In Between

Page 1

IN BETWEEN

JADEN TSAN

MUSIC OF THE ASIAN DIASPORA



IN BETWEEN | 1


HELLO! 2 | IN BETWEEN


The idea for In Between came from my love for music and illustration, and my desire to reflect on my own cultural and racial identity. The title itself was inspired by common feelings of "in betweenness" among members of the Asian diaspora and being caught between Western norms and our ethnic roots. Although I've always been interested in music, I never really noticed the lack of Asian artists in the industry until I had grown older. My academic journey also exposed me to how often Asians were presented in stereotypical ways in mainstream media, therefore I wanted to take this opportunity to discover and showcase artists of the Asian diaspora from the 1950s and onwards from varying genres with different personalities and identities. Hopefully as you read through, you're able to discover new artists or learn more about some of the artists that you already knew before! I would also like to acknowledge that many discussions of the Asian diaspora in existing bodies of work often center East Asian experiences. I hope that showcasing the work and perspectives from East, South, and Southeast Asian artists and listeners will allow everyone to view Asians in a more inclusive and multifaceted way.

IN BETWEEN | 3


2

E L B A T

A Look Back In Time James Shigeta California Punk Yellow Pearl

4 | IN BETWEEN

1

Timeline

3

Trailblazers Far East Movement Jeff Bernat & AJ Rafael M.I.A. Mike Park Talvin Singh


4

OF CO NT ENT S

Next Gen Griff Nadia Javed Raveena Niki Rina Sawayama Yung Singh Satica

5

What Are You Listening To?

IN BETWEEN | 5


TIMELINE

TIMELINE A timeline of the musicians featured throughout this book based on the approximate year of debut of each artist.

Nadia Javed

201 2 Rina Sawayama

2 01 3

6 | IN BETWEEN

0 9 0 2

6 0 20

AJ Rafael

Jeff Bernat

1 20 4 Satica

Niki

20 1 4


1

5 9 0

James Shigeta

0 0 5 2 Far East Movement

0 16 2 Raveena

JoAnne Miyamoto, Charlie Chin, Chris Ijima

8 9 1 5

1 9 71 M.I.A.

3 20 0 Yung Singh

2 0 18

Mike Park

1

9 91 Talvin Singh

0 2 1

9 Griff

IN BETWEEN | 7


8 | IN BETWEEN


A LOOK BACK IN TIME

Although Asian musicians haven't been popular in the mainstream music industry until recent years, artists like James Shigeta, JoAnne Miyamoto, Charlie Chin, and Chris Ijima began their careers in the 1950s and 70s. These artists, alongside Asian restaurant owners in Los Angeles' Chinatown, were actively breaking down barriers and reinventing how Asian Americans were seen and often stereotyped.

A LOOK BACK IN TIME

IN BETWEEN | 9


JAMES SHIGETA

THE ACTOR AND SINGER THAT BROKE STEREOTYPES

James Shigeta was best known for his work as an actor and starred in many films and television shows during his career, including notable works such as Flower Drum Song, 1998’s animated Mulan, Bridge to the Sun, and Die Hard1. He was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1929, and passed away in 20142. His singing career began when he won Ted Mack’s The Original Amateur Hour in 1950 at the age of 21, a talent show similar to American Idol today�. After winning the national contest, he began to sing in clubs in the United States under the name Guy Brion. He eventually enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1951 during the Korean War, and he was discharged in Japan two and half years later3. Although he did not initially speak Japanese despite his Japanese ancestry, he began singing and performing across all platforms in Japan after learning the language, notably under his own name instead of a Westernized alias³. He could be seen and heard on radios, televi-

10 | IN BETWEEN

sions, and stage plays all across Japan, and his rendition of “Love Letters in the Sand” was a best-selling record at the time of its release, selling more than 2 million copies in Japan�. He eventually returned to the United States for his stage play performances. It was his 1959 role in Holiday in Japan, which was shown in Las Vegas, that led to his transition into a film acting career in the United States. He was approached by Paramount to appear in the movie Walk Like a Dragon at this show4. James Shigeta is one of the first Asian Americans to play leading roles in Hollywood and changed public perceptions of the Asian male. He distinctly chose roles that went against stereotypical portrayals of Asian men as sidekicks or unmasculine. Instead, he was seen on the big screen as charming, intelligent, and respectable. The films he starred in, such as The Crimson Kimono in 1959 and Bridge to the Sun in 1961, also portrayed interracial relationships, which were uncommon on screens at the time.


A LOOK BACK IN TIME

IN BETWEEN | 11


A LOOK BACK IN TIME

Although Shigeta is more well-known for his acting and films than his singing, his career stemmed from his work in music. At a time where Asian Americans were rarely examined in terms of their impact on popular culture, James Shigeta was a key figure in breaking stereotypes in the film industry, but also exemplified how Asian American musicians were treated by media outlets. During the 1950s and 60s, the media either treated the limited number of Asian American artists that were present in the industry as completely Asian, thereby erasing their American and diasporic identities, or fully Americanized5. Any music he released in the United States was either marketed explicitly as an “American” album in order to appeal to what was assumed to be white consumers, or emphasized the fact that he was Japanese in order to add an element of exoticism. He was rarely seen as simply an Asian American musician by reviewers and marketers, which reflects

“ HE DISTINCTLY CHOSE ROLES THAT WENT AGAINST STEREOTYPICAL PORTRAYALS OF ASIAN MEN AS SIDEKICKS OR UNMASCULINE.” 12 | IN BETWEEN


the experiences of the Asian diaspora, who are often between two identities. His career trajectory, in which he had to begin his career in Japan first before breaking into the United States, also reflects the experiences of many Asian American musicians today, as entertainment industries in Asia are often more accepting towards artists of Asian descent compared to American industries. Although many things have changed for the better for musicians and actors since James Shigeta’s career, some of the challenges that existed in the 1950s and 60s for Asian American artists still exist today. However, it is undeniable that James Shigeta will always be an iconic actor and singer who broke stereotypes and made headway for other Asian American creatives with his career.

WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO? In February and March of 2022, I sent out a call for anonymous participants for a survey consisting of questions about the music tastes of people that identify as part of the Asian diaspora. Look out for their responses throughout the book to learn more about what people are listening to and how they feel representation within the music industry has influenced their own identities! A summary of the data can also be found near the end if you’re interested in learning about who the participants were. If you were a participant in the survey, thank you! I hope you can find your response showcased in this book!

IN BETWEEN | 13


14 | IN BETWEEN


A LOOK BACK IN TIME

A N I A R G F O SAND: Words by Sojin Kim

Originally published in 2011

TRUGGLE S E H T R O F MUSIC ERICA M A N I S N A I BY AS

IN BETWEEN | 15


In 1973, three young activists in New York City recorded A Grain of Sand: Music for the Struggle by Asians in America. Singing of their direct lineage to immigrant workers as well as their affinity with freedom fighters everywhere, Chris Kando Iijima, Nobuko JoAnne Miyamoto, and William “Charlie” Chin recorded the experiences of the first generation to identify with the term and concept Asian American—a pan-ethnic association formulated upon a shared history of discrimination. They sought a connection to their cultural heritage; to claim their historical presence in the United States; to resist their marginalization; and to mobilize solidarity across class, ethnic, racial, and national differences. Music provided a powerful means for expressing their aspiration to reshape a society reeling from a prolonged war, ongoing struggles against racial

Cultural Heritage, through which these recordings and their original liner notes remain available to the public.

The Music While the message of the album was by no means mainstream, the music through which Chris, Nobuko, and Charlie expressed their political and social convictions was reflective of the popular genres of the period. The 12 songs on A Grain of Sand were shaped by the American folk music revival, blues, soul, and jazz. For instance, “The Wandering Chinaman” is in the form of a traditional ballad. “We Are the Children” is more of a folk-rock anthem. “Divide and Conquer” and “Free the Land,” with their bass and percussion lines, are driven by a soul groove. “Something About

“ THE POWER OF THEIR LYRICS WAS AIMED AT PEOPLE LIKE ME. THEY WERE SAYING THINGS THAT I HAD THOUGHT ABOUT BUT HADN’T PUT INTO WORDS...” inequity, and revelations of the Watergate cover-up. As writer and activist Phil Tajitsu Nash would state many decades later, A Grain of Sand was “more than just grooves on a piece of vinyl,” it was “the soundtrack for the political and personal awareness taking place in their lives.” Equal parts political manifesto, collaborative art project, and organizing tool, it is widely recognized as the first album of Asian American music. A Grain of Sand was produced by Paredon Records. Over the course of 15 years, Paredon founders Irwin Silber and Barbara Dane amassed a catalog of 50 titles reflecting their commitment to the music of peace and social justice movements. In 1991, to ensure its ongoing accessibility, Silber and Dane donated the Paredon catalog to the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and

16 | IN BETWEEN

Me Today” and “War of the Flea,” are instrumentally stark, emphasizing Nobuko’s voice against the counterpoint of Chris and Charlie’s guitar lines. All of their songs are notably written in the first person and directly encourage the listener to action: “Hold the banner high...”; “Will you answer...”; “Take a stand....” Intending to take their music on the road, they kept their instrumentation simple—two guitars and three voices. For the album and in some performances, they were backed by conga and bass, and other instruments such as the di zi, a Chinese transverse lute that Charlie played. A Grain of Sand was mostly compiled over a two-day period from first or second takes. Charlie compares their 4-track recording process to more technically


A LOOK BACK IN TIME

sophisticated commercial productions as the difference between “a folding chair and a Maserati.” And perhaps because of these conditions, the recording is animated by the spontaneity and energy of a live performance. Arlan Huang, who created the artwork for the album jacket, remembers, “It was fresh as can be. There was nothing else like it. The power of their lyrics was aimed at people like me. They were saying things that I had thought about but hadn’t put into words or painting. And they were GOOD. It wasn’t like seeing your buddies at the neighborhood hootenanny strumming a guitar. Nobuko could actually sing.”

The Artists Chris, Nobuko, and Charlie, who were in their twenties and thirties in the early 1970s, arrived at their collaboration via routes that reflect the legacies of migration and exclusion.

Nobuko JoAnne Miyamoto. Nobuko’s mother was born in the United States, the daughter of Japanese immigrants; her father was the son of a Japanese immigrant father and a White Mormon mother from Idaho. The family was living in Los Angeles when World War II broke out and all people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast were forcibly removed from their communities. To get his family out of the Santa Anita racetrack where they were initially confined, Nobuko’s father volunteered to harvest sugar beets in Montana. From there the family moved to Idaho and then to Utah before they were allowed to return to Los Angeles after the war. Despite this instability, Nobuko was encouraged by both parents in her study of music and dance. By the 1960s, she had been a scholarship student at the American School of Dance in Hollywood; performed with Alicia Alonso’s ballet company; and performed in the original Broadway production of Flower Drum Song, as well as in the film adaptation of West Side Story, where she was cast as one of Maria’s Puerto Rican dress-shop companions. She had also discovered the limitations of being


A LOOK BACK IN TIME

an Asian in the mainstream entertainment industry. In 1968, she helped Italian filmmaker Antonello Branca to document the Black Panther Party for his film Seize the Time. Through this project, she met Yuri Kochiyama, a Harlem community activist and friend of the late Malcolm X, who subsequently introduced Nobuko to civil rights organizing in the local Asian and African American communities. Chris Kando Iijima. Both of Chris’s parents, Americans of Japanese ancestry, were originally from California but raised their family in New York City, where they resettled after their World War II incarceration. Their example and consciousness significantly contributed to A Grain of Sand. Chris’s father was a musician and choirmaster, who took his children to the 1963 March on Washington. His mother—inspired by the educational and cultural activities integral to the Black Power movement—co-founded the organization Asian Americans for Action (Triple A) in 1969 to instill the same kind of pride in local Asian American youth. Chris attended the High School of Music and Art in Harlem, where he studied French horn, though he also played guitar. Chris and Nobuko met in Triple A; and they wrote their first song and performed together in 1969 at a conference of the Japanese American Citizens League, where they joined other young people in urging the organization to oppose the war in Vietnam. Nobuko recalls, “We sang a song that was the collective expression of our Asian brothers and sisters to stop the killing of people who looked like us. The electricity of that moment, the realization that, until then, we had never

heard songs about us, set the course of my journey.” When they returned to New York, Chris and Nobuko wrote more songs and began to perform locally and in California. A year later they met Charlie Chin. William “Charlie” Chin. Charlie’s father came to New York City from Toisan, China; his mother, who was of mixed Chinese, Carib, and Venezuelan ancestry, was born in New York but raised in Trinidad. Growing up in Queens, Charlie’s musical upbringing was comprised of the Trinidadian forms played by his mother’s relatives and those emanating from the American folk music revival. Inspired by Pete Seeger, Charlie took up the banjo, but he also played cuatro, auto harp, and guitar. In the late 1960s, he toured the country with Cat Mother and the All Night News Boys. After he left the group, he returned to New York, where he worked as a bartender. In 1970, he ended up backing Chris and Nobuko by chance at a performance for a conference of new Asian American community groups, student organizations, and activists at Pace College. He recalls, “I’m at the conference, and all the things they are talking about—Asian Americans, how history impacts us, how we have been apologetic about being Asian. And there’s been this hanging question for me, ever since I had taught Appalachian 5-string banjo at a folk music camp, ‘Where is my history? Where is my culture?’ So I go on with them. And I’m listening—I have never heard this stuff before. This is amazing. So the first time I ever hear them play, I’m playing with them.” For the next three years, the trio performed at Buddhist temples, churches, colleges, community centers, cof-

“...THE CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN OF ASIAN IMMIGRANTS UNLEASHED A WHIRLWIND OF GRASSROOTS ACTIVISM BEGINNING IN THE LATE 1960S.” 18 | IN BETWEEN


collectives, and social service centers. A Grain of Sand was a direct extension of Chris, Nobuko, and Charlie’s collaboration in the Asian American Movement.

feehouses, rallies, prisons, and parks in New York and across the country. “We became like griots,” Nobuko says, “Moving like troubadours from community to community—we’d say, ‘This is what is going on in New York…and we have this Chinatown health program going on,’ and we would carry this news to Sacramento and L.A. and Stockton and San Francisco. And then we’d gather stories from there and carry it back to New York. We were like the YouTube of the times—spreading the news.”

The Movement Coming of age during the civil rights and anti-war movements, the children and grandchildren of Asian immigrants unleashed a whirlwind of grassroots activism beginning in the late 1960s. Around the country, they protested the war. They demanded ethnic studies curricula. They organized against urban renewal projects that displaced the residents of old Chinatowns and Japantowns. They formed literary workshops, art

One important community that provided support and inspiration for A Grain of Sand was Basement Workshop, an Asian American collective in New York’s Chinatown. Formed in 1970, they ran a creative arts program, a resource center for community documentation, and a youth employment program; produced a magazine; and offered language and citizenship classes. In 1971, Basement Workshop undertook a project to illustrate and publish the music of Chris, Nobuko, and Charlie. Titled Yellow Pearl, after one of their songs, it grew into a larger compilation of writing, art, and music. Public artist Tomie Arai emphasizes the importance of Basement and A Grain of Sand during this period: “You have to understand. There wasn’t anything at all out there. There was no music. No published poetry, music, recordings. Nothing. It was through Basement that people began to refer to themselves as artists. I didn’t know any artists. I wanted to be one—but I didn’t know what that meant.” Fay Chiang, who served as director of Basement for 12 years, recalls that for their programs and direct actions, they also looked to the examples of other communi-

IN BETWEEN | 19


A LOOK BACK IN TIME

ties: “We were influenced by what was happening in the Black and Puerto Rican communities. Why not us? Who are we? It was very basic: Who are we? There was a hunger, a need to figure that out, where we felt like it was a matter life and death. The second and third generation Japanese Americans had come from the camps—and this feeling of not belonging in the society, racism, and displacement was visceral.” Chris, Nobuko, and Charlie’s association with activists in other communities was reflected in their music. For example, “Somos Asiaticos” was inspired by their involvement with squatters’ organizations Operation Move In and El Comité. These activists opened a coffee shop on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the Dot, which was regularly visited by singers, performers, and poets from Cuba, Chile, Peru, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. The Asian Americans who had taken over a storefront for a drop-in center down the street also congregated here. Nobuko recalled, “We were all there—artists and poets—listening to and influencing each other. We had a whole set, five songs, that we did in Spanish. One year, I think it was 1973–1974, we did more gigs for Latino groups than for Asian groups.” In fact, their first recording was done for a Puerto Rican company, Discos Coqui. Invited by two Puerto Rican Movement singers, Pepe y Flora, they recorded “Venceremos” and “Somos Asiaticos,” which were released as a 45 disc in Puerto Rico. Later, they were invited to perform at Madison Square Garden for Puerto Rican Liberation Day. “Free the Land,” another song on A Grain of Sand, was written by Chris for the Republic of New Africa. This organization, established by a group of Malcolm X’s associates after his 1965 assassination, was the first group to call for slavery reparations—in particular in the form of an all-Black homeland in the southern states of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Atallah Muhammad Ayubbi and Dr. Mutulu Shakur, both Republic of New Africa members, performed on A Grain of Sand. Atallah worked in the Black and Puerto Rican communities in the Bronx where he grew up. He was also a conguero and sometimes accompanied the group in live performances. Dr. Mutulu Shakur, who is the godfather of Nobuko and Atallah’s son, provided background vocals on the album. He often played the album at home, and his stepson, the late rapper Tupac Shakur, grew up listening and singing along to it.

20 | IN BETWEEN

Of this time in the early 1970s, Nobuko recalls, “It was like jumping into the pool of revolution... Every day there was organizing going on at many different levels. It was powerful. You see something wrong, you have an idea how to fix it, you put it into practice.” And about this period living on the Upper West Side, she says, “that was the first time I ever felt like I was part of a community. You would walk down the street and see people you knew, and they would ask if you were going to be at such-and-such event and could you bring food or perform. It was a dynamic moment. We were crossing borderlines, and the music helped us to do that.”

The Legacy The intensity of purpose and activity during this period succeed in reshaping academic, cultural, and political institutions. It also gave rise to ideological conflicts and violence that sometimes destabilized organizations and efforts. For instance, Basement Workshop was shaken internally by the accusations and criticisms of members of the Communist Workers Party. And several months after A Grain of Sand was recorded, Atallah was killed in an ambush at a Brooklyn mosque. Charlie remembers, “We were all moving so rapidly…. Everyone believed that things could be changed if you worked on it. We in our very young innocence thought that there actually would be a revolution in this country. I assured people it would happen. And when it didn’t, I felt bad: ‘Sorry, man’, ‘Sorry, dude.’” By late 1973 when A Grain of Sand was released, Chris, Nobuko, and Charlie were beginning to hone their sense of purpose in ways that drew them in different directions. And the album marks, in effect, one of the group’s final collective efforts, though each in their own way continued the work they had started together. Nobuko returned to southern California. In 1978, she established the organization Great Leap, Inc., through which she initiates multicultural community performing arts collaborations in Los Angeles, as well as nationally and internationally. She continues to perform, lecture, and provide workshops based on her new music as well as on reinterpretations of the songs from A Grain of Sand. In recent years her residencies and special projects have focused on facilitating dialog across spiritual differences and on environmental issues. Active in the Senshin Buddhist


Temple, she has composed music and dances that are now a regular part of the annual Buddhist observance of obon (Festival of Lanterns) in temples from California’s Central Valley to San Diego and nationally. Charlie focused his attention in New York’s Chinatown, becoming involved in the Chinatown History Project, which became the Museum of Chinese in the Americas. He later apprenticed to a master Chinese storyteller, learning the traditional teahouse style, which he has adapted and continues to perform throughout the country. In 1991, he moved to northern California, and he now works for the Chinese Historical Society of America in San Francisco, driven by the conviction that “we know that people can be whipped into hysteria and xenophobia—we’ve seen it happen before, and it could happen again. And the only thing you can do is be vigilant and educate, educate, educate.” Chris directed his energies to New York’s Upper West Side, where he had grown up. After 10 years of classroom teaching at Manhattan Country School, he studied and practiced law, and later became a professor in Hawai`i, where he fought for Native Hawaiian rights and mentored a generation of social justice–minded law students. He passed away in 2005 at the age of 57.

