-provoking perspectives. In the coming weeks, I will post a review their upcoming EP From the Inside integrating some words from the members of the band.

For now, I give everyone a heads-up for their upcoming shows. In addition to their appearance at the final competition performance of Kollaboration NYC on 6/27, Tim Be Told will be touring to benefit Freedom In Creation, "a community-led, arts-based psychosocial, education and water-development program aimed at empowering war affected children in Northern Uganda while celebrating the role of the arts within humanitarianism. FIC addresses the socialization and reintegration of children (non- and ex-combatants) into their communities and access to clean and safe drinking water."

I found a poster of their FIC tour at the coffeeshop. Check out Tim Be Told's myspace page for tour dates and details. And don't be surprise to find me at one of their Charlottesville shows.


Exit Clov Covers Morrisey's "Sing Your Life"

NY-based music blog The Music Slut recently released a compilation of Morrisey covers by current indie rock bands to honor Morrisey's 50th birthday. The Rolling Stone gives a shout-out to Exit Clov's version of "Sing Your Life":

"The Music Slut’s ongoing tribute to Moz on the honor of his 50th birthday continues, with a string of covers — a new one every Friday! — that range from faithful to far-out. May we humbly suggest you start with Exit Clov’s bright and charming take on 'Sing Your Life'?"

Knox Road posted the mp3 file of "Sing Your Life".