In the years just before Chris’s passing, Tadashi Nakamura, a young fourth-generation Japanese American filmmaker, began producing a documentary about him, A Song for Ourselves: A Personal Journey into the Life and Music of Asian American Movement Troubadour Chris Iijima. His film is an inspiring and melancholy portrait of Chris, covering his participation in A Grain of Sand, his reflection on his life as he confronted terminal illness, and the impact he had on others. For the film’s premiere in 2009, Nakamura invited Nobuko and Charlie to perform—and he also enlisted several young hip-hop artists. He explains: “Grain of Sand paved the way for many progressive Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders [API] to not only become musicians but cultural workers—artists who use their creativity to further a political movement. I feel very much a part of a present-day movement of API artists that are trying to document, articulate, and tell the stories of their people through their work. A talented new set of artists—such as Geologic and Sabzi of Blue Scholars, Kiwi, Bambu and DJ Phatrick—are creating the soundtrack to my generation’s movement. They are continuing the work that Chris, Nobuko, and Charlie started back in the 1960s. So when I premiered my film, I invited them to perform. I wanted to show that the legacy of A Grain of Sand is very much alive today.”

“[THEY] PAVED THE WAY FOR MANY PROGRESSIVE ASIAN AMERICANS AND PACIFIC ISLANDERS TO NOT ONLY BECOME MUSICIANS BUT...ARTISTS WHO USE THEIR CREATIVITY TO FURTHER A POLITICAL MOVEMENT.” IN BETWEEN | 21


ABOUT STEREOTYPES & CAREERS “ The more I see representation for Asian artists and Asians in other professions, the more I feel like I'm visible, and have a place in the world. This representation is important because it allows me, as well as other members of the Asian community, to envision ourselves in a wide range of meaningful roles. Seeing Asians given recognition and a voice in the media also makes me feel more accepted and comfortable with being myself.”

“It’s just nice to see successful Asian artists since it just normalizes Asians in any role or career in North America. It’s nice to see Asian artists breaking the stereotype of Asians living in the West as either in low income, long-hour jobs as new immigrants, or STEM based high-skill jobs as the 'model immigrant'.”

22 | IN BETWEEN


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

“ Seeing more Asian artists I believe is inspiring to me because it means that I can pursue a career in any non-Asian dominated field and still succeed.”

“As a transracial adoptee the only thing that taught me about my Asian identity was media. Western media does not represent many Asian people especially in the early 2000s. If it did represent Asian people on TV it was always pretty stereotypical. I was always interested in music but never heard of Asian artists. Getting into K-pop in 2016 was the only form of media that showed I was allowed to be human instead of a stereotype. After, I started to become more comfortable with my Asian identity.”

“ For [Asian artists] to be trailblazers in the Western music industry, it gives me hope in knowing that I can thrive in the entertainment industry as well. It helps the Western industry to be more open and welcoming to Asian artists and create opportunities for young Asian artists to thrive as well.”

“It’s cathartic to see people of other races love and recognize Asian artists and their music. It creates a more three-dimensional impression of Asians, rather than the 'nerd' of before times.”

“ I think the more representation there is... the idea of being attractive or appealing to people is more normal as Asians, especially males, are often not seen or represented in this light, especially in North American media which I think has an impact on how people automatically see an Asian male.”

IN BETWEEN | 23


You’re Listening To...

TALKING TO THE MOON

“ I can relate to these lyrics because it can mean so many things personally. Waiting for someone/something to give you oportunity, love, etc. That there is hope in the world but not close enough to me. Long distance relationships.”

24 | IN BETWEEN


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

By:

BRUNO MARS I know you’re somewhere out there Somewhere far away I want you back, I want you back My neighbors think I’m crazy But they don’t understand You’re all I had, you’re all I had At night, when the stars light up my room I sit by myself Talking to the moon Trying to get to you In hopes you’re on the other side talking to me too Or am I a fool who sits alone talking to the moon?

I’m feeling like I’m famous, the talk of the town They say I’ve gone mad Yeah, I’ve gone mad But they don’t know what I know ‘Cause when the sun goes down, someone’s talking back Yeah, they’re talking back At night, when the stars light up my room I sit by myself Talking to the moon Trying to get to you In hopes you’re on the other side talking to me too

Or am I a fool who sits alone talking to the moon? Do you ever hear me calling? ‘Cause every night, I’m talking to the moon Still trying to get to you In hopes you’re on the other side talking to me too Or am I a fool who sits alone talking to the moon? I know you’re somewhere out there Somewhere far away

IN BETWEEN | 25


HOW C FO T CAL 26 | IN BETWEEN


CHINESE OOD FUELED THE RISE OF LIFORNIA P NK U A LOOK BACK IN TIME

Words by Madeline Leung Coleman Originally published on June 25, 2019

In the late 1970s, Chinatown restaurants started booking some unlikely dinner entertainment : the rowdy young bands of the nascent West Coast punk scene. IN BETWEEN | 27


A LOOK BACK IN TIME

Bill Hong was a Cantonese immigrant dad in his late 40s, running a restaurant in Los Angeles’ Chinatown neighborhood with his sister Anna Hong and her husband Arthur, when two young promoters approached him with a business proposition: What did Hong think about renting out the restaurant’s upstairs banquet hall on the evenings when it wasn’t being used? It was 1979, and LA was struggling. The entire country had plunged into a deep recession just a few years prior, and now Chinatown and the city’s downtown areas were falling into disrepair. More recent Chinese immigrants had started moving to suburban enclaves like the San Gabriel Valley, bypassing Chinatown and its businesses completely; the non-Chinese customers who used to flock to the neighborhood for exotic chow mein dinners were now avoiding downtown altogether. When Bill Hong said yes to the promoters, he was trying to be practical. He knew the restaurant needed more customers; maybe letting a few young bands play could help bring them in. He never could’ve foreseen that his family’s establishment, the Hong Kong Low—located on a small street called Gin Ling Way—would become a focal point for a seminal music scene: West Coast punk. Nor did he know how many times the restaurant’s toilet would get smashed in the process. Hong’s restaurant—known as the Hong Kong Café to showgoers—was far from the only Asian restaurant to incubate the California punk scene. In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, from Sacramento to San Francisco, some of the state’s most important punk venues were actually Chinese and Filipino restaurants. At eateries like Sacramento’s China Wagon and Kin’s Coloma, or San Francisco’s Mabuhay Gardens, now-iconic bands such as X, the Germs, and Black Flag played some of their most memorable early gigs. The Hong Kong wasn’t even the first place in LA’s Chinatown to host gigs: the restaurant across the courtyard, Madame Wong’s, had already been doing the same for at least a year. Unbelievably, the Hong Kong continued dinner service as usual during gigs, which took place almost every night. “Downstairs, there would be Chinese people eating dinner with their families. And upstairs, there would be this crazy punk stuff going on,” says Christy Shigekawa, Bill Hong’s great-niece. “You could see them going up the stairs, and people would be like, ‘Uh…’ Sometimes the ceiling would be shaking.”

28 | IN BETWEEN

“In some ways this was just like setting up any performance space, to try and draw in more customers to your restaurant with live music,” says Fiona I.B. Ngo, an associate professor of Asian American Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois and the author of a 2012 paper on the intersection of Southeast Asian refugee identities and punk music in late-’70s LA. In other words, the restaurant owners needed entertainment; the punks just happened to be the ones who showed up. “It’s a weirdly practical business thing,” says Shigekawa, speculating about her great-uncle’s motivation. “And, culturally, maybe it helped that they were already not part of the mainstream. Maybe you’d get flak from other Chinatown people, but otherwise, how much was going to be damaged by doing something that was not socially acceptable?” LA punk was far from all-white (Chicano kids, especially, had been part of the scene from the start), but, for non-Asians, immigrant-run Chinatown still held a certain transgressive allure. For people in the scene at the time, both living in rundown apartment buildings—alongside refugees and the other urban poor—and playing in Asian restaurants were intentionally political, and aesthetic, decisions. “The racialization of the space and the poverty of these spaces brings a certain sort of cachet in terms of being part of a political underclass,” explains Ngo. The relationships between the punks and the proprietors could be … complicated. Esther Wong, the Chinese owner of Madame Wong’s, became infamous for her strong opinions; she insisted on vetting every band that played at her restaurant, and even told one Los Angeles Times reporter in 1980 that if she was given a bad tape, she liked to “throw it outside the window.” (Shigekawa says the restaurateur was also fiercely competitive, sometimes calling the fire department on the Hong Kong Café to break up its shows.) In the end, Wong was demonized by the scene when she became exasperated with the fights breaking out in her restaurant and banned certain groups—such as the Alley Cats and the Bags—from playing there. Still, the Shanghai-born Wong’s characterization as a “dragon lady” leaves a bitter aftertaste. For all their anti-conformity politics, says Ngo, the punks “didn’t recognize the ways that their racism, their orientalism, were going into how they imagined


her character and her policies. They were somehow astonished that if they came in and destroyed her restaurant, she might not want them back.” The heyday of these Asian restaurants-cum-venues didn’t last long: the Hong Kong Cafe only hosted shows from 1979 to 1981; Madame Wong’s held on until the beginning of 1987. Mabuhay Gardens gradually transitioned into a full-fledged music and comedy venue, propelled by the enthusiasm of its Pinoy owner Ness Aquino, hosting shows between 1976 and 1986. Already, by the early 1980s, the artier, more eclectic bands of the early punk scene were giving way to the more macho sound of hardcore. But that intense moment of late ‘70s experimentation lives on in music legend—and in the family lore of the Asian Americans who ran the restaurants.

Uncle Bill had this crazy idea to let all these punks come into the restaurant and have shows,” says Shigekawa, who was born in the early 1980s, a few years after the shows ended, “and how they destroyed the place, and they were on drugs, and they were violent. They damaged the toilet, broke windows. And that the neighbors were mad about it, too.” Shigekawa is now working on a documentary about the venue; she’s interviewed dozens of musicians and fans who say their careers, and lives, were changed by their nights at the Hong Kong. What has struck her most, she says, is how significant this brief period was for them—and how differently they see those nights now. “A lot of people are almost apologetic,” she says. “They told me, ‘So sorry we did all these things to your family’s restaurant. It must have been so crazy for them. I wouldn’t have wanted a bunch of crazy teenagers to come and ruin my restaurant.’”

“I remember hearing this vague story about how there was a time when business was rough, and

IN BETWEEN | 29


You’re Listening To...

HOW IT ENDS By:

30 | IN BETWEEN

SAM RUI ft. SLODOWN


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

“I can relate to this by adopting this view in life. Sometimes things don’t work out even when everything was done right. When thing don’t work out instead of falling in despair, I just become content and optimistic for what’s next to come. Because [this song] was written by an Asian American artist, I believe that we can be recognized for our creative works and not be put in a box of a stereotypical view of expected occupations.”

Bittersweet embrace and Just like that, all we had was done Don't know if one can ever move on When the pain just as strong as the love gone Said you wish we met later on instead Too young to regret, our whole lives ahead Then why does everything since you Just feel like a sign that I need you Not every story ends the way that they deserve to I hope these songs preserve you If Icould never have you back Not every story ends the way that deserve to Maybe in another lifetime you and me could have last I swear I tried my best baby To convince myself that it was only just Something that wasn't meant to be There for long, but here I go writing this Song about you asking if it aint true That we gotta end it (But i can't stand to go) Don't know what's more difficult to bear Still getting used to you not being there Not every story ends the way that they deserve to I hope these songs preserve you If I could never have you back Not every story ends the way that deserve to Maybe in another lifetime you and me could have last Tell me i'm not aching on my own Wanna hear you say don't (Girl please don't move on without me) Cos I wanna get over i do (Girl I need you more than you think) Wanna get over you i do (You're the cause and cure of my pain) Are you searching for the same thing? i stopped searching since I found you Not every story ends the way that they deserve to I hope these songs preserve you If I could never have you back Not every story ends the way that deserve to Maybe in another lifetime you and me could have last

IN BETWEEN | 31


TRAIL BLAZERS 32 | IN BETWEEN


TRAILBLAZERS

The 1980s to 2000s brought a new wave of artists to the North American music scene. Tablatronics pioneer Talvin Singh, EDM group Far East Movement, rapper M.I.A., punk activist Mike Park, and YouTube stars like Jeff Bernat and AJ Rafael were often the first glimpses of Asian representation in the music industry seen by listeners growing up in this era. These artists subsequently became inspirations for the next generation of Asian musicians and acted as pioneers and trailblazers in an industry that, for the most part, has still been reluctant to support and promote creatives of the Asian diaspora.

IN BETWEEN | 33


MOVEMENT

FAR EAST HOW

TOOK SUCCESS INTO THEIR OWN HANDS

34 | IN BETWEEN


TRAILBLAZERS

Words by Ada Tseng

Originally published on November 23, 2016

Back in the early 2000s, Kevin “Kev Nish” Nishimura of Far East Movement was a high school dropout in Los Angeles who desperately wanted to intern at a major record label. He wanted to learn about how artists got signed and how their albums were developed. The only internship he could get, though, was in the publicity department of Interscope Records.

this October. At one point, it hit the No. 1 spot on iTunes’ US dance album chart.

“Back in the day, you had to fit a certain description and be a certain ‘cool’ to be in the A&R [artists and repertoire] department,” remembers Nishimura. “So they were throwing all the Asians in the publicity department. They must have thought we seemed studious.”

But Nishimura is equally excited about two projects he didn’t create.

He laughs. “I’m dead serious though!” Nishimura, a musician himself, later helped his bandmate James “Prohgress” Roh get the same publicity internship at Interscope. They worked there together for over a year. “It ended up being way more valuable though,” he says, thinking about how his band has evolved in the last 15 years. “The biggest part of independent music, besides making records, is how to get it out to people on your own terms, so it’s definitely a tool we’re grateful we learned.” It’s been six years since Far East Movement — currently comprised of Nishimura, Roh and Virman “DJ Virman” Coquia — broke into the mainstream with their global hits “Like a G6” and “Rocketeer,” and four years since their last studio album, Dirty Bass. It’s not that they stopped working. It’s they turned their attention to making space for other Asian American artists to be heard. Far East Movement’s new album, Identity, has reached No. 7 on the Billboard dance/electronic chart since it was released

His band launched a record label called Transparent Agency, which dropped We Might Die, the upcoming album from hip-hop artist Dumbfoundead on Nov. 9. They also co-created an Asian youth culture company, International Secret Agents (ISA), which produced a documentary with NBC Asian America called AKA Seoul. That film was released online on Nov. 10. “We never wanted it to be just about us,” says Nishimura. “When we were coming up, we didn’t have these role models, so we really felt the need to represent.” Nishimura maintains that the business and marketing savvy Far East Movement has developed over the years has always been a result of “survival” and “necessity.” But community-building has always been an integral part of their identity. Back in the mid-2000s, when artists were still experimenting with ways to market themselves online, Nishimura and Roh wrote email newsletters that would give updates on the band’s whereabouts and direct people to other artists they thought were worth checking out. It was a pre-Twitter social networking approach, when many musicians found fans through the blogging-social media site MySpace. They invited fans to their BBQs and they called all their colleagues and supporters part of the Far East Movement “fam” or “family.”

IN BETWEEN | 35


TRAILBLAZERS

They still do. When their songs were first played on the radio — most notably, 2009’s “Girls On The Dance Floor,” co-written with Bruno Mars — industry insiders took notice, but often told them that the name “Far East Movement” sounded too Asian, too limiting. And in some ways, they had a point. Part of the reason Far East Movement needed a four-year break in 2012 was because they were tired of being constantly harassed online for being Asian, and being pigeonholed by the music industry for having limited appeal. All they really wanted to do was make their signature, mainstream-friendly dance music. They don’t regret sticking with their name, which symbolizes their promise of a collective movement. Dan Matthews, whose experience as a Korean American adoptee is documented in AKA Seoul, remembers inviting Far East Movement to perform at San Diego State University in 2008 when he was president of his Asian American student group. “I was blown away, because it was really the first time I’d seen an Asian American hip-hop group live,” says Matthews. “I had been writing music since high school, but they had a big impact on me deciding to pursue music as a career.” Matthews, also a rapper who goes by danAKAdan, was one of the early performers for International Secret Agents, which started as a live concert series in 2008. “We were always complaining about how there aren’t enough places to perform, so we thought, ‘Let’s take the money we’ve made and invest it back into the community. Let’s create a bigger stage and showcase artists that we like,’” says Nishimura. Eventually, the series evolved into an online platform for original web series, ISAtv. A decade later, Matthews is their content director. The record label Transparent Agency grew in a similar way. When Far East Movement signed a major record deal with Cherrytree Records in 2010, they realized they still had a limited budget to market their music.

36 | IN BETWEEN

“It was still a DIY operation,” says Nishimura, of their experience at a big record label. “Transparent started as a service-based company that would do all the business and visual aspects around Far East Movement that the label wouldn’t do, and eventually, we realized, ‘We’ve done it for ourselves. Why can’t we do it for other artists?’ So we turned it into a management company and record label.” Identity is Far East Movement’s first album to be released through Transparent, and it was the first time Nishimura felt like they didn’t have to answer to anybody. Instead of running away from the mainstream that called their band too Asian, Far East Movement embraced their ethnicities and educated themselves about current music trends in Asia — this time around, collaborating with big-name Korean pop artists including Yoon Mirae, Jay Park, Hyolin from Sistar and Girls’ Generation’s Tiffany, to name a few. “Everyone told us, if you use Korean artists and words in your songs, they’ll never play them on the radio,” says Nishimura. “‘You could fill that slot with Wiz Khalifa instead of Chanyeol from EXO.’ And we were like, ‘We don’t care.’ We fought to do things on our own terms, so it’s such a surprise that we are still getting the radio play.” Even in the last four years, Nishimura sees a shift in the way that listeners accept music as a global industry. Far East Movement’s new single “Freal Love” was released on the Netherlands record label Spinnin’ Record and has already received over 11 million hits on YouTube. Artists from Panama to Norway are on Transparent’s music label. They also co-created the label BreadNButter Records with Trap City, a music channel in the Netherlands, to highlight trap music, the heavy sounding hip-hop that came out of the American south. Their “movement,” which was originally conceived as a specifically Asian American movement, has become bigger than they ever imagined. “Not that many bands have been able to reach the levels of success that Far East Movement has, yet they continue to be accessible and help up-and-coming artists,” says Matthews. “And I’m literally a product of this community that they’ve been able to build.”


“ INSTEAD OF RUNNING AWAY FROM THE MAINSTREAM THAT CALLED THEIR BAND TOO ASIAN, FAR EAST MOVEMENT EMBRACED THEIR ETHNICITIES...”

IN BETWEEN | 37


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

You’re Listening To...

MESSAGE FROM YOUR HEART “ ...I think this one serves as a reminder to love myself a little more. There will always be flaws and imperfections I see In myself, but it is a miracle in itself how we survive every day and it’s important to recognize how hard the body works to keep us alive.“

38 | IN BETWEEN


Don’t break me, I bruise easily

Every time you sleep

The source of both your love

Every time you eat

and misery

Every time you laugh

I am steady beating endlessly While you are dozing Dreaming pretty things I don’t work for free

This is a message from your heart Your most devoted body part Taking blood and making art

Please take care of me

Every time you cry

This is a message from your heart

Pounding away into the dark

Your most devoted body part

You could thank me for a start

Taking blood and making art

This is a message from your heart

This is a message from your heart

Every time you love

Pounding away into the dark

This is a message from your heart

You could thank me for a start

This is a message from your heart

This is a message from your heart

This is a message from your heart Don’t hurt me, I bleed constantly My effort to leave me blood flow back swiftly My rhythm soothing like rain drops steady On foggy windows when you gaze outwardly I don’t work for free Please take care of me This is a message from your heart Your most devoted body part Taking blood and making art This is a message from your heart Pounding away into the dark You could thank me for a start This is a message from your heart

By:

KINA GRANNIS IN BETWEEN | 39


ABOUT LANGUAGE “I think language matters. When they sing in Korean / Cantonese / Mandarin, I feel more connected with the lyrics.”

“ I believe listening to music in another language Especially an Asian language... is very empowering as someone who’s first language isn’t English and... it can be incredibly moving to take in media that isn’t made to conform with Western ideals.”

40 | IN BETWEEN


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

“ I used to listen to a lot of rap that came out of the US, and I've spent time enjoying classical music (written by Europeans), Caribbean music like Soca, and many other genres. I appreciate a lot of music from a lot of artists from a variety of places around the world, but my 'home base' has usually been East Asian music that started with J-pop. It was one way that I could practice language and immerse in the culture without having to study with books...”

“Lexie Liu's song 'Manta' is a blend of Mandarin and English - I can't even speak mandarin but hearing someone make such a cool song that blends both Chinese and English is amazing - and the fact that she's fluent in both pieces the divide. listening to Asian music FROM Asia makes me feel amazing. It's like a world that I get to access through music. Music really makes me feel way less like diaspora and more connected.”

“ I'm open to listening songs in languages that aren't English because growing up, I would listen to Vietnamese songs or even Chinese/Korean depending on what drama show my mother was watching at the time. In a way I guess, me being into K-pop is reflecting of how I want to be in "touch" with something that is Asian.”

IN BETWEEN | 41


YouTube in the 2000s and 2010s was a vital platform for Asian creators to share their work and gain fans without barriers...

AJ RAFAEL 42 | IN BETWEEN


TRAILBLAZERS

helping artists like AJ Rafael and Jeff Bernat break into the music scene.

JEFF BERNAT IN BETWEEN | 43


For many Asian teens and pre-teens growing up in the late 2000s and early 2010s, YouTube was one of the only platforms where they could see and find content created by emerging Asian artists. Because YouTube was so easy to access and didn’t have any strict barriers or requirements for content creators to upload their videos, with the exception of having access to a camera and a computer, many Asian artists that would most likely be rejected from mainstream industries found a home in the platform6. Anyone was encouraged to share their work and their talents without the fear of rejection from a large corporation or governing body. Uploads from Asian creators included a large range of content, including comedic videos, acoustic covers, short films, and makeup tutorials6. Artists that would post covers or original songs on YouTube had a particularly large impact, as their popularity led to the creation of an online music subculture, where many musicians and youth of the Asian diaspora shared and discovered artists such as Jeremy Passion, Kina Grannis, AJ Rafael, and Jeff Bernat7. Although many of these artists didn’t reach what would be considered traditional mainstream success in the Western music industry through radio play or chart recognition, many gained thousands and even millions of views on both covers and original music7. They were able to garner their own fanbases and allowed Asian

post covers regularly, while occasionally releasing original music. Recently in 2020, he posted a message to his fans to thank them for their support, displaying the impact that these YouTube communities have had on Asian youth. His message details how many of his listeners have been around since the 2000s and 2010s, when most were just in middle or high school. Many fans still listen to AJ’s music often because it makes them nostalgic, and reminds them of when they were younger, their experiences as kids and teenagers, and past relationships8. Jeff Bernat also began his musical career by posting covers on YouTube, starting his channel around 20099. He released his first album The Gentleman Approach in 2011, which featured one of his most well-known songs “Call You Mine”. This song was eventually used in a Korean drama, which introduced him to the overseas market. Due to the success of the song, he was then asked to write a new song specially for the drama, creating a large fanbase based in both Korea and in the Asian diaspora who enjoy consuming Korean content9. Although they are both notable artists who came from the early YouTube era that provided representation for the experiences of Asian American creators, their music reaches beyond North America, as seen by Jeff Bernat’s success in Korea and AJ Rafael’s popularity among international artists. Many notable K-pop idols often cite Jeff Bernat and AJ Rafael as inspirations or as people that they’re fans of. Jeff Bernat in particular has also collaborated with many wellknown artists in the industry including DEAN and Whee In of MAMAMOO.

“ THEY... ALLOWED ASIAN YOUTH TO SEE PEOPLE WHO LOOKED LIKE THEM... SUCCESSFULLY PURSUING CREATIVE ENDEAVORS. youth to see people who looked like them and had similar backgrounds successfully pursuing creative endeavors. Two fan favourites that became popular through the early days of YouTube include AJ Rafael and Jeff Bernat. AJ Rafael began posting covers on YouTube in 2006, and is best known for songs like “We Could Happen” and “When We Say”8. Since uploading his first video almost two decades ago, he has gained over one million subscribers on his YouTube channel and continues to

44 | IN BETWEEN

AJ Rafael and Jeff Bernat, alongside other Asian musicians that started their careers through YouTube were an integral part of the soundtracks to the lives of many listeners who are part of the Asian diaspora and grew up in the 2000s and 2010s. This was the first time that many people from this community saw honest portrayals of Asian Americans on screens and led many young Asian musicians who were interested in music, but reluctant to pursue it due to parental expectations or lack of existing representation, to participate and share their talents with the world. Without the often discriminatory and highly selective barriers of mainstream industries, like the music, film, or beauty industries, Asian creators were able to thrive and share their work freely through social media platforms like YouTube, and in turn inspire other creators to pursue their passions further.


TRAILBLAZERS

IN BETWEEN | 45


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

I don’t wanna go back 난 오늘 하루도

밑 빠진 독에 물을 부어야 해

사람들은 말해 서둘러야만 해 매번 같은 말에 많

나 혼자만 느린 것 같아

그래 그땐 그랬었지 내가 참 좋아했지 힘들어도 다

이 지쳤어 난 이제

내가 나도 모르게

힘들어도 난 마냥 좋았어 난

Take it slow

그래 그땐 그랬지 참 좋았지 어디서부터 어떻게

저 멀리 보이는 수평선까지

가지 않아도 돼 잠깐 멈춰도 돼 그래도 돼

Take it slow Slow Go Slow Slow 괜찮아 아직까지는 나

모든게 완벽하진 않아도 매일 밤 반복되는 꿈에

무서워 잠을 잘 못 자도 어디쯤을 지나는 걸까 매번 똑같이 궁금해도

46 | IN BETWEEN

그냥 너무 빠른 것 같아

전부 다 놓쳐버리고서

이러는 건지 몰라 몰라 Slow Go Slow Slow 아직도 나

그때와 같다면 나는 달라졌 을까

어디쯤에 서있을까

잊진 않았을까 내겐 좋았던 기억이 많은데

너도 그랬으면 해

부디 같은 맘이였으면 해 Take it slow Slow Go Slow Slow


You’re Listening To...

SLOW By:

Transl: I dont wanna go back

Everything’s just moving

Today another day again

so fast

I have to pour water into a

Feels like I’m the only one

bottomless pit

going slow

People tell me I just need

Yeah, that’s how I was

to hurry

back then

The same words every time

Even when everything was

I’m so sick of them now

hard, I was still happy

Yeah, it was like that back then Even on the worst days, I was still happy Where did I lose it?

I don’t know if it’s because I missed out on everything so I’m like this I don’t know I don’t know

I don’t need to get to the

Take it slow

far horizon

Slow

It’s okay to pause for

Go slow

a moment

Slow

It’s fine, you can do that

If I was the same way as

Take it slow

back then

Slow

Would I be different?

Go slow

Where would I be standing?

Slow

Have I forgotten?

So far, I’m doing fine Not everything can be perfect I keep having the same dream

I had so many good memories I hope you do too

SOLE

“ Sometimes, I’ll see and compare myself to other young members of the Asian diaspora who are already achieving great things in life. Due to this, I occasionally feel pressured, and will second guess my own abilities at times. Whenever this happens, I just remind myself that everyone is going at their own pace, and that it’s completely fine to do so. I listen to this song a lot whenever I need reassurance... The chorus... is where I am really able to take a deep breath and calm myself down whenever I’m stressed.”

I pray you feel it too

every night So scared, I can’t

Take is slow

even sleep well

Slow

Where am I going?

Go slow

I wonder about it all the time

Slow

IN BETWEEN | 47


M.I.A. MISSING IN ACTION THE MEANING BEHIND PAPER PLANES

Words by Ibtisaam Ahmed

Originally published on January 1, 2021

48 | IN BETWEEN


TRAILBLAZERS

IN BETWEEN | 49


TRAILBLAZERS

“That’s amazing,” said recording artist M.I.A. in 2018 when she heard that her hit song "Paper Planes" earned her the Number 1 spot on NPR Music’s The 200 Greatest Songs by 21st Century Women. “I’ve never come first at anything. Like definitely a massive historical moment in my journey, to be recognized as someone who’s made this song. It’s nice because to me it’s so layered. And it did represent a time where we had the financial crisis and also the immigrant stuff, also it’s about sort of mixing genres. To me, it has a lot of memories and meaning. Yeah, people still like the song, which is kind of amazing.” Mathangi ‘Maya’ Arulpragasam was born in London in 1976 but her family returned to Sri Lanka while she was an infant because her father wanted to join in the uprising of the Tamil minority, eventually joining the Tamil Tigers. A civil war had erupted in Sri Lanka in 1983 and by 1986, Maya’s mother took her children and sought asylum in England. As refugees, the family was placed in the tough borough of Merton. Maya grew up in South London amongst high unemployment levels and high levels of crime in an ethnically diverse area. After graduating with a film degree in 1998, Maya became interested in music, writing under the name M.I.A. – designed to reflect Missing in Acton (the neighbourhood she was living in at the time) as well as the term used in war. After gaining a critical response with her single "Galang" in 2003, M.I.A. went on to release her debut album Arular in 2005. The New Yorker described the album as “genuine world music,” based on “the weaving of the political into the fabric of what are still, basically, dance tunes.” Mainstream success and widespread acclaim, however, arrived with Kala in 2007. The album was meant to be recorded in Los Angeles with Timbaland at the producing helm in 2006. But the post-9/11 milieu resulted in M.I.A. being denied a visa for entry into the U.S. largely based on her father’s connections to the Tamil Tigers and lyrics from her first album. Determined to record her second album and in a move that prioritized the Global South against American imperial hegemony, M.I.A. decided to record on the road, sampling local music on the album in countries like India, Trinidad and Tobago, Liberia, Jamaica, and

50 | IN BETWEEN

Japan. The result was explosive and M.I.A. further cemented her sound of multicultural mashups, described as “a pastiche of hip-hop, electro, Jamaican dancehall, reggaeton, garage rock, Brazilian baile funk, grime, Bollywood bhangra and video game soundtracks”. Responding to accusations and describing her music in her own words, M.I.A. said, “I don’t support terrorism and never have. As a Sri Lankan that fled the war and bombings, my music is the voice of the civilian refugee.” This voice was particularly loud on "Paper Planes", a song which catapulted M.I.A. into stardom. With its catchy melody and banging baseline, the song was featured in an exhilarating montage sequence of children hustling to make money in the film Slumdog Millionaire and is perfectly matched to the raw scenes depicting courage, brotherhood and extreme poverty. "Paper Planes" went multi-platinum, topping charts around the world but the song was not without controversy, mostly over its lyrics which were perceived by some to contain a disturbing message. M.I.A. raps about evading border police, manufacturing fake visas, selling crack, and delivering “lethal poison to the system”. The chorus features a choir of children singing about shooting and taking money over the sounds of gunshots and cash registers. Aside from those critics who highlighted the alleged glorification of violence and criminality, the majority of "Paper Planes" listeners hardly understood or paid attention to the words of the song. For M.I.A., challenging the limits of pop music was part of her artistry and she explained that she “wanted to see if [she] could write songs about something important and make it sound like nothing”. The importance of "Paper Planes" was its satire around widespread negative stereotypes about immigrants, particularly from war-torn countries – a theme that is somewhat lost in the hypnotic downtempo hip hop track sampling African folk elements. The song also samples The Clash’s 1982 single "Straight to Hell" – a deliberate choice, given the band’s politics. While the British punk movement is often associated with screaming about ‘Anarchy in the UK’, The Clash rejected nihilism, condemned police brutality and came to the defence of Jamaican immigrants. A part of the lyrical


“THE IMPORTANCE OF PAPER PLANES WAS ITS SATIRE AROUND WIDESPREAD NEGATIVE STEREOTYPES ABOUT IMMIGRANTS, PARTICULARLY FROM WAR-TORN COUNTRIES...”

IN BETWEEN | 51


TRAILBLAZERS

theme of "Straight to Hell" considers the alienation of non-English speaking immigrants in British society. The ‘character’ rapping in "Paper Planes" is not M.I.A. but rather “a fictional thug representing the sum of all prejudices about dark-skinned foreigners supposedly menacing Western society”. Speaking about the song, M.I.A. said, “People don’t really feel like immigrants or refugees contribute to culture in any way. That they’re just leeches that suck from whatever. So in the song, I say “All I wanna do is [sound of gun shooting and reloading, cash register opening] and take your money.” I did it in sound effects. It’s up to you how you want to interpret. America is so obsessed with money, I’m sure they’ll get it.” With "Paper Planes", M.I.A. established herself as that rare pop artist who addresses politics and brings issues into the mainstream. Positioning herself in this way rendered her the target of a censorship campaign and being constantly badgered about her music and it’s messages. Providing further clarification about her hit song, M.I.A. said, “[it’s] about people driving cabs all day and living in a shitty apartment and appearing really threatening to society. But not being so. Because, by the time you’ve finished working a 20-hour shift, you’re so tired you just want to get home to the family. I don’t think immigrants are that threatening to society at all. They’re just happy they’ve survived some war somewhere.”

2016 and she has even alluded to the fact that she has retired from music. She does, however, still consider herself an artist, something that allows her to reconcile her many identities. “I liked the Sri Lankan aspect of me and it took me ages to come to terms with it. Being an immigrant or a refugee was something I had to learn and then being a party person and art student was another part of who I was. I couldn’t be one thing, so it was about being able to have a life that was based on my experience and being many things and finding a home some way. I guess my art became my home.” Despite being one of the most polarizing musical artists of the 00s, M.I.A.’s legacy lies largely in the way in which she was able to craft a particular moment and capture a particular mood with "Paper Planes" in the

“ THAT A SONG WITH GUNSHOTS AND AN ANTI-IMPERIALIST, PRO-IMMIGRANT MESSAGE CAN EMBED ITSELF IN POP CULTURE IS AN INCREDIBLE FEAT. “

After the incredible success of Kala (2007), M.I.A. went on to record three more albums, Maya (2010), Matangi (2013) and AIM (2016). Arguably her most iconic song after "Paper Planes" is "Bad Girls" which combined mid-tempo hip hop with Middle Eastern, dancehall and worldbeat instrumentation and whose lyrics and music video centres on sexual prowess and female empowerment. But M.I.A. has not released any new music since

52 | IN BETWEEN

pre-woke days of 2008 – when songs like Flo-Rida’s "Low", Katy Perry’s "I Kissed A Girl," and Natasha Bedingfield’s "Pocketful of Sunshine" dominated the charts. Dusty Henry writes, “[t]hat a song with gunshots and an anti-imperialist, pro-immigrant message can embed itself in pop culture is an incredible feat. It’s art without compromise, eagerly embraced by the masses. To this day, I’ll still hear the song in commercials, parties, and – of course – on the radio… To get the masses singing along to a song that uplifts the immigrant community while admonishing the systemic issues that breed hate toward said communities, that’s something miraculous.”


TRAILBLAZERS

MIKE PARK Words by John Silva

Originally published on June 9, 2020

OF ASIAN MAN RECORDS ON WHY COMMUNITY IS EVERYTHING

Few people have made as big an impact on the DIY music community as Mike Park. Playing in bands like Skankin’ Pickle and The Chinkees, his music has been both widely enjoyed and hugely influential for ska from the ’90s to today. But in addition to his own music, Park has also had a big influence on the scene by helping other bands get their start. He founded Dill Records and eventually Asian Man Records in the ’90s. Over the past 24 years, Asian Man has been a home and sometimes a launching pad for many seminal punk and ska bands, from The Alkaline Trio, to Less Than Jake, to Bomb! the Music Industry, to AJJ and countless others. In 2011, he even founded an offshoot of the label called Fun Fun Records to release children’s music, like the Minnesota dance-pop duo Koo Koo Kangaroo. Through the community he established at Asian Man, Park continues to touch the lives of adults and children around the world. Even after decades of involvement in the DIY scene, he hasn’t lost that love and care for the community.

IN BETWEEN | 53


TRAILBLAZERS

Can you tell me about how you first got into music, and more specifically, how you fell in love with ska? Music in general, just from whatever my parents had played. When I was a little kid I remember having the Simon and Garfunkel Bridge Over Troubled Water LP. I used to listen to that a lot. That sense of harmony between the two singers was just so pleasing to the ear. But in terms of underground music, I think in the early ’80s, I had a friend whose father was really into alternative music. He took him to the Us festival in ’82, I believe, and then he brought back this brochure with all the bands that played. I remember he had like, The English Beat, Wall of Voodoo, Oingo Boingo. So I got introduced to those bands and that set me on the path of alternative music. Once I got into high school, I started getting into punk. Like early Black Flag, early D.R.I., 7 Seconds was a big one.

54 | IN BETWEEN


And then ska, I didn’t really know what it was, I knew the bands like Madness, The English Beat, The Specials, because they had hits on the radio or on MTV. But I thought it was just new wave alternative music from the U.K. Then I saw a movie called Dance Craze at the local art house theater in San Jose, and it was the first time I ever saw people dance in a movie, a lot of rude boy, skinheads, mods. The next day I went to the record store, to this place called Streetlight Records, and I bought – one of the bands in the movie was Bad Manners – I found a cassette tape, the album was called Klass. And that kind of started it. I remember listening to that tape nonstop. But at the time a lot of that two tone [stuff], the bands were at the end of their first initial run as bands. It was kind of dying out. But we were lucky we had a couple bands from Southern California, which were Fishbone and the Untouchables, and they were new and starting out and touring a lot, so I got to go to the shows. And Fishbone was a really exciting band. I was all in at that point, in the ’80s.

and creating music and in terms of signing ska bands for your label. Well, in terms of signing ska bands, we haven’t really signed many in the last 15 years. But for Asian Man, the criteria for signing bands is just, A). I have to like the music, B). nice people, C). active — the band is active in some capacity in their DIY community. So it’s not just a band that’s like, ‘hey we wanna get signed!’ They’re actually doing cool stuff in whatever city they’re from.

A lot of people who think that way, they don’t know anything about ska. Their thought of ska is this third wave boom of Reel Big Fish, The Aquabats, and I love those bands, but they’re kind of equated as this goofy carnival music. If you tell them that Bob Marley started as a ska artist, Toots and the Maytals, Desmond Dekker, Jackie Mittoo, Clancy Eccles, they wouldn’t know any of these people! If you played them these early rock steady songs from Jamaica, they wouldn’t know that [stuff]. They would just think its reggae. It’s just a limited IQ in terms of music knowledge. That’s how I view it.

For me, growing up, when you had The Specials, which I view as the perfect ska band—The Specials had it all, they had the music, the fashion, and they had the political slant to their tunes. So did English Beat, they had political anthems too. For two tone, just as a movement, the whole idea of the name ’two tone’ is about black and white coexisting. So it is very political. And if you go back to the roots of Jamaican ska, it’s all—I mean it’s not all political—but it’s all working class music from the Jamaican skinheads. When I saw Fishbone when I was in high school in the ’80s, it was just interesting to see a band of people of color. I’m trying to equate my generation of a young teenager’s mind, every band from that generation that played alternative music, it was just white people. So for me, as an Asian American, I never saw any Asian Americans in any kind of successful alternative music, it was just, like, classical music. Even though Fishbone were African American, it was still something that resonated with me just ’cause it wasn’t whitewashed music. And then that simple phrase on their t-shirts of ‘Fuck Racism,’ and the Fishbone logo. Doesn’t even say Fishbone, just the logo and ‘Fuck Racism.’ That was a heavy thing for me.

Ska was started as a counterculture, and was/is often sociopolitical in lyrical content. What role do you think ska plays in sociopolitical movements? Is that something you think about as you interact with the genre? Both in terms of writing

That really instilled a lot of ideas for impressionable young kids to listen to these lyrics, more than just a pop song where you just kinda sing a long and it’s a happy, happy song. So I kind of analyzed those lyrics, and that goes along with the Dead Kennedys, with “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” Listening to these lyrics, and going ‘oh this is cool.’ 7 Seconds, same thing with “Color

Why do you think people make fun of ska so much?

IN BETWEEN | 55


TRAILBLAZERS

Blind.” It was like, ‘whoa, a lot of anti-racist things going on in this music.’ So for me, when I started writing, even though Skankin’ Pickle had a lot of silly songs because we were a democratic band with a lot of songwriters, a lot of my songs were very political. Going back to our first album with "Racist World", David Duke was running for president. And then I parlayed that into The Chinkees which was an overtly political ska band, made up of Asian Americans, where we can kind of talk about our struggles growing up in the United States. And so that was my first foray into being overtly political.

Why did you decide you wanted to get involved in music from the label side of things as opposed to just being in a band? I’m trying to think back to when Skankin’ Pickle first started. We were teenagers, so, I was no different, we were just kind of like, ‘oh, we’re in a band, it would be cool to be famous.’ I didn’t really know about that DIY philosophy. As I got more into the politics of punk as a sub-genre, not just as a fashion or a sound, I started looking at other labels, in particular Dischord, and I would notice the owner of Dischord is Ian McKaye who plays in Minor Threat, plays in Fugazi, he’s do it himself. And then with SST, with Greg Ginn in Black Flag, he’s in the band, he didn’t let anyone else dictate his future. He’s putting out his own music. And then with Brett [Gurewitz] in Epitaph, he’s putting out his own music. Slim Moon with Kill Rockstars, then even Fat Mike later, with Fat Wreck. It was just a continuing theme I saw of, why let someone else dictate the future, just do it. We actually started a label called Dill Records first, which was a collective amongst the members of Skankin’ Pickle, but then I started Asian Man after that.

Do you get more personal fulfillment from helping other bands succeed, or from writing your own music? It is apples and oranges. I especially like working with new bands from the very start. A lot of labels can just…let’s say I put out a band and they start doing well and then label A, B, or C, picks up the band when I’ve already laid the groundwork, it’s an easier job. But when you have that band from the very beginning and you’re able to watch them, it’s pretty cool. Watching Alkaline Trio from the very beginning grow and grow, it was cool. I still get that enjoyment with all the new bands I put out. Not all of them do well [laughs], but I still like doing it.

56 | IN BETWEEN

When you look back on the Asian Man Records history, what are you most proud of? I think the thing I’m most proud of is that, right now we’re on year 24, so next month we’re on year 25, and it still feels really fresh to me! It still doesn’t feel like a job, per se, it’s just kind of like, I get to do this fun hobby that lots of kids love to do. A lot of kids have their own labels and they just do it for fun as a passion. And in most cases they lose money. But they still do it ’cause it’s fun. And I still feel that. It’s exciting, and I think that’s what I’m most proud of. It’s never become a labor intensive job, it’s been a labor of love rather than something that’s become a disgust in my life or having to do this because it pays the bills or whatever.

What is the role of small DIY record labels nowadays, when bands are able to self-release albums? It’s hard to say, because Asian Man is so ghetto, we don’t really do anything. I’m really straight up with the bands, it’s just me and one other guy, and right now the other guy can’t even work ’cause he’s dealing with some health issues. I just tell the bands, listen, we don’t have publicists, we don’t have radio, we don’t have retail, it’s just me posting stuff on social media and hoping that the people who follow Asian Man continue to buy the new stuff I put out. More than anything, they become part of a community, so they can reach out to other bands on Asian Man and hope that they’ll help them when they go on tour to their city, and then they’ll pay that back when that band goes on tour. So it’s kind of an opportunity for bands to need each other, even though they don’t need each other, but they have that common thread of working with me. But really, I do nothing [laughs]. I do feel bad about it, but I know my limitations and what I want to do. The music industry is such a cutthroat business and I just never wanted to play that game, so I felt like this is the most honest way I can put out records and continue to work with bands.

So it feels more like a community than a business? It does. And that’s really important to me, that it is community, and that we are friends. I never want it to be business. I hope that a band that sells one copy versus a band that sells a million copies, I would treat them the same. Probably not [laughs]. But at least in my mind that’s my hope, that everyone gets equal treatment.


Why did you decide to start an offshoot of your label to produce children’s music, and what role do you see music playing in the lives of children? Music in the lives of children is incredibly important. It’s scientifically proven how music can develop a person’s brain activity as a toddler or even in the womb. The reason Fun Fun [Records] came upon the world is because I had kids, and I found myself singing, making up, improvising songs to them when they were just babies. And I would notice, some melodies would make them laugh, or smile. I was like, ‘oh, interesting.’ I found myself saying ‘okay, let’s go with this melody and see if I can write some tunes.’ So I put out a children’s music album, and that was just on Asian Man, but I thought, I should start a kids label! But then as my kids got older I lost interest [laughs]. But I thought it was such a genius idea at the time. I was like, no one is doing this! Everybody who’s in the punk scene— you get older, you have kids. And so why not do this! I thought it was such a good idea but man, after my kids grew older I just kind of lost interest. There’s nobody I can test this music on anymore! [laughs].

Why did you decide to get the Chinkees

back together for the first time in over a decade? Steve Choi, who’s the keyboardist, he’s also in a band called RX Bandits, he just reached out and said ‘hey I’ve been writing some ska punk stuff. We should collaborate.’ And we weren’t even sure it was gonna be the Chinkees, we were like ‘let’s just see what happens.’ So we recorded and then, we’re kinda thinking, ‘should this be a new band?’ and I said ‘well I don’t really wanna tour’ [laughs]. I think with a new band it’s a lot harder. And it sounds like the Chinkees, it has a very distinct sound. Let’s just put it under the Chinkees name. At least that way we can get it heard. I think more than anything, we just want the songs to be heard. It’s not like we’re going to retire off this monetarily, it’s small potatoes in the big scheme of things. But it’s just what we do, we like making music and we’d like as many people to hear it as humanly possible.

What can people expect from the new EP? Unapologetic ska punk that’s poppy, aggressive, has some chill vibes here and there too. It’s only four songs, but I think it’s a cool little sample of what the Chinkees sound had developed years ago and hopefully something we can keep coming back to and putting out new songs here and there throughout the future.

IN BETWEEN | 57


ASIAN PRODIGY 58 | IN BETWEEN


TRAILBLAZERS

I don't want to be a doctor There are things I need to share I want you to love me Sharing all your love with me Sorry I can't be your Asian Prodigy Can you treat me like a person? There are things I need to share

IN BETWEEN | 59


60 | IN BETWEEN

TALVIN SINGH


TRAILBLAZERS

Originally published in 2003

Words by Laura Hightower

The music created by British drum ‘n’ bass musician and tabla player Talvin Singh unites the classic traditions of the East with the modern dance-club textures of the West, a style he defines as “tablatronics.” Rising to recognition in the mid-1990s, Singh was one of the first to introduce Indian music to today’s mainstream youth and to simultaneously inspire a new direction for emerging electronica artists. But unlike most of his followers, including some simply taking advantage of the growing interest in Eastern music, Singh aptly uncovers the common rhythms inherent to both forms, and the result sounds fluid and natural, not contrived or forced. Excluding creative talent and years of practice, a central reason why his compositions and arrangements work so well in comparison to others’ is the fact that Singh views musicmaking as a personal process. “One thing I don’t do, I don’t take, I give,” he asserted in Connect magazine. “Taking is a different skill but my thing is to give. My music is very much a reflection of my own personality. Often before I even make my music, I usually make a video in my head. It’s an Indian thing, like a raag mala, you have a picture of the emotions.” Singh’s exposure to both cultures has likewise played a major role in his ability to identify and articulate the common threads. “Music shouldn’t have boundaries,” he commented in an article at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) News website. “That’s the way I’ve always seen music. It’s just language that everyone can identify with.” He was born in 1970 in London to Indian-born parents. His mother and father, after fleeing the regime of Idi Amin in Uganda in the 1960s, had arrived in Great Britain via Kenya. From a very young

age, Singh felt drawn to both the world of his family’s origin and to the place of his own birth. An energetic child, he expressed a penchant for percussion at an early age, playing pots and pans at home around age five. He then took up the tabla, a percussion instrument made of two drums, at around age seven. Not much later, he also began break dancing to hip-hop with other Asian kids in the neighborhood. By the 1980s, Singh was listening to every type of techno and acid house music he could find. In addition to his varied interests, Singh remained dedicated to traditional Indian music and percussion as well. At 16 years of age, he traveled to the Punjab region of India to study classical tabla with the master Pandit Lashman Singh for a year, continuing thereafter to visit his teacher for a time each winter. However, Singh knew that on a certain level, he could not play exclusively Indian classical music. “There have been times in my life when I just wanted to play Indian classical music, but that’s where my identity crisis kicked in,” he concluded, as quoted by the BBC. “I didn’t feel it was really me.” Similarly, Singh refused to exclude the traditional from his repertoire. “I see the whole dance thing as an outsider but I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing,” he admitted to Jim Carroll in an interview for the Muse website. “My percussion and drumming is coming from a classical perspective, so what I’m doing is taking little bits of everything and applying it to create something entirely new.”

IN BETWEEN | 61


TRAILBLAZERS

In London in the 1990s, Singh began living out his desire to innovate. In addition to participating in the club culture, he took work as a studio musician and earned a reputation in the music industry for his tabla playing and Eastern-influenced arrangements. Jazz, pop, and world musicians, as well as purveyors of dance music, soon lined up to work with Singh. By the middle of the decade, he had opportunities to collaborate with an eclectic list of artists such as Björk, Sun Ra, Courtney Pine, Cleveland Watkiss, Madonna, the Future Sound of London, Little Axe, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Massive Attack, and others. During the same period, in 1995, he founded the now-famous Anokha, meaning “unique,” at the Blue Note in London. The club soon flourished into one of the hippest venues in the city. Here, Singh performed tabla and percussion alongside a number of emerging Asian DJs and bands. He also remixed and contributed to many of their recordings. In 1997 he released Anokha: Soundz of the Asian Underground, a compilation album comprising songs by Singh and other Anokha artists.

“ ... WHAT I’M DOING IS TAKING LITTLE BITS OF EVERYTHING AND APPLYING IT TO CREATE SOMETHING ENTIRELY NEW.”

62 | IN BETWEEN

The following year, in addition to performing a celebrated concert with Indian traditional musicians at London’s Royal Festival Hall, Singh released his first solo outing. OK, an East/West fusion album populated by arrangements of strings, breakbeats, and tablas, won for Singh the highly coveted Mercury Music Prize. His competition that year included such names as Beth Orton, the Chemical Brothers, and Thomas Adès. One of the most memorable tracks, the rhythmically complex “Mombasstic,” discussed his father’s experience of ejection from East Africa. Listening through this piece and the remaining songs, all held together with trance-like rhythms, one is alternately confronted with both chaos and order. Strikingly, these disparate forces blend and transition seamlessly in the hands of Singh. But regardless of such merits, the work inspired critics, and later even Singh himself, to accusing OK of sounding too showy---an attempt to prove just how much he could pack into one album. “The thing is, OK was my first solo album and I had accumulated so much baggage, musical genre baggage,” Singh admitted in an interview with Wire’s Peter Shapiro. “There were so many styles of music that I like, which I listen to, and I wanted to try to fit it all in. So even though to me it doesn’t sound cramped at all, it does sound ... a bit like a compilation album.” Singh’s next effort, however 2001’s Ha resolved the over-eagerness of his solo debut. The songs, including the epic opener “One” and the pulsating techno number “Dubla”, individually are composed and designed with a greater sense of structure, and overall the album feels more cohesive. “This album, I suppose, is a bit more compositional, especially as far as using Indian raags and how to frame them into a concept, a sonic design, as opposed to just an Indian song,” he explained to Shapiro. In addition to solo success with OK and Ha, Singh remains a much-sought-after producer, remixer, performer, and collaborator. Perhaps his greatest achievement in this capacity was accepting an invitation to join Tabla Beat Science, an outfit featuring percussionists Zakir Hussain, Trilok Gurtu, and Karsh Kale, sarangi player Sultan Khan, and composer/producer/bassist Bill Laswell. In 2000 the group released Tala Matrix on Laswell’s Axiom label to great acclaim.


IN BETWEEN | 63


You’re Listening To...

SORRY

“ This used to resonate with me because it captures my attitude sometimes. If someone hurts me, this is how I deal with it - party it up and distract myself, and once I feel better, I’m very unapologetic and it’s easy to move on... I wonder if this unapologetic attitude is inherently Asian. We were raised to deal with things on our own, if we’re hurt (emotionally), we keep that to ourselves. And as a result, that creates a pretty unapologetic attitude where we don’t see the issues with our behaviour, and causes us to be less empathetic to others’ feelings. At the end of the song, Deb becomes the reason someone else is fucked up at another party and she is still not sorry. It’s a cycle!”

64 | IN BETWEEN


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

By:

DEB NEVER Oh no, look at all the damage you have done

Don’t miss you much, think I’m better off alone

I’m no different at all from you

Don’t wanna find another you

You’re a full-speed freight train crashing through

Big words, act tough, thank God I cut the cord

my walls

‘Cause I can’t be tied to you

I’m a passenger, I’m stuck on you

Oh, I finally caught a break

Be the codeine, morphine, flowing through my veins

Oh, why do you look out of place?

Just can’t get enough

Don’t lie, you got a glass face

Get lifted, rocket ship, you’re my outer space

I can see it in your eyes, you’re

I’m a passenger, I think I’m

Feeling small

Feeling small

Lose yourself until you disappear

Lose myself until I disappear

Now I feel tall

Do you feel tall

Knowing I’m the reason that you’re

Knowing you’re the reason that I’m

Fucked up, blacked out drunk at another party

Fucked up, blacked out drunk at another party

Big shit rockstar, but I think you’re boring

Big shit rockstar, but I think you’re boring

Now I’m gone, moved on, yeah, I’m never sorry

Now I’m gone, moved on, yeah, I’m never sorry

I’m never sorry

I’m never sorry

Fucked up, blacked out drunk at another party

Fucked up, blacked out drunk at another party

Big shit rockstar, but I think you’re boring

Big shit rockstar, but I think you’re boring

Now I’m gone, moved on, yeah, I’m never sorry

Now I’m gone, moved on, yeah, I’m never sorry

I’m never sorry

I’m never sorry

IN BETWEEN | 65


Although the music industry is more welcoming to artists of the Asian diaspora now in comparison to conditions faced by Asian musicians in the 20th and early 21st century, barriers still exist. The recent popularity of K-pop and international Asian artists has definitely been a large step forward, but has left artists of the Asian diaspora out of the picture, often because they are not deemed as "interesting" or "exotic" as those on the international stage. Regardless, musicians of the Asian diaspora are slowly breaking into the music scene across all genres, including pop, punk, EDM, and R&B, continuing the work done by the artists that came before them and making space for the voices of tomorrow.

66 | IN BETWEEN


NEXT GEN

NEXT GE R A TI

NE

O

IN BETWEEN | 67

N


G GR R I I F F NEXT GEN

POW IS PO ERH P’S N SHE OUSE— EXT OW N CL MAKES AND OTH H ES, ER TOO

am

Li s by

rd Wo ished on

68 | IN BETWEEN

ubl

ly p

nal

gi Ori

s

Hes

021

,2 y 15 Ma


IN BETWEEN | 69


On Tuesday night, the British music world’s great and good came together for the first in-person celebration of music in over a year, the Brit Awards. The starry line-up of attendees included the likes of Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, and Olivia Rodrigo, but the night also marked the anointing of a bold new voice in music: the up-and-coming bedroom pop musician Griff. Not only did the emerging musician take home the Rising Star Award, previously won by the likes of Adele and Florence and the Machine, but she also delivered a show-stopping performance of her latest single “Black Hole.” Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, she wore a hand-made dress of her own design while doing so. “I was very nervous, as the last live show—in fact, the first live show I ever did—was with 200 people in the room, and then COVID happened, and so the next time I did a live show was at the O2 Arena, which is completely nuts,” says Griff. For her performance, she crafted a deconstructed ball gown from icy blue satin, the various panels attached with eyelets. While it brilliantly complemented Griff’s bold moves as she twirled around the stage, it also served as a perfect foil to the post-apocalyptic backdrop for the performance, which featured an enormous fabric sheet with a hole burned in the middle—a reference to the song’s title—and wooden decking for her backing musicians. “It was definitely overwhelming, but I think sometimes when it’s more intimate it can be even more nerve-wracking,” Griff adds. “It was nice to get lost in the arena a little bit.” It helped that Griff had two other, equally impactful looks to help her through the night. (Post-performance, she slipped into a delightfully flouncy tiered Simone Rocha gown featuring pouf sleeves, a harness detail, and encrusted with pearls.) But it was her first red carpet look—designed especially for the event by the London-based, Chinese-born designer and previous LVMH Prize nominee Susan Fang—that

70 | IN BETWEEN

G

“ MY WHOLE LIFE I FELT LIKE I WAS STICKING served as the most breathtaking fashion moment. With a shimmering, silveryblue shadow across her forehead and a single tear painted on her cheek, the final touch was an enormous, ethereal headpiece constructed from geometric wires and sparkling glass spheres. “I wanted to support an up-and-coming designer anyway, but I also think by going with a newer designer, hopefully they’ve got a fresh look that people haven’t really seen before. It’s also definitely important for me to support Black and Asian talent where I can,” says Griff, who was born in rural Hertfordshire to a Jamaican father and a Chinese mother. “We kind of went all out. I think we accidentally went a bit Met Gala to the Brits,” she laughs, “but I was kind of like why not? It was my first red carpet, let’s go big and go theatrical!” It was certainly the right occasion to go all-out—in no small part thanks to the fact that Griff was finally able to meet one of her heroes, Taylor Swift, for French fries in her dressing room after the show. (Swift had previously expressed she was a fan after Griff and fellow singersongwriter Maisie Peters recorded a cover of Swift’s “exile” last year.) “It’s so nuts,” Griff says. “I can’t even begin to explain to you how much Taylor Swift has influenced me as a writer. And then I was getting ready in the morning, when suddenly these flowers just appeared. And the note was like, ‘Hope your per-

OUT LIKE A SORE THUMB...”


I FF R

NEXT GEN

EVENTUALLY I’VE FOUND COMFORT IN THAT.”

lot about London designers particularly, so I did textiles at A-Level which taught me the basics of making a garment.”

formance goes well and hope I get to say hi! From your friend, Taylor.’ And I thought: Is there a Taylor I know that I’ve forgotten? Could it be Taylor Swift? And then when she did her speech, she shouted me out and I freaked out, then after the show we hung out for a bit. She was so great.”

Aside from all the fabulous fashions and celebrity co-signs, however, the real reason for Griff taking home the Rising Star Award was the music, which has been celebrated for its sideways, lo-fi take on pop and heartfelt lyrics—and of which she has plenty more in store. Her upcoming mixtape, One Foot In Front Of The Other, which releases in June, she describes as containing her most personal music yet, with all of the songs being self-produced and written in Griff’s bedroom. The title itself is something of a reflection of the strange circumstances of Griff’s ascent to popularity—a whirlwind year, but ironically, one spent largely within the four walls of her own home. “I learned how to walk a tightrope for the artwork, because I think that was important for visualizing that feeling of cautiously stepping forward, and feeling very vulnerable at any point,” she explains. “You could fall, but all you can really do is put one foot in front of the other.” Still, it’s her ability to channel the DIY spirit of her music through style that makes her doubly exciting, even if it was partly born out of frustrations around the expense of hiring a stylist when she was first starting out. “I had always really liked fashion,” she says. “I would read BoF and watch panels on SHOWstudio and stuff, and learned a

“Then when I signed a record deal and we started doing photo shoots, I found how much it costs to use a stylist, so I started bringing along bits that I’d made to photoshoots and saying, ‘If you want to use them, they’re here.’ I kept doing that and people kind of loved the idea that I was the girl who makes all her own clothes. Although it also started to be this precedent where I shot myself in the foot a little, as everyone would look at everything I wore and be like, did you make that?” Griff adds, with a laugh. It’s clear that what makes Griff stand out is not just her palpable confidence, but also a fierce spirit of independence, whether that means crafting her own looks to find the perfect fit for her latest music video, or her signature ponytail which features her hair crafted into sculptural baubles. (Griff notes that this partly came about after reading horror stories about hairstylists inexperienced with Afro hair; safer, she decided, to bring her own hairpieces.) “I think I’m very used to being different,” Griff concludes. “I grew up in a very white middle-class area, and obviously I’m not that. My whole life I felt like I was sticking out like a sore thumb, and I think eventually I’ve found comfort in that. My worst nightmare now would be to release music and put out visuals and be styled in a way that feels like conveyor belt pop or anything else we know and see all the time. Honestly, it’s one of my worst fears. So I think that kind of fear is what drove me to be so involved in the creative. It might not always work, but I think it’s just good to experiment and try and have that as your intention, you know?”

IN BETWEEN | 71


NEXT GEN

72 | IN BETWEEN


ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER I put one foot in front of the other today I stretched my arms out wide and it felt real strange And then my legs, they started shaking And my hands, they started quaking ‘Cause things just take longer to heal these days

IN BETWEEN | 73


You’re Listening To...

N.O

“This song talks about the pressure parents put on us to do well and excel by their standards and how to break free from these constraints. I feel that a lot of parents lay their own dreams onto their children and expect them to do it ‘for the sake of their parents’. Although I love my parents, our lives are our own paths in the end.”

74 | IN BETWEEN

By:

BTS


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

좋은 집, 좋은 차, 그런 게 행복일 수 있을까?

In Seoul to the SKY, 부모님은 정말 행복해질까? 꿈 없어졌지 숨 쉴 틈도 없이

Transl: A good house, a good car, will these things bring happiness? In Seoul to the SKY, would your parents be happy?

학교와 집 아니면 피씨방이 다인 쳇바퀴

Dreams are gone, no time to breathe

받는 학생은 꿈과 현실 사이의 이중간첩

Everyone lives the same life

같은 삶들을 살며 일등을 강요

우릴 공부하는 기계로 만든 건 누구?

School, house and PC room is all we have Students who are pressured to be number one live in between dreams and reality

일등이 아니면 낙오로 구분

Who is the one who made us into study machines?

할 수밖에 단순하게 생각해도 약육강식 아래

They trap us in borders, the adults

짓게 만든 건 틀에 가둔 건 어른이란 걸 쉽게 수긍 친한 친구도 밟고 올라서게 만든 게 누구라 생각해 what? 어른들은 내게 말하지 힘든 건 지금뿐이라고 조금 더 참으라고 나중에 하라고

It’s either number one or a failure There’s no choice but to consent Even if we think simply, it’s the survival of the fittest Who do you think is the one who makes us step on even our close friends to climb up? What?

Everybody say NO!

Adults tell me that hardships are only momentary

더는 남의 꿈에 갇혀 살지 마

Everybody say NO!

더는 나중이란 말로 안돼

We roll We roll We roll Everybody say NO!

To endure a little more, to do it later

It’s not going to work anymore

정말 지금이 아니면 안돼

Don’t be captured in others dreams

We roll We roll We roll

It has to be now

Everybody say NO!

We’ve done nothing yet

좋은 집 좋은 차 그런 게 행복일 수 있을까?

Everybody say NO!

아직 아무것도 해본 게 없잖아

In Seoul to the SKY, 부모님은 정말 행복해질까? 놀고 먹고 싶어 교복 찢고 싶어

Make money good money 벌써 삐딱한 시선

We roll We roll We roll Everybody say NO!

We roll We roll We roll

A good house, a good car, will these things bring happiness? In Seoul to the SKY, would your parents be happy?

막연함뿐인 통장 내 불행은 한도초과지

I want to eat and have fun, I want to tear my uniform

어른들이 하는 고백 너넨 참 편한 거래

A factory of sighs while studying, a continuous cycle

공부하는 한숨 공장 계속되는 돌려막기

Make money, good money, but they already view me crookedly My obscure bank account, my unhappiness is past its limit

분에 넘치게 행복한 거래 그럼 이렇게도 불행한 나는 뭔데

Adults say that we have it so easy

똑같은 꼭두각시 인생 도대체 누가 책임져줘?

Then how do you explain my unhappiness?

공부 외엔 대화주제가 없어 밖엔 나 같은 애가 넘쳐 어른들은 내게 말하지 힘든 건 지금뿐이라고 조금 더 참으라고 나중에 하라고 [Chorus] Everybody say NO! Everybody say NO! Everybody say NO! Everybody say NO!

They say I’m on my way to happiness There’s no conversation topics other than studying Outside, there are so many kids like me, living the life of a puppet Who will take responsibility? Adults tell me that hardships are only momentary To endure a little more, to do it later [Chorus] Everybody say NO! Everybody say NO! Everybody say NO! Everybody say NO!

IN BETWEEN | 75


NEXT GEN

Nadia Javed – a London-based Muslim South Asian has been a Muslim punk her whole life. Her trailblazing punk band, The Tuts, challenges oppression from all angles and comprises of three women from three different ethnicities.

76 | IN BETWEEN

NADIA JAVED


Words by Nasia Sarwar-Skuse Originally published on July 15 2021

The Tuts have toured extensively, supporting Kate Nash, Selector and The Specials; currently, Nadia is working on a solo record. I interviewed her to find out what drove a young Muslim girl to pick up a guitar.

How did The Tuts form? High school was a difficult time for me. My parents divorced when I was 11. I was bullied at school, there was just so much racism. I was angry, and I have never been the sort of person who sits back and takes it. I met [The Tuts’ drummer] Bev at school and we decided to start a band. We felt disenfranchised and we had stuff to say. I didn’t have the luxury of guitar lessons, I had to teach myself.

known musician. I am involved because I chose not to be silenced. We recently released a new single called "this is sisterhood", and worked with Kathleen Hanna, from Bikini Kill.

I’ve got to ask, have you watched the show We Are Lady Parts? If so, could you relate?

I remember going to a gig, [and] my favourite band the Libertines were playing with the likes of Mick Jones from the Clash. The next morning I felt so different, so confident like I was tuned into a new frequency and was totally bulletproof. This feeling made me realise that I didn’t have to be the best, I just needed to get up there and perform. Punk felt like my armour, a safe space, it felt like home, and interestingly it led me back to my femininity.

Of course I could relate, I was seeing myself on the telly! It’s amazing and also a crazy feeling seeing something so similar to you on the TV blow up after being ignored by the mainstream for so long. The show did make me think about my own identity, the value in being a Muslim punk and the demand for authentic stories. It’s made me proud to be me and [made me think about] how I shouldn’t doubt myself, because my identity and story is valuable. It’s inspired me to want to write a film or TV show about the Tuts. Lady Parts proves how, with good story-telling, financial backing and support, you can get the exposure you deserve. There’s so many people out there who could be fans of my music but don’t know I exist because the music industry is less supportive and willing to back artists like myself. At the same time, a TV show on Muslim punks is easier to digest and celebrate – people can accept stuff more so when it’s fiction rather than reality.

Would you say punk and Islam are compatible?

Do you think that you were an inspiration for the show?

For me, yes. Islam at its core is about love and compassion. I try to use my voice and my platform as a means for activism, to help bring about change no matter how small. As a brown woman, people expect you to stay in your lane, or accuse you of seeking publicity – but fighting racism is not a publicity stunt. I will speak out even though in the past this has led to me being sued.

Yes, I’d like to think I did inspire part of the show, and Nida [Manzoor, the show’s creator] did tell me the same. Nida and I met back in 2017, after she became aware of me and slid into my DMs on Twitter. We arranged to meet up for a drink and continued to hang out between 2017 to 2019 when the script was being developed, so yeah, I mean, how many South Asian female Muslim punks do you know? She frequently attended our gigs. I actually acted in a short film that Nida shot called Bride or Die, along with Zia Ahmed who was in the writers room for Lady Parts. I’d love to see the show inspire Muslim girls to pick up a guitar and fight for what they believe in.

What drew you to punk music?

You are involved with a campaign called Solidarity Not Silence, how did that come about? We are a group of women who are fighting a defamation claim made against us by a well-

IN BETWEEN | 77


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

You’re Listening To...

0X1=LOVESONG (I KNOW I LOVE TXT ft. SEORI YOU) By:

I know I love you 이 제로의 세계 속

I know you’re my one and only 이 끝이 없던 어둠 속

Like oh my god, so holy 뭐든 내 두 손끝에선

I’m a loser in this game 세계의 유1한 법칙 나를 구해줘

언제나 단 한 발 붙일 수 없던 match Oh we

내 손을 잡아줘

얼음뿐인 이곳에서

I love you)

Now I can’t stop thinking ‘bout you

Please use me like a drug (I know

넌 유1하게 빛나던 glow

When I’m sinking alone

제로의 세계 속에

찾아낸 너라는 온기 내 모두를 거둬가

Girl, I need you 난 문제 투성이 love sick 길이 없었어

부리나케 도망가 멀리

Say you love me, say you love me

그러다 내게 나타난 천사

언제나 단 한 판 이길 수 없던 체스

All or nothing, I want all of you

I know it’s real, I can feel it

세계의 유1한 법칙

Say you love me, say you love me

난 문제 투성이 love sick

내 손을 잡아줘

All or nothing, I give all of you

죽어도 좋았어

My life before you was a mess Oh we

무저갱의 바닥에서

넌 유1하게 빛나던 gold

Now I can’t stop thinking ‘bout you When I’m sinking alone

세계의 끝까지

I know I love you 세계의 끝까지

I know I love you

어느 날 내게 나타난 천사

아마 난 안될 거야

I know it’s real, I can feel it

난 어울리지 않아

데려가 줘 너의 hometown 난 문제 투성이 love sick 길이 없었어

죽어도 좋았어

78 | IN BETWEEN

천국엔 못 갈 거야 내 자리 따위 천국엔 없어 뭐든 내 두 발끝에선

새까맣게 물들었었지

My life before you was trash

데려가 줘 너의 hometown

길이 없었어

I’m a loser in this game

죽어도 좋았어

I’m a loser in this game 나를 구해줘

Please use me like a drug (I know I love you)

세계의 유1한 법칙

Say you love me, say you love me

내 손을 잡아줘

All or nothing, I want all of you

나를 구해줘

세계의 끝까지 (I love you)

Please use me like a drug (I know

I know I love you (You)

I love you)

Say you love me, say you love me

구멍 난 영혼에 살이 돋아

All or nothing, I give all of you

추운 대기가 녹아가

세계의 끝까지 (세계의 끝까지) I know I love you


Transl:

Say you love me, say you love me

I’m a loser in this game

I know I love you

Till the end of the world

The only (one) rule of this world

All or nothing, I want all of you

Save me

I know I love you

Take my hand

Say you love me, say you love me

Please use me like a drug (I know I love you)

In this world of zero I know you’re my one and only In this endless darkness like Oh my god, so holy From the tip of my fingers

Till the end of the world All or nothing, I give all of you

The hole in my soul begins to mend

I know I love you

Frigid air starts to thaw

My life before you was a mess

I’m not going to make it

I found warmth that’s you

Couldn’t win one round of this chess

I won’t be able to get into heaven

Take all of me

Oh we

I don’t belong there

Girl, I need you

Everything runs far away

From this bottomless pit You’re the only (one) shining gold Now I can’t stop thinking ‘bout you When I’m sinking alone Angel who one day appeared to me Take me away to your hometown I know it’s real, I can feel it I’m full of problems, love sick No way to go I was fine to die I’m a loser in this game

No place for me in heaven At the tips of my feet Everything turned pitch black My life before you was trash Could never even light a single match

In this world of zero

I’m full of problems, love sick No way to go I was fine to die I’m a loser in this game

Oh we

The only (one) rule of this world

In this world of ice

Take my hand

You’re the only (one) shining glow

Please use me like a drug (I know I love you)

Now I can’t stop thinking ‘bout you When I’m sinking alone But angel who somehow appeared to me Take me away to your hometown

Save me

Till the end of the world (I love you) All or nothing, I want all of you I know I love you

I know it’s real, I can feel it

Say you love me, say you love me

Take my hand

I’m full of problems, love sick

All or nothing, I give all of you

Please use me like a drug (I know I love you)

No way to go

I know I love you

The only (one) rule of this world Save me

Till the end of the world

I was fine to die

“ This song hits really hard because the lyrics to me just remind me of how much I lost myself trying to please my (previous) friends out of the fear that they were going to leave me. But I didn’t realize how much they were hurting me, or how much I was hurting myself by staying.”

IN BETWEEN | 79


For singer and songwriter Raveena Aurora (better known mononymously as Raveena), music has always felt like a way to transcend the limits of her everyday world.

NEXT GEN

80 | IN BETWEEN

RAVEENA MAKES MUSIC WITH SOFT POWER Words by Eda Yu

Originally published on December 27, 2021


IN BETWEEN | 81


NEXT GEN

For singer and songwriter Raveena Aurora (better known mononymously as Raveena), music has always felt like a way to transcend the limits of her everyday world. Growing up, the queer Indian American artist remembers “singing in the bathroom for hours and hours and hours a day” — a passion that eventually grew into her decision to pursue music professionally at the young age of 11. “I was pretty set on it, honestly. Since I was really young, I knew that there weren’t any other options for me,” she recalls. In the time since, the now 28-year-old artist has come a long way. After her breakout Shanti EP captured audience’s attention with its dreamy soundscape and themes of self-love in 2017, her debut LP Lucid introduced her fans to a new, deeper dimension of the artist in 2019: the ethereal R&B record dove deep into her relationship with sexuality, spirituality, and healing — especially as it relates to her intergenerational trauma as a child of Indian immigrants.

Although her parents were initially “very hesitant” that Raveena wanted to pursue music as a career, they’ve always been supportive of her developing her craft. “My dad was interested in Indian instruments, like harmonium and tabla — we always kept that in the house. They were very connected to music,” she says, adding: “They were bathroom singers themselves.” As a child, Raveena distinctly remembers listening to a mix of Bollywood, Jazz, and R&B. She drew heavy inspiration from singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Corinne Billy Ray, and Billie Holiday — “I would try to imitate them in the bathroom,” she laughs — and rock icons like Fleetwood Mac and SPICE.

en, we’re often told that our softness, our vulnerability and the things that are really beautiful about being feminine are weaknesses.” For her, the maternal energy of being both soft and powerful at the same time speaks to the “true meaning” of the divine feminine.

Now, Raveena’s own work coalesces all the sonic influences around her as a child, bringing together these inspirations to create a soft, sweet style that defies genres to be uniquely hers. As it turns out, the feminine energy — specifically maternal energy — Raveena brings to her music is very much intentional: “As wom-

Moonstone, her 2020 four-track EP that features outtakes from the Lucid recording session, marked a massive turning point in that direction: the short EP, which was widely attributed to forging her role as a queer icon, reinforced Raveena’s dedication towards femme power in the music video for “Headaches,” a track that describes emotional rollercoaster of the beginnings of a new romance. Self-directed by Raveena, the video features her and influencer Hitomi Mochizuki as the two women dance, paint, and kiss as they navigate falling in love. In a rare break from the male gaze that dominates Western media, the work is a bright moment of authentic, genuine representation of Raveena’s identity as a queer Asian femme.

“It’s the ultimate powerful energy that you can embody as a woman,” Raveena continues. “I think that is kind of what my music has been all about for me. It’s been about regaining a sense of power in myself and doing it in a way that feels true to my femininity — because I think a lot of my loss of power was experiencing abuse and assault, which is meant to put women down. Being such a femme person, it was really important for me to tap into that maternal energy and regain the sense of power that was lost.”

These days, more space is being made for Asian representation in entertainment. But even now, the singer still feels limited by the lack of South Asian presence in music: “It’s still so rare. There’s always

82 | IN BETWEEN


been a really exciting underground movement of Asian artists throughout history, and it’s hard when it’s not validated and seen in the mainstream. My hope as an artist is that I can lift other people up in my community. Because while I feel really honored that people are making space for me, there’s so much space for other types of South Asian voices, and I hope those get heard too.” From a young age, Raveena saw songwriting specifically as a way to break through those barriers. “Even if people don’t know what you look like, if they hear a song that is undeniably good, people are gonna want to listen to it,” she says. Since Raveena never saw Indian American singers like her growing up, she actually planned on being a songwriter for other artists — but that path took a left turn after her own music took off. “I wrote hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of songs before my first project. Good songwriting is the heart of any person’s success, so I felt like the only thing I could do is write good songs to prove myself.” Ultimately, Raveena hopes that her journey can inspire other South Asian women and South Asian queer folks to be completely and authentically themselves: “There’s such a big part of South Asian culture that is about being very concerned about what other people think. And I really want to challenge that because I feel fundamentally — as a person, beyond being South Asian — I don’t like to live my life that way.” “I always feel like a black sheep and an odd one out, no matter what I do,” Raveena says. “So I always want to challenge what I was taught — hopefully inspire others to do the same.”

“ RAVEENA HOPES THAT HER JOURNEY CAN INSPIRE OTHER SOUTH ASIAN WOMEN AND SOUTH ASIAN QUEER FOLKS TO BE COMPLETELY AND AUTHENTICALLY THEMSELVES.” IN BETWEEN | 83


You’re Listening To...

WHAT?

Nagsimula na pero wala na ‘kong balak

Lahat ng aking basura

na tapusin

Pupulutin, laging dala

‘Di ibig sabihin ‘pag ‘di tinapos, ako’y

Kahit sa’n pa ‘ko magpunta

hihinto na rin

Lapat sa lupa aking, alam mo na

Alam ko naman na ‘di ako’ng pinaka-ano, magaling Got no biz with all of you, please

Maniwala, darating ang mga biyaya Higit pa sa lahat-lahat ng nawala

Destiny’s I’ll be better and

Daming sakuna, ‘di ko ininda

Lahat ng aking basura

What?

Pupulutin, laging dala Kahit sa’n pa ‘ko magpunta

Hindi titigil hanggang sa wakas

‘Di na bala para iangat ang bandera

Lapat sa lupa aking mga paa

Bara na sa puso n’yo na ang tatama (bang)

Mahiwaga, bawat nakasarang bintana sa ‘kin dati

Bawat banat, iwagayway mo’ng watawat

Lahat ngayo’y nagbubukas (oh-whoa-oh-oh) Daming sakuna, ‘di ko ininda Andito na ‘ko sa wakas What? ‘Di na bala para iangat ang bandera Bara na sa puso n’yo na ang tatama Ama, salamat at Ikaw ang agimat

Ama, salamat at Ikaw ang agimat

‘Di na magpapa, paawat Iwawagayway ang watawat ‘Wag n’yong sabihin sa ‘kin kung ano’ng aking dapat gawin ‘Di naman kayo natutong makinig Sa’n man dalhin ng hangin, ang aking yagit,

Bawat banat, iwagayway mo ang watawat

suot pa rin

‘Di na magpapa, paawat

Daming sakuna, ‘di ko ininda

Iwawagayway ang watawat

Andito na ‘ko sa wakas

Pare-parehas lang tayong may pagkakaiba

‘Di na bala para iangat ang bandera

‘Di ba? Ika ni La, ibang mundo nakikita niya

Bara na sa puso n’yo na ang tatama

Mabuting iba, ‘di gaya ni La Pikit ang mata, ang tama, wala Bente-bente, paulit-ulit Intelihente subalit, ngunit Basag ang lente, pinunit-punit Hinubog ng dalagang-bakal, sirit

84 | IN BETWEEN

‘Di magpapanggap na ako pero hindi

Ama, salamat at Ikaw ang agimat Bawat banat, iwagayway mo ang watawat ‘Di na magpapa, paawat Iwawagayway ang watawat What?

By:

SB19


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

“The lyrics when translated in English pertains to raising the Filipino flag and being proud of your heritage. [This song] makes me feel proud of my Filipino heritage [and] I think this is very important. Inclusivity, diversity, collaboration. These three words come to mind.”

Transl:

Wherever I go, you know what

I just started but I don’t have any

stays steady on the ground

intention of finishing this anymore Not finishing this doesn’t mean I’m going to stop I know I’m not what you call the best but I got no biz with all of you Please! Destiny is I’ll be better and I’ll pick up my trash and always bring it with me wherever I go, my feet will stay steady on the ground It’s a mystery, all the windows that shut at me before are one by one opening up All the tragedies didn’t budge me At last, I’m here What? Don’t need bullets just to raise my flag From now on, these bars will hit all of your hearts Father, thank you for you are my amulet In every battle, swing your flag proudly Won’t let anyone stop me I will swing my flag proudly We all have our differences You see, they say he sees a different world Well it’s good he sees a different one Unlike them who closed their eyes to the truth 20-20 it keeps repeating Intelligent but wears a broken lens Raised and melded by the iron maiden I’ll pick up my trash and always bring it with me

Believe blessings will come Much more than what was lost All the tragedies didn’t budge me I won’t stop until the end What? Don’t need bullets just to raise my flag From now on, these bars will hit all of your hearts Father, thank you for you are my amulet In every battle, swing your flag proudly Won’t let anyone stop me I will swing my flag proudly Now, don’t tell me what I should do Cause y’all never learn to listen Wherever the wind takes me I will always wear my garbage I won’t pretend that I am me But in truth, I’m not All the tragedies didn’t budge me At last, I’m here Don’t need bullets just to raise my flag From now on, these bars will hit all of your hearts Father, thank you for you are my amulet In every battle, swing your flag proudly Won’t let anyone stop me I will swing my flag proudly What?

IN BETWEEN | 85


ABOUT FAMILY & COMMUNITY “I think [Asian artists] relate more to what it is like being brought up in similar households and communities.”

“ I feel a lot of pride in being Asian and seeing Asian artists becoming popular on the international stage. I love music but never saw many Asian artists in the music industry growing up, so I love seeing my identity and community being reflected and represented more today. It shows that Asian people are capable of doing cool things in the arts like creating great music.”

86 | IN BETWEEN


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

“ These songs remind me to stay motivated and to work hard. The end goal is always to make my parents proud and to make them feel like all their hard work was always worth it.”

“For BTS, a lot of their music talks about growing up in a society that has a lot of pressure on your future. I relate to that a lot where my parents have specific expectations of my performance here, especially academically, and I am expected to be 'perfect'.”

“ I always want to support Asian artists since our parents/older generations often look down on creative career paths and don’t embrace art in its full form and capacity.”

“'California' by 88rising reminds me of the community I felt a part of in the San Gabriel Valley and very specific emotions and places I have been to and experienced during my summers with my extended family.”

IN BETWEEN | 87


NIKI

WANTS ASIANS TO OWN THEIR HERITAGE

NEXT GEN

88 | IN BETWEEN


Words by Natalie Morin Originally published on August 28, 2019

A few songs into her set at the Head In The Clouds Festival in early August 2019, Niki Zefanya, who goes by her stage name NIKI, takes a moment to address the 10,000-plus people gathered in Los Angeles’ Historic State Park. “I just want to say, as an Asian female, I do not take this day and this stage for granted. My hope is that above everything else today, that you feel heard, you feel understood, but most of all that you feel represented.” In its second year, the festival showcases artists from 88rising, a label and marketing company that represents hip-hop and R&B acts from both the U.S. and Asia. It’s the most successful Asian artist-focused collective of its kind, and if the huge, diverse turnout of Head In The Clouds is any indication, their influence is only growing. And NIKI, a 20-year-old Indonesian R&B artist and the only female headliner, wears her identity with pride. She opens her set with the Indonesian national anthem, inviting children and teens on stage to pay their respects and wave flags, which inspire some in the crowd to join in. Beautiful visuals of tropical flowers and confident women serve as the backdrop for each song throughout her set — most of which she writes and self-produces. There’s the smooth “lowkey,” off of her most recent EP wanna take this downtown?, and seductive “Indigo,” whose music video sees the singer playing a femme fatale who lures unsuspecting men into her cult, and then selections like “Warpaint,” a swelling empowerment anthem. Men and women all throughout the crowd seem completely captivated by NIKI, today dressed in all white with a stark bright blue hue decorating her tear ducts. They sing along to her songs, raise their hands (and middle fingers) into the air when she asks — some even begin to cry.

Refinery29 caught the singer shortly after her set to talk about female and Asian representation in the music industry, and the importance of embracing your own identity.

What did this headlining performance at Head In The Clouds Festival mean to you? This is pretty much the culmination of my personal artistry and my career. Everything in my career has led up to this. [Performing] felt absolutely ridiculous. Honestly, when I’m up there, I don’t really feel like myself. I just sort of feel like a vessel and an extension of [the audience] and their stories and I just feel like I owe it to them to kind of just like represent them, in a way.

There’s a lot of pressure, though, that comes with feeling like that kind of “vessel.” It’s a pressure that I consciously take on. I feel a social responsibility being a part of 88rising. It’s literally the first bridge between the East and the West that has been done successfully and so ... pervasively. I know a lot of friends from back home that have tried so hard to make it internationally. But for some reason [starting] in the U.S. as an Asian collective and kind of permeated the global scheme. I really feel like I’m a part of something historic.

Why do you feel like things are starting to change now? It’s falling in an absolutely amazing, positive direction. For instance, the fact that on Riverdale, the jock is Asian [Korean-American actor Charles Melton plays Reggie on the show] . That’s a step, because in the past we’ve been

IN BETWEEN | 89


NEXT GEN

the four-eyed biology nerd that doesn’t go out on Friday night, has no swag, and takes their shoes off. I feel like with 88rising we’re moving in a very good direction, and just being able to be a small part of that gigantic cultural catalyst is truly an honor.

What spurred your decision to open your set with an ode to Indonesia? Today is actually Indonesian Independence Day. I want to show kids to own where you’re from, because I think a lot of kids that are Asian that grew up in the States or are Asian like me and grew up in an international community in southeast Asia have a tendency to go through this weird like identity crisis. Like, ‘Do I Westernize myself or do I not? Where’s the good sweet spot?’ As I’ve grown older I’ve just realized you can be both. You can be a cultural mutt and that’s fine. That’s why I felt like it was really important to me to do that, because I wanted everybody to watch and see that, ‘if she can own where she’s from then I’m going to do that too.’

What do you think has given you the confidence to be able to own where you’re from? Ironically, it was moving to the States and being away from home. I thought that once I moved here, I’d have to adjust and adapt accordingly, which comes with a lot of sacrifices and compromise culturally. Of course there was cultural shock, but when I moved here I garnered such an appreciation for my home — the beach, the food, the people. You don’t know what you have until you’re apart from it.

Why did you decide to open with your female anthem “Newsflash”? I’m still kind of navigating this, so I hesitate to say this, but I think in a lot of Eastern countries there’s still a patriarchy going on. It’s very cultural, though, so in many ways it’s kind of hard to dispute, which Westerners don’t quite understand. But back home it’s very traditionalist and hierarchical. But I want to show Indonesian girls that you can be Indonesian, and you can be feminist at the same time. I’m doing it. You can too. I want to present that choice to them.

90 | IN BETWEEN

Were you presented with that choice growing up? No. It’s very implicit. It’s very ingrained into the culture. Whenever I started to talk a lot, my mom would of take me aside and reprimand me for talking too much because it’s unladylike. Obviously, it’s cultural to pay respect, and I understand that, and I would never dispute that, but it’s the 21st century. I just want girls to see me and be like, ‘Well, if she can do that, then why not me?

Did you have anybody in the industry that you could look up to growing up? Honestly, no, not really. Not anybody Asian. I never really felt like there was anybody who looked like me, who correctly represented me, and so I just feel like I want to be that for little kids that look like me, talk like me, or are from my hometown.

What would you like to see going forward? What do you hope grows from this movement here? I just want Asians to be proud that they’re Asian because Asians have just been so underrepresented and it’s been a very unspoken, untouched territory. I just want kids to be proud. Honestly, that’s it. And I want to see more Asians on-screen, and Asians in entertainment. I want to see an Asian win a Grammy. Hopefully [it’s] one of us.

“ DO I WESTERNIZE MYSELF OR DO I NOT? WHERE’S THE GOOD SWEET SPOT?”


“ AS I’VE GROWN OLDER I’VE JUST REALIZED YOU CAN BE BOTH. YOU CAN BE A CULTURAL MUTT AND THAT’S FINE.”

IN BETWEEN | 91


You’re Listening To...

SPLIT By:

NIKI It’s a West Coast winter, sun’s still a furnace

So I keep tanning, just never on purpose I’m saturated in equal parts sun and doubt So I turn the fan on high and hope I sweat it out Christmas is coming, I miss my mama Well, ‘least I got my daddy, but he’s in Jakarta And there, it’s raining, while here, it’s dry as bone Kinda wish I knew what I meant when I’d say, “I miss home”

92 | IN BETWEEN


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

Guess, I’m forever caught between two worlds Right foot rock, left foot hard place, head and heart at war I do my best between addresses Wish I were on either side of the foreign wall Oh, always part of me missing, but no one sees a difference ‘Cause I split them all Spread so thin, I’m low on emotional bandwidth The voice in my head speaks a different language And where I live, they believe you only have yourself But where I’m from, you’re taught to be somebody else So hellos are short, goodbyes are only half farewells Oh, I guess I’m forever caught between two worlds Right foot rock, left foot hard place, head and heart at war I do my best between addresses Wish I were on either side of the foreign wall Always part of me missing But no one sees the difference ‘Cause I split them all

IN BETWEEN | 93


NEXT GEN

94 | IN BETWEEN


RINA SAWA YAMA

NEXT GENERATION LEADERS:

Is Fighting for Inclusion, One Song at a Time

IN BETWEEN | 95


Words by Kat Moon Originally published on October 13, 2021

Rina Sawayama calls her favorite songs her “problem childs.” They’re the Japanese British singer-songwriter’s deeply personal tracks that record labels are wont to reject. Take 2019’s “STFU!,” which rages against the racism Sawayama, 31, often faces as a woman of East Asian descent. The song hit multiple walls before Dirty Hit, the indie record label she now calls home, agreed to release it. Other times, it’s Sawayama who says no. After presenting her 2018 single “Cherry,” a proud coming-out song about her pansexual identity, she recalls one label praising its “gay stuff.” “I was like, Yeah, you’re not signing it,” she says, laughing. For Sawayama, it’s crucial to partner with the right people to amplify her stories—especially since she devotes her songwriting to crafting ones that rarely get told. “If it’s a unique story coming from a marginalized group, it’s important that labels let artists be themselves,” she says over Zoom from her home in London. And she is fully herself on Sawayama, her 2020 debut studio album. While daringly blend-

96 | IN BETWEEN

ing genres including nu metal, rock and R&B to pioneer a new kind of pop sound, the artist intimately probes at subjects like race, sexuality and growing up in an immigrant family in the U.K. “I’m so fortunate I get to write songs for a living. I’m not going to waste that by writing whatever is already out there,” she says. Sawayama was already vocal about being Asian and queer before signing to a label; releasing music was just much harder. She didn’t begin to pursue music full-time until around four years ago. In 2017, she independently released her EP Rina, funding the project by working in an ice cream van, a nail salon, an Apple store and by modeling. As her career has progressed, her forthright expression has extended beyond her lyrics to her visuals. The “STFU!” music video opens with a first date between Sawayama and a white man who commits a series of microaggressions before she roars into the camera, laughs maniacally and launches into the raucous song. “From the beginning, I’ve been passionate about talking about misrepre-


NEXT GEN

sentation of Asian people,” she says. In other songs, she grapples with how her immigrant family has shaped her. “Dynasty” and “Paradisin’” are infused with reflections on intergenerational pain and exchanges with her mother from her teen years.

“IN OTHER SONGS, SHE GRAPPLES WITH HOW HER IMMIGRANT FAMILY HAS SHAPED HER.”

“Chosen Family,” a loving tribute to her LGBTQ community, was originally released on her album but saw new life when she collaborated with Elton John on a duet earlier this year. “It’s so common that queer people get pushed out of their families. And then they find another family that they can be part of,” Sawayama says of the song’s inspiration. She’s excited about the increasing LGBTQ representation in music, from Lil Nas X dominating the charts to Sam Smith and Demi Lovato coming out as nonbinary. Sawayama has also demonstrated her support through actions like signing an open letter in 2020 to the U.K. Minister for Women and Equalities that called for a ban on conversion therapy. Her dedication to fighting for inclusivity has extended to music awards. In July 2020, #SawayamaIsBritish trended on Twitter after she spoke out about being ineligible to be nominated for the Mercury Prize and the BRIT Awards. Though she has lived in the U.K. for most of her life, she could not be considered for

the awards because she holds an “indefinite leave to remain” visa instead of a British passport. (Sawayama was born in Japan, which does not allow dual citizenship.) “I thought their rules around eligibility were outdated,” she says. Following a conversation with the British Phonographic Industry, which governs both ceremonies, she shared in February that the organization was changing its rules—those without citizenship could now be nominated. “It was making people aware that there’s still gatekeeping in culture in the U.K., which is such a diverse country,” she says. Sawayama has nearly finished writing her second album, due next year. She says the upcoming project addresses topics she has never talked about. “I uncovered a couple of things about myself, and it really landed me in a weird place psychologically,” she says of her pandemic lockdown experience. “Writing about it has kind of healed me,” she says. If it’s anything like her previous work, its brutal honesty will likely prompt healing in her listeners too. “Some people think doing better is earning more money and reaching more career highs, and I think that can become pretty futile,” Sawayama says. For her, it’s always been—and always will be—about something else: “Making people feel seen.”

IN BETWEEN | 97


PARA DISIN’ Living my best life thrivin’ You say I’m misbehaving But I’m just a kid, so save it Let me have an unforgettable time of my life

98 | IN BETWEEN


NEXT GEN

IN BETWEEN | 99


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

You’re Listening To...

AKASAKA SAD ドアが閉まります

Transl: The doors are closing

Hotel corridor

Blacked out rear window Crawling under my skin Flew here to escape But I feel the same

Jetlag making me thin Sucks to be me

Sucks to be so lonely

Egyptian sheets

Unraveling slowly Don’t look at me

Fragile, I bruise easily You make me Akasaka sad ‘cause I’m a Sucker, sucker, so I suffer Akasaka Sawayama Just like my mother Akasaka sad ‘cause I’m a Sucker, sucker, so I suffer Akasaka Sawayama

100 | IN BETWEEN


Transl: From country to country I hear tragic symphonies Everyday searching For a pain that turns

Akasaka sad, I guess I’ll be sad

into happiness

Akasaka sad, I guess I’ll be sad Forever and ever and ever Wherever I go, forever Akasaka sad 国々に 歩き渡り

鳴り響き 悲劇のシンフォニー 喜びに 変わる悲しみ

をさぐる毎日

Twenty-eight and I still want to scream Can’t face who I can and can’t be Five thousand, nine hundred thirty-eight miles between you You make me Akasaka sad ‘cause I’m a Sucker, sucker, so I suffer Akasaka Sawayama Just like my mother Akasaka sad ‘cause I’m a Sucker, sucker, so I suffer Akasaka Sawayama Just like my father Akasaka sad, I guess I’ll be sad Akasaka sad, I guess I’ll be sad Forever and ever and ever

By:

Wherever I go, forever Akasaka sad, I guess I’ll be sad

RINA SAWAYAMA Akasaka sad, I guess I’ll be sad Forever and ever and ever Wherever I go, forever

IN BETWEEN | 101


NEXT GEN

YUNG SINGH’S 102 | IN BETWEEN


PUNJABI GARAGE MIXES HIGHLIGHT THE CREATIVITY OF THE SOUTH ASIAN Words by Ammar Kalia

Originally published on May 19, 2021

IN BETWEEN | 103


“Brown people don’t get enough credit for what they’ve done for popular culture and its subcultures in the UK,” 24-year-old DJ and producer Yung Singh says. “There is still this stigma attached that we’re not cool, that we don’t do interesting things, when, in fact, there are so many South Asian creatives at the top of their fields in Britain right now.” Growing up in the Midlands as the youngest child in his house, Singh was raised on the sounds of his parents’ Punjabi LPs, his sisters’ ‘90s house and jungle records, and the nascent commercial success of the so-called Asian Underground—a group of artists including the likes of Panjabi MC and Bally Sagoo, who blended bhangra songs with the soundsystem music of British inner cities. But when Singh first started DJing, it wasn’t this music that he turned to; instead, he was drawn to London’s grime and garage scenes, and artists like Burial and Jai Paul, whose discographies he spent his school days seeking out on blogs. His fast-paced mixing style soon led to gigs at clubs across the capital, including one at Fabric, all while he was still studying to become a doctor. (It’s a profession he’s still pursuing, but one he’s careful to separate from his musical persona, specifically by not disclosing his real name.) As the COVID-19 lockdown hit and club gigs dried up, Singh found himself with the time to reflect on the cultural significance of being the child of first-generation Punjabi migrants. “There’s a ‘work hard, play hard’ association with Punjabi culture,” Singh says. The northern Indian region, bordering modern-day Pakistan and Kashmir, is known for its vast farmlands, and is the former home of almost half of the British Indian migrant pop-

104 | IN BETWEEN


NEXT GEN

“ I WANT TO BE ABLE TO ENGAGE WITH MY CULTURE AS I SEE FIT AND BRING RENEWED ATTENTION TO IT.” ulation. “Being on the border, Punjabis were constantly defending their land from invasion, so its music has a rich history of celebrating life while you have it,” he adds. Digging through the Punjabi records of his childhood, Singh rediscovered an affinity for this simultaneously hedonistic yet poetic music, and decided to put together a mix that would combine this heritage with his own love of UK dance music. The result was Singh’s first Punjabi Garage Mix, released in October 2020. Its high-energy blend of ‘90s and early ’00s wedding dancefloor staples by the likes of Panjabi MC and RDB with two-step and breakbeats, found Singh a global audience. He followed with another mix for London station Rinse FM and two Bandcamp charity compilation bundles to support the Indian farmers’ protests. “It’s all over the world,” he explains. “One guy messaged me saying he sent it to his neighbors in Kashmir for a wedding and when he landed there, he heard a taxi fly past him blaring it out of their windows. I’ve also heard it’s being played in Bangladesh and I’ve had responses from people in Russia and Ukraine—it’s nuts.” Singh believes the appeal lies partly in the nostalgic recognition of the sampled tunes by British Asians, but also because it is a continuation of the legacy begun by the Asian Underground. “Garage and jungle are Black British artforms, created in the diasporic mish-mash of cities, so it makes sense that these genres would also fit well with Punjabi music. It’s all part of the same working-class cultural mix that exists in those spaces now,” he says. “It’s what people like Bally Sagoo were doing in the ’90s, but with dub and reggae instead.” Ultimately, Singh hopes his mixes can create greater visibility

for POC artists. “There is a lot of white nepotism in the creative industries, and in order to overcome that, the rest of us have to band together,” he says. “There is solidarity now, because people are seeing that we can proudly display our cultures without being tokenized. We are unionizing to make sure our uniqueness isn’t leveraged and then tossed away.” London producer Ahadadream echoes the sentiment. “There is the simple fact that no one looks like Yung Singh right now, wearing a turban, and that is powerful,” he says. “It provides role models for others coming through.” This solidarity found its expression in the creation of the Daytimers collective, of which Singh was an early member. Their March 2021 24hour livestream to support the Indian farmers’ protests hosted a collection of over 30 diaspora artists displaying everything from Ahadadream’s bassline remixes to Raveena’s R&B vocals and a drill mix from Singh himself. “That was a landmark moment,” he says, “so many people from within and outside the South Asian community tuned in, it was like the divisions of the British Empire didn’t exist anymore. It was decolonization in practice, realizing we all have far more in common than that which separates us.” Emboldened by his newfound recognition and sense of community, Singh refuses to be pigeonholed. “I want to be able to engage with my culture as I see fit and bring renewed attention to it,” he says. “All you can expect from me is energy, regardless of genre, and when the clubs reopen again it’s going to go off.”

IN BETWEEN | 105


BUTTERFLY

WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

“The song is about finding out someone they care about is suicidal. I feel like these lyrics really grounded me into realizing the effects of mental health and the effects that it has on others. I feel as though I can relate to both characters of the story the song is telling. [This song] means a lot to me because it is sung by Asian artists who are singing about the hardships that I feel like I’m facing right now. It makes me feel like there is finally someone who understands and also looks or has gone through similar experiences as me.”

You’re Listening To... 106 | IN BETWEEN


아무것도 생각하지 마

넌 아무 말도 꺼내지도 마 그냥 내게 웃어줘

난 아직도 믿기지가 않아

이 모든 게 다 꿈인 것 같아 사라지려 하지마

Is it true? Is it true? You, you

너무 아름다워 두려워 Untrue, untrue You, you, you 곁에 머물러줄래 내게 약속해줄래

손 대면 날아갈까 부서질까 겁나 겁나 겁나 시간을 멈출래

이 순간이 지나면

없었던 일이 될까 널 잃을까 겁나 겁나 겁나

Butterfly, like a butterfly

Transl:

You, who's like a dream is

butterfly, high

Don't think of anything

a butterfly high to me

곁에 머물러줄래

even a word

내게 약속해줄래

손 대면 날아갈까 부서질까 겁나 겁나 겁나 시간을 멈출래

이 순간이 지나면

없었던 일이 될까 널 잃을까 겁나 겁나 겁나

심장은 메마른 소리를 내

꿈인지 현실인지 알 수 없네 나의 해변의 카프카여

Don't say anything, not

You, you, you

I still can't believe it

Will you stay by my side

All of this seems like a dream

Is it true? Is it true?

of that

You, you You’re so beautiful, that I'm scared Untrue, untrue

이 칠흑 같은 어둠 속 날 밝 히는 나비효과

니 작은 손짓 한 번 에 현실을 잊어 난

살며시 쓰다듬는 바람 같아 살포시 표류하는 먼지 같아

넌 거기 있지만 왠지 닿지 않 아 Stop

As though it hadn't

내 마음은 아직 너 위에 부

I'll lose you

조각조각 까맣게 녹아 흘러

If I let go of your hand,

서져

Will you promise me

(난 그냥 이대로 증발하

you'll fly away and break

I’m scared scared scared

The small pieces guttered down darkly From my heart, a barren

고 싶어)

I'm scared scared scared of that

noise

It’s all free for

Will you stop time

reality or a dream

If this moment passes

My Kafka on the shore

As though it hadn't

Don’t go to those woods

happened

over there

I’m scared scared scared

My heart is still shattering on you

내 사랑은 영원인 걸 you baby

시간을 멈출래

널 잃을까

If this moment passes

Will you stay by my side

Just like a butterfly,

멀리서 훔쳐봐 손 닿으면

Will you stop time

happened

저기 숲으로 가진 말아줘

I'll lose you

넌 마치 Butterfly

I'm scared scared scared

You, you, you

손 대면 날아갈까 부서질까

butterfly 처럼

If I let go of your hand, you'll fly away and break

Butterfly, like a 마치 Butterfly,

Will you promise me

Don't try to disappear

곁에 머물러줄래

butterfly

Untrue, untrue

Just give me a smile

마치 Butterfly, butterfly 처럼

By:

꿈 같은 넌 내게

내게 약속해줄래 겁나 겁나 겁나

이 순간이 지나면

Butterfly, like a butterfly butterfly

없었던 일이 될까 널 잃을까

Butterfly, like a butterfly

Butterfly, like a

You're just like a Butterfly

butterfly

From afar, I steal glances;

butterfly 처럼

lose you?

겁나 겁나 겁나

마치 Butterfly, Butterfly, like a butterfly

마치 Butterfly, butterfly 처럼

BTS

I don’t know if this is

(I just wanted to vaporize like this) My love that is forever It's all free for you baby

Just like a butterfly,

Will you stay by my side

butterfly

Will you promise me

if we touch hands, will I

If I let go of your hand, you'll fly away and break I'm scared scared scared of that

You shine in this pitch

Will you stop time

darkness that is the but-

If this moment passes

terfly effect

As though it hadn't

Your light touches, I for-

happened

get the reality at once

I’m scared scared scared

It's like a wind that gently

I'll lose you

strokes me

Butterfly, like a butterfly

It's like a dust that gently

Just like a butterfly,

drifts along

butterfly

You're there but for some

Butterfly, like a butterfly

reason, I can't reach you,

Just like a butterfly,

stop

butterfly

IN BETWEEN | 107


SATICA IS GLOWING “I’ll know it’s really real when all my friends keep telling me that I’m glowing,” Satica sings on “Glowing,” from her forthcoming summer mini-album, You’re Glowing.

Words by Dan Q. Dao Originally published on July 20, 2021

Carrying this euphoric sentiment across ethereal vocals and gentle instrumentation, it’s an endearing track that tells of the 28-year-old singer’s conscious decision to “milk out the moments that bring peace.” The mini-album, set to drop on August 6, was a pandemic-era passion project for Satica, who says this is the most “musically and creatively free [she’s] ever been.” Like many stuck at home, the 28-year-old Long Beach native says she reached a watershed moment last year: “It was a tough time. Seeing everything on the internet. Things in my personal life. 'Glowing' was the first happy song I wrote after a string of really sad songs. I want my music to be a place for people to be present and feel okay.” Born April Nhem in the Cambodian refugee enclave of Long Beach, California, Satica says she always loved to

108 | IN BETWEEN

sing but it wasn’t until 2014, when she was working as a server at a restaurant in her hometown, that she got a fateful call from her would-be manager, Far East Movement’s Kev Nish. “I used to work until 11pm, and it was a weekday. So by the time I drove down to LA to meet them it was midnight. I was tired as shit. I thought I’d just show them some music and leave, but they told me, ‘We have a song for you to write.’ As a proud Cambodian-American artist, Satica says she’s troubled by current events like the recent wave of anti-Asian hate. She says she wishes people could “see the beauty in our culture” and in showcasing Khmer culture, she feels she can bridge barriers. In the video for her 2019 single “Ode to LBC,” (short for Long Beach, California) for example, Satica spotlights the traditional Cambodian dance, apsara, alongside nostalgic imagery of the neighborhood she grew up in.


NEXT GEN

IN BETWEEN | 109


NEXT GEN

While her cultural background pushes her to work hard, and informs her overall ethos as an artist, Satica says she hopes for that true moment of equity where Asian-Americans can create music that can stand on its own. We caught up with the singer to talk about her journey and her upcoming mini-album.

How do you think your music has changed? I’d say it’s more musically organic, from the instrumentation to the soundscapes and vocal arrangements. While a lot of my past stuff has been more electronic, I also feel comfortable with R&B so that shows. I’m really happy with it. The first record on the project is called “Glowing,” and I think I wrote it during this pivotal point in my young-adult years. It took a lot of healing and self-awareness for me to realize who I am and what I feel when my cup is full.

I think it’s empowering that you’ve been able to make something so positive with everything going on, from the pandemic to anti-Asian hate. To be honest, it’s all still affecting me now. As an Asian-American artist, really any type of artist, we can process those internal struggles through music. At the same time, realize that you can’t take on the entire weight of the world.

Do you feel that you’ve historically faced challenges breaking into the music industry — specifically for being Asian, and especially Southeast Asian? Back in 2014 when I started, I don’t think the entertainment industry was really as open to Asian artists and talent. I come from a small place, a small neighborhood [Long Beach, California, a Cambodian immigrant enclave] and I never saw people who looked like us on TV, on billboards. So I always wondered, “Is this attainable?”

110 | IN BETWEEN

Do you think having an Asian-centric label and management like Transparent Arts has helped you navigate those waters? Especially with Kev Nish, your manager, having been part of such a successful act like the Far East Movement. Of course. I wouldn’t say they sheltered me, but there was very much that sense of family. Being AsianAmerican themselves, there was no one better I could have asked for to mentor me. When I first signed, I did artist development for a while, and I didn’t put up new music until 2017. And ever since the beginning, it really seemed like they just really appreciated what I was doing and wanted to see how they could grow it.”

The most visible and popular Asian entertainers are typically East Asian. How do you spotlight your Southeast Asian-ness? I remember right from the beginning Kev told me they wanted to help me spotlight this part of my culture. They even convinced me to use my real name. My whole life I was taught to kind of like, go with the westernized name, to make it more convenient for other people. And they were the ones who said, “Go by your real name; your real name is beautiful.”

The beauty of the culture is important. And there’s a lot of Cambodian culture and even traditional dance represented in “Ode to LBC,” and the music video which was filmed in your hometown. What motivated you to take that on? I feel like sometimes our actual culture is overshadowed, and it was really important for me to highlight the fact that my culture is beautiful. Yes, we’ve gone through a lot of trauma, and our parents have survived a genocide, but I also need you to understand the their resilience. We’re not model minorities, but we’re an ancient culture with


so much grace. I contacted the Cambodian Royal Ballet to be a part of the video because I’ve always seen apsara, the traditional dance, as a symbol of that beauty. I want young Cambodians to be proud of all the things I used to not be proud of growing up.

Have your parents supported your music career? When I first started, they told me to pursue music as a hobby. I don’t want to generalize, but they’re tiger parents in a way. So I made sure I finished school, and I made sure I had good grades. And at that point, they couldn’t say anything. And as time goes on, there’s more understanding.

There is not really any such thing as an “Asian-American sound.” We’re not quite Asian. It’s not K-pop. How do you define your sound in terms of genre? You’re right — there’s not even a sound that we can attach to being Asian-American. At the end of the day, I just gravitate to things I personally like. I’m influenced by R&B as I am emo rock. Growing up, I listened to Brandy and Destiny’s Child, but I also had a phase where I loved My Chemical Romance. So it’s all over the place. That said, one of my biggest goals in the future is to integrate traditional Cambodian sounds and instruments.

Dream collab? Timbaland or Pharrell.

Up-and-coming or current artists you’re listening to? Remi Wolf and Omar Apollo.

What advice would you give your younger self? Focus on your craft. But also believe anything is possible. Don’t worry about your skin being brown. Whatever you’re insecure about, let it set you apart and make you stronger. Hold it close to you. If you don’t see someone out there that looks like you, know that there is just you, so magnify what makes you different. Make your existence as large as possible.

“ MY WHOLE LIFE I WAS TAUGHT TO KIND OF LIKE, GO WITH THE WESTERNIZED NAME, TO MAKE IT MORE CONVENIENT FOR OTHER PEOPLE.” IN BETWEEN | 111


“ WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

ABOUT UNIVERSALITY & WESTERN IDENTITIES “ These songs aren’t necessarily exclusively about an Asian experience, and that’s the beauty of it. Music is an emotional experience, and at the end of the day, people of all races experience the intensity of emotion that good music is meant to elicit. It gives us a shared common language and similarity, and brings us together...”

112 | IN BETWEEN


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

“My music taste is very non-Asian and heavily influenced by Western musicians, trends, styles, etc. Because of how few Asian artists I listen to, I don't think any of these songs reflect the Asian Canadian part of my experiences. I think these songs reflect general experiences (heartbreak, relationships, friendships, being a wild kid, partying), but I think it would be a stretch to tie it back to my experiences as a Chinese Canadian.”

“ They don’t reflect my experiences in terms of the lyrics but do in terms of the sound. I grew up in Canada listening to Western pop which is mostly influenced by R&B and hip hop. These songs are very Western-influenced but some are not in English, so I think they reflect the Western and non-Western sides of my experience growing up Asian-Canadian.”

“These songs are about generally Western topics - love, current events, and material goods. The lack of distinction as specifically being written by Asian artists greatly represents my experience of being part of the Asian diaspora. I’m very Westernized and find it difficult to distinguish a unique identity related to being Asian in most media."

“ Even though most Cantonese pop songs are written from a Hong Kong cultural perspective, the context of many contemporary songs are generally reflecting universal experiences. For example, Charmaine Fong's songs are advocating for social justice, and encouraging those who may suffer from depression or any form of adversity. Cantopop songs have less focus on love or romance, instead, the context is becoming more diversified and meeting societal needs of the younger generation.”

IN BETWEEN | 113


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

You’re Listening To...

ALRIGHT “ I remember losing touch with a friend who I felt like was closest to me. I messaged her time to time for around two years. She hung out with our mutual friends and posted a photo of it at one point which actually devastated me. I think coming from a conservative culture, it’s not common to address relationship issues so it’s easier left for time to wash away.”

114 | IN BETWEEN


By:

KESHI

Said I'm alright

But I know we both want the same things

Said I'm alright

You don't wanna deal with the same things

Said I'm alright, right, right

I don't wanna leave for the same things

Said I'm alright

(For the same old things)

Said I'm alright Said I'm alright, right, right

Said I'm alright

Remember when we sayin' all the same shit

Said I'm alright, right, right

Wish upon the stars that we made it

Said I'm alright

Got too scared and didn't go

Said I'm alright

Want so bad I went alone

Said I'm alright, right, right

Pray so hard for the make up

And if I was to blame

All the time spent couldn't save us

I swear that I'll pick up the pieces

Got too scared and didn't go

You say that you don't wanna keep 'em

Want so bad I went alone

I'll leave one behind just in case

Said I'm alright Said I'm alright Said I'm alright, right, right Said I'm alright

Said I'm alright

Through all the mistakes I'm scared of the fact that you're leaving I know that we both had our reasons But I wish that you wanted to stay

Said I'm alright

Said I'm alright

Said I'm alright, right, right

Said I'm alright

With or without you I waited my whole life I could wait a little longer With or without you I say that I'm alright We just grew apart for the same things

Said I'm alright, right, right Said I'm alright Said I'm alright Said I'm alright, right, right

IN BETWEEN | 115


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO? The survey component of In Between focused primarily on listeners and audiences. The questions centered around the music tastes of people that identify as part of the Asian diaspora, lyrics that resonate with them, and how representation in the music industry impacts their own identity. Participants were from East, South, and Southeast Asian backgrounds and had a wide range of opinions and differing music tastes. Although significant quotations and favourite lyrics are spread throughout the book (with more to come!), this segment will provide a more in-depth breakdown of who the participants were, and what genres and artists those in the Asian diaspora have been listening to recently.

116 | IN BETWEEN


IN BETWEEN | 117


WHO ARE YOU?

118 | IN BETWEEN

TAIWANESE

MALAYSIAN

PUNJABI

PAKISTANI

2 2 2

PERSIAN

KOREAN

7 7

HONG KONGER

Because the questionnaire was anonymous, limited identifiable information was collected. However, participants were asked to indicate their ethnicities.

JAPANESE

FILIPINO

INDIAN

16

VIETNAMESE

CHINESE

25

1 1 1 1 1


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

32 EAST

ASIAN

24

SOUTH EAST ASIAN

10 SOUTH ASIAN

IN BETWEEN | 119


You’re Listening To...

LIKE YOU “ ...I usually listen to happy or romantic songs... In Tatiana Manois’ song ‘Like You’ however, it has a meaning that allows me to reflect on my self-worth. I think it has a deeper meaning.”

120 | IN BETWEEN

TATIANA MANAOIS

By:


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

You got to get up You got to get up and make a move ‘Cause the world will never see you until you do No, they don’t really care what you’re going through So you got to show them, baby You got to show them the real you You got to give them what you’ve got

What do you do when you can’t let go? What do you say when you just don’t know how you feel? And you know nobody knows how you feel ‘Cause everybody’s got their own damn problem So everybody’s trying to find their way And day by day, it’s a struggle

No, don’t let them see what you’re not

In this world you know you have to hustle

‘Cause you are strong, you are wise

You don’t always have to be strong all by

You are worth beyond the thousand reasons why And you can’t be perfect, baby ‘Cause nobody’s perfect, darling But, no, no, no, there’s nobody in the world like you

Just know that you’re not alone yourself I said, it’s okay to ask for help Now listen People will find you, but they don’t define you And you will find people who’ll help redesign you People will find you, but they don’t define you And you will find people who’ll help redesign you You are a work of art Bet you didn’t think you’d come this far Now here you are Baby, you are strong, you are wise You are worth beyond the thousand reasons why And you can’t be perfect, baby ‘Cause nobody’s perfect, darling But, no, no, no, there’s nobody in the world like you You know you’re worth it ‘Cause you know that you can’t be perfect, baby ‘Cause nobody’s perfect, darling I love you just the way that you are I love you just the way that you are, my love It’s like the stars in the sky, oh, when you look in my eyes

IN BETWEEN | 121


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

WHAT GENRES 40

POP

2

1

CANTOPOP DISCO

4

GOSPEL / CHRISTIAN

LATIN

7

ROCK

122 | IN BETWEEN

1

5

PUNJABI / HINDI / ARABIC

VIDEO GAME OST

ALTERNATIVE / INDIE


ARE YOU 41

26

10 CLASSICAL

EDM

4

5

HAWAIIAN REGGAE COUNTRY

1

JAZZ

2

FOLK J-POP

FUNK R&B

LO-FI

35

HIP HOP / RAP

LISTENING TO?

K-POP

IN BETWEEN | 123


You’re Listening To...

ALL WE HAVE IS NOW “No matter where one resides, the lyrics...[are] indeed suitable for every individual who may struggle with unresolved issues in the past or uncertainty in the future. Nevertheless, engaging in here and now is probably the best self-care strategy to combat with the challenges in front of us.”

124 | IN BETWEEN


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

當天那諾言 現已統統消失不見

Transl:

要是難以作出改變 看一看目前哪個未脫險

It‘s a pity that this belief has not been

遺憾是這一個信念 未發展 有些亂 真心活過每一天 志向未變

好好記住昨天在昨天就已跑掉 不相信命數和定數從沒需要

轉身抱緊當下 眼淚抹掉煩擾

風急雨大你都能撐起渡過低潮 漆黑裡就發亮燃燒

變幻於當前 每個分秒 至最重要 All we have is now 要是怕世界將昏暗

怕鬱到病來 叫信念降溫 吸一啖氣再翻滾

developed and is somewhat chaotic If it’s hard to make changes, see who’s not out of the woods so far Live every day with sincerity, the ambition has not changed Please remember that yesterday is yesterday, and it was already gone And it is unnecessary to trap ourselves in so-called destiny or fate Let’s turn around and seize the day, allow tears to sweep away the annoyance in our hearts Even in a heavy rainstorm, you are able

好好記住昨天在昨天就已跑掉

to overcome the tough times

轉身抱緊當下 眼淚抹掉煩擾 (抹掉煩擾)

fireworks in our minds

漆黑裡就發亮燃燒

nothing is more important than here

好好記住昨天在昨天就已跑掉

All we have is now

不相信命數和定數從沒需要

When staying in darkness, let’s light the

風急雨大你都能撐起渡過低潮

The world is keep changing, hence

變幻於當前 每個分秒 至最重要

and now

不相信命數和定數從沒需要

If you are afraid that the world will

風急雨大你都能撐起渡過低潮

Fear of depression and illness, call faith

轉身抱緊當下 眼淚抹掉煩擾 (抹掉煩擾)

By:

The promises of that day are now all gone

漆黑裡就發亮燃燒

變幻於當前每下心跳 至最重要

be dark to cool down

CHARMAINE FONG Take a breath and roll

IN BETWEEN | 125


“ “

ABOUT PRIDE & RELATABILITY “I appreciate seeing my own ethnicity as well as other Asian cultures, as I like to see how differently they may approach their style of music. In retrospect, I get a very welcoming feeling when I see representation in the music industry, allowing me to feel more empowered.”

“ I love to see more Filipinos getting the recognition they deserve- it definitely just makes me feel proud and seen in a way. They represent a lot of us and give voices to those who don’t have it. I’m no musician but I am that type of person that goes 'Omg they’re Filipino' when someone is talking about a certain celebrity.”

126 | IN BETWEEN


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

“ I think the representation of Asian artist has impacted me as it’s made me more proud of aspects of my own identity, instead of being embarrassed of speaking another language I feel encouraged to speak it more often!”

“I’m proud to have representation of Asian artists in the music industry telling our stories, background, and experiences of being a minority group. As an Asian Canadian it makes me feel proud to be Asian and have our community by these talented artists”

“ Rina [Sawayama]'s a queer Asian and it’s cool to relate to an artist on that level and there’s a lot of experiences that queer Asians experience that other Asians or other queer people won’t experience and I don’t know how to explain it, but Rina’s music reflects these experiences.”

“I think the more diversity we see in any sphere, opens up that space and makes people feel like they belong and are included. When we identify in some way with an artist from our ethnicity and they are doing well in a western context we start to appreciate our ethnicity more, rather than trying to hide it, speaking from the perspective of an immigrant to Canada .”

IN BETWEEN | 127


WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE ASIAN MUSICIANS? POP

• Bruno Mars • Charli XCX • Conan Gray • David Choi • Eric Nam • Grentperez • Hailee Steinfeld • • Hailey Kiyoko • Olivia Rodrigo • Rina Sawayama • Tatiana Manaois • Ylona Garcia •

• anders • Anderson .Paak • Audrey Nuna • David So • H.E.R. • huy • Jeff Bernat • • Jeremy Passion • Jhene Aiko • Joji • Joyce Wrice • Keshi • Luke Chiang • Niki • • Pauline Zoe Park • Raveena • Rei Ami • RINI • Slchld • UMI • Zayn •

OPM / P-POP / PINOY HIP HOP 128 | IN BETWEEN

R&B

• Adie • Darren Espanto • SB19 • • Skusta Clee • Zach Tabuldo •


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

K-POP

• AESPA • AKMU • ATEEZ • Blackpink • BOL4 • BTS • ChungHa • Enhypen • • EXO • f(x) • GOT7 • HyunA • ITZY • IU • Loona • Mamamoo • NCT • Red Velvet • • Seventeen • Shinee • Stray Kids • Twice • TXT • WJSN • Yena •

• Kazuo • Killy • Nav • Pressa • Rich Brian • • Saweetie • Tim Chantarangsu • Tyga • Uzuhan •

HIP HOP / RAP

K-INDIE • Charmaine Fong • Hua Chenyu • • Ian Chan • Jackie Cheung • • JJ Lin • Lexie Liu • Linda Chung • • MC Cheung • Phil Lam • • RubberBand • Supper Moment •

• Car, the garden • Lim Kim • • SHAUN • Standing Egg • Stella Jang •

CANTO / MANDO POP / ROCK

K-R&B / HIP HOP

• BIBI • Big Naughty • Crush • Dean • DeVita • • DPR Live • Dynamic Duo • GSoul • Heize • Hoody • • Jay Park • Jessi • Jooyoung • Junny • Moon Sujin • • nafla • PH-1 • Zico • Zion. T •

• Dabin • Hoang • Louie Zong • Steve Aoki • Ta-Ku •

ELECTRONIC IN BETWEEN | 129


J-POP / ROCK

• Gen Hoshino • Hi-Fi Set • Hikaru Utada • • Ken Hirai • ONE OK ROCK • Perfume • Yoasobi •

INDIE / ALTERNATIVE INDIAN POP / INDIE V-POP / HIP HOP SINGER / SONGWRITER • beabadoobee • Deb Never • Dominic Fike • • Japanese Breakfast • Layton Wu • Mico • • The F-16s • Wallice • Young The Giant •

• Mickey Singh • Osho Jain • • Tegi Pannu • The PropheC •

• Bao Anh • Suboi •

• Clinton Kane • Dhruv • Francisco Martin • • Jason Chen • Kina Grannis • • Melissa Polinar • Phillip Vo • Sam Tsui •

130 | IN BETWEEN


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE SONGS BY ASIAN ARTISTS?

Listen to the Spotify playlist with all of the participants’ favourite songs!

IN BETWEEN | 131


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

You’re Listening To...

SOORAJ DOOBA HAI By:

ARIJIT SINGH

132 | IN BETWEEN


Transl:

“I just feel like it speaks to where I am at in life and serves as a reminder to listen to my own heart sometimes rather than being clouded by everyone else’s opinions.”

Matalbi ho ja zara matlabi

Selfish, be selfish today

Duniya ki sunta hai kyun

Why always listen to the world

Khud ki bhi sun le kabhi

Only listen to yourself sometimes

Matalbi ho ja zara matlabi

Selfish, be selfish today

Duniya ki sunta hai kyun

Why always listen to the world

Khud ki bhi sun le kabhi

Only listen to yourself today

Kuch baat ghalat bhi ho jaaye

Even something goes away wrong

Kuch der ye dil bhi kho jaaye

Even if this heart is lost away

Befikar dhadkane, iss tarah se chale

Don't be afraid, keep walking like this

Shor goonje yahaan se wahaan

Noise echoes from here and there

Sooraj dooba hai yaaron

Sun is set my friends

Do ghoont nashe ke maaro

Have two shots of intoxication

Raste bhula do saare gharbaar ke

And forget all the paths of home and others

Sooraj dooba hain yaaron

Sun is set my friends

Do ghoont nashe ke maaro

Have two shots of intoxication

Gham tum bhula do saare sansaar ke

And forget all the pain of your world

Ask me for anything

Ask me for anything

I can give you everything

I can give you everything

Raste bhula do saare gharbaar ke

Forget all the paths of home and others

Ask me for anything

Ask me for anything

I can give you everything

I can give you everything

Gham tum bhula do saare sansaar ke

Forget all the pain of your world

Ataa pataa rahe na kisi ka humein

No knowings of anyone is kept with me

Yehi kahe ye pal zindagi ka humein

This is told by moments of life to me

Ataa pataa rahe na kisi ka

No knowings of anyone is kept

Yehi kahe ye pal zindagi ka

This is told by moments of life

Ki khudgarz si khwahish liye

Selfishly make wishes

Be-saans bhi hum-tum jiye

You and me live moments

Hai gulaabi gulaabi samaa

The dusk is pink now

Suraj dooba hai yaaron

Sun is set my friends

Do ghoont nashe ke maaro

Have two shots of intoxication

Raste bhula do saare gharbaar ke

And forget all the paths of home and others

Suraj dooba hai yaaron

Sun is set my friends

Do ghoont nashe ke maaro

Have two shots of intoxication

Gham tum bhula do saare sansaar ke

And forget all the pain of your world

Matalbi ho ja zara matlabi

Selfish, be selfish today

Duniya ki sunta hai kyun

Why always listen to the world

Khud ki bhi sun le kabhi

Only listen to yourself sometimes

Chale nahi ude aasmaan pe abhi

No walking, lets fly on the sky now,

Pata na ho hai jaana kahaan pe abhi

Have no idea where to go now,

Chale nahi ude aasmaan pe

No walking, lets fly on the sky

Pata na ho hai jaana kahaan pe

Have no idea where to go

Ki be-manzilein ho sab raaste

Destination be everywhere

Duniya se hon zara faasle

But keeping away from the world

Kuch khud se bhi ho dooriyaa

Lets make a world of ourselves

Sooraj dooba hai yaaron

Sun is set my friends

Do ghoont nashe ke maaro

Have two shots of intoxication

Raste bhula do saare gharbaar ke

And forget all the paths of home and others

Sooraj dooba hain yaaron

Sun is set my friends

Do ghoont nashe ke maaro

Have two shots of intoxication

Gham tum bhula do saare sansaar ke

And forget all the pain of your world

Ask me for anything

Ask me for anything

I can give you everything

I can give you everything

Ask me for anything

Ask me for anything

I can give you everything

I can give you everything

IN BETWEEN | 133


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

You’re Listening To...

STONE COLD 134 | IN BETWEEN


Stone cold, Steve Austin Desperate for attention He's slammin’ bodies left and right, just to prove a point, yeah, yeah That he's the strongest man alive, but a lonely boy, yeah, yeah

Can you pick up? Can you hear me? Can you make up your mind? Get your weight up Shit feels heavy, it gets better with time

“Deb Never actually has lots of songs that are about being perceived as hard, tough, emotionally unbreakable. At the end of this song, she also alludes to being with someone who's equally as cold and unemotional, which doesn't make her happy, but it seems like she doesn't know anything else. I think this shows how easy it is to avoid being emotionally vulnerable, and how that bleeds into other areas (like causing loneliness), but we don't know how to fix this.”

By:

Stone cold, Steve Austin Blank stare, what's your problem? He’s slammin' bodies left and right, just to prove a point, yeah, yeah That he's the strongest man alive, but a lonely boy, yeah, yeah Can you pick up? Can you hear me? Can you make up your mind? Get your weight up Shit feels heavy, it gets better with time You're so stone cold You're so stone cold You're so stone cold You're so stone cold Lookin' for someone who could handle that And I know you’re never showin’ love, I keep runnin' back And you got me too stressed out, light a cigarette But I keep it all under control, yeah I got it bet

DEB NEVER & KENNY BEATS

IN BETWEEN | 135


“ WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

ABOUT THE INDUSTRY “I think I have missed out on relating to the Asian Canadian experience with the lack of popular Asian Canadian and American musicians that show their roots in Asian culture. For example, the short film Bao was one of the first times I experienced deep cultural representation in a piece of popular media. I have yet to feel that in the music industry. I think I am less willing to boldly express my cultural identity because of the lack of popular representation.”

136 | IN BETWEEN


“I don’t think a musician’s ethnicity influences my perception of their music as long as I feel that their lyrics are generally relatable and their songs are catchy with a good melody. Although looking back, I believe that several genres of music are dominated by certain ethnicities, and this may be why I don’t listen to Asian musicians as much. I normally listen to indie rock music, which is dominated by white artists, and on occasion I’ll listen to R&B and hip hop music, which is dominated by Black artists.”

“ I tend to listen to mostly queer artists and there isn’t a lot of overlap between queer artists and Asian artists and so there’s a lack of complete understanding and emotional connection in myself and the music I listen to.”

“There's not a lot of Asian representation that is as known or celebrated as other artists, as talented as they are, a majority of those well-known are mixed Asians. I wish there was a more accurate representation of Asians in the music industry known worldwide.”

“ A musician's ethnicity doesn't influence my perception on the quality of their music, but I do believe it plays a factor in my level of interest in it. There aren't many Asian musicians who are given mainstream media exposure, as these individuals still face great barriers in the West. For musicians promoting here, I'm interested in learning more about how they got into music, their decision to pursue it, and their efforts towards making a name for themselves. As well, I'm interested in the stories they have to tell given their experiences, which I may possibly resonate with. I also just simply enjoy supporting Asian musicians.”

IN BETWEEN | 137


WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

You’re Listening To...

DRIVE SAFE

Feeling left out from the pack, you gotta go rogue Five years from now, will this even matter? You hope You don’t know where to go Construction every turn up on the road Live life thinkin’ why it’s goin’ so slow Lookin’ at the clock, wonderin’ why mama’s not home You waited way too long You noticin’ a pattern in your home Fuck all the good times, it’s a past tense I sleep and wake up when the world ends Those memories, they so hard to forget Question every day, “Are we there yet?” Gone too far to change Time to get your rollerblades That smile is worth the wait Here comes better days

RICH BRIAN

By:

138 | IN BETWEEN


All these thoughts I have in my head Got me blinded from the sunset I’m tryin’ hard to stop the rain ‘Cause smilin’ doesn’t feel the same I just called to tell you, “Drive safe” Will I see you in the mornin’? ‘Cause I just wanna feel your touch ‘Cause I don’t think I had enough The smiles turn to frowns quick

“These lyrics are a subtle reference to the distant relationship many Asian Canadians have with their parents. In my experience, I found that this was due to my mom working hard and long hours. I later grew to appreciate this realizing working hard was necessary as immigrant parents trying to improve their children’s quality of life.”

Need a break from night shifts That’s where the hours pass too slow Leave no time to grow My favorite things Milk with cookies and cream I swear, where did the good times go? It don’t show no more Polaroid photos looking like a movie scene Thank you for the memories, I don’t know what it means It’s broken, don’t know how to fix it, I need a minute

I never go away like a hiccup, I’m far from finished Just made me happy, girl, I need it right now A couple laughs and then I’m out the picture, sun down This ain’t the time to cry We don’t have much time Gone too far to change Time to get your rollerblades That smile is worth the wait Here comes better days All these thoughts I have in my head Got me blinded from the sunset I’m tryin’ hard to stop the rain ‘Cause smilin’ doesn’t feel the same I just called to tell you, “Drive safe” Will I see you in the mornin’? ‘Cause I just wanna feel your touch ‘Cause I don’t think I had enough

IN BETWEEN | 139


THAN All of the participants in the survey provided mean-

the responses, I found that I could understand the

ingful and thoughtful answers, and I believe the

reasoning behind each differing perspective and I could

differing opinions and tastes of just those that

relate in some way to every response. Even though it

answered the survey shows that the Asian diaspora

may not be true for everyone, this project has shown

cannot be put into a singular box. Although many state

me that representation does impact how many people

that the music industry doesn't have any impact on

feel about themselves, and that seeing yourself in

their own identity and doesn't really change anything

something as popular and widespread as the music

in terms of how Asian people are actually treated by

industry can make you more comfortable in your own

others in Western society, others also feel that seeing

skin, or in some cases inspire you to pursue something

artists that look like them and share common experi-

that you had been discouraged from doing in the past!

ences have the ability to boost their self confidence and pride in their culture. While many people discussed the pressure and negative impact of parental expectations, many also felt motivated in a positive

their experiences and for everyone else that has helped this project come together! I hope that this book pro-

way to work hard in order to repay their parents.

vided insight into the thoughts and feelings of the Asian

I think all of these things can be true at the same time,

music of the Asian diaspora, and allowed you to discov-

and are reflective of how our feelings and thoughts

er some new artists that you had never heard of before!

on identity are ever-changing. When reading through

140 | IN BETWEEN

Thank you so much to all of the participants for sharing

diaspora, showcased the diversity that exists within the


NK YOU! IN BETWEEN | 141


ENDNOTES 1 Vall anc e, T. (2014, August 5). James Shigeta: Actor and singer who

Since its start, YouTube allowed creators to celebrate Asian

since the silent era. Independent. https://www.independent.

joy. Insider. https://www.insider.com/youtube-asian-repre-

co.uk/news/obituaries/james-shigeta-actor-and-singer-who-

sentation-wongfu-nigahia-michellephan

became-hollywood-s-first-oriental-romantic-leading-mansince-the-silent-era-9649896.html?r=75809 2 Yar dley , W. (2014, July 29). James Shigeta, 85, leading man in ‘Flower

7 Tha o, P . (20 19, August 15). Before "Crazy Rich Asians," YouTubers paved the way for better Asian representation. Teen Vogue. https://www.teenvogue.

Drum Song,’ dies. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.

com/story/youtube-asian-representation-wongfuproduc-

com/2014/07/30/movies/james-shigeta-85-leading-man-in-

tions-happyslip

flower-drum-song-dies-.html 3 Ber gan , R. (2014, July 31). James Shigeta obituary. The Guardian. https:// www.theguardian.com/film/2014/jul/31/james-shigeta 4

6 Ho ang, V. K . (2021, June 3). 'I didn't need to apologize for being Asian:'

became Hollywood’s first Oriental romantic leading man

Ong, H . (n. d.). Leading man. Gold Sea. https://goldsea.com/Personali ties2/Shigetaj/shigetaj.html

5 Wa ng, O. (2 001). Between the notes: Finding Asian America in popular music. American Music, 19(4), 439-465. https://www.jstor. org/stable/3052420

8 Bio ng, I. (2 0 20, February 1). YouTube star AJ Rafael thanks 'fans since middle school' in open letter; releases new song, music video. Inquirer. https://entertainment.inquirer.net/362306/youtube-star-aj-rafael-thanksfans-since-middle-school-in-open-letter-releases-newsong-and-music-video 9 Kor ea H eral d. (2014, October 16). R&B artist Bernat talks Korean success. Tje Korea Herald. http://www.koreaherald.com/view. php?ud=20141016000930

ARTICLES Ahmed, I. (2021, January 1). Missing in action: The meaning behind Paper Planes.

Moon, K. (2021, October 13). Rina Sawayama is fighting for inclusion, one song at

Odd Magazine. https://www.oddmag.co/2021/01/01/missing-in-action-

a time. Time. https://time.com/6103208/rina-sawayama-next-genera-

the-meaning-behind-paper-planes/

tion-leaders/

Coleman, M. L. (2019, June 25). How Chinese food fueled the rise of

Morin, N. (2019, August 28). NIKI wants Asians to own their heritage. Refinery29.

California punk. Topic. https://www.topic.com/how-chi-

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2019/08/241493/niki-zenfaya-head-

nese-food-fueled-the-rise-of-california-punk?source=aw&aw-

in-the-clouds-88-rising-interview

c=19522_1632417446_7cc8e5d9fd2a6ead09794305b514bc0d&utm_ source=aw&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_campaign=78888_Skimlinks Dao, D. Q. (2021, July 20). Satica is glowing. Paper Magazine. https://www.papermag.com/satica-youre-glowing-2653801284.html?rebelltitem=5#rebelltitem5 Hess, L. (2021, May 15). Griff is pop’s next powerhouse- and she makes her own clothes, too. Vogue. https://www.vogue.com/article/griff-brits-risingstar-award-interview Hightower, L. (2003). Talvin Singh biography. Net Industries Musician Guide. https://musicianguide.com/biographies/1608003827/Talvin-Singh.html Kalia, A. (2021, May 19). Yung Singh’s Punjabi garage mixes highlight the creativity of the South Asian diaspora. Bandcamp. https://daily.bandcamp.com/ features/yung-singh-punjabi-garage-feature Kim, S. (2011, May). A grain of sand: Music for the struggle by Asians in America. Folkways Magazine. https://folkways.si.edu/magazine-spring-2011-grainsand-struggle-asians-america/protest-folk/music/article/smithsonian

142 | IN BETWEEN

Sarwar-Skuse, N. (2021, July 15). We Are Lady Parts reminds us to celebrate real Muslim punk stories too. Gal-dem. https://gal-dem.com/muslim-punklady-parts-nadia-javed-kominas-taqwacore-history/ Silva, J. (2020, June 9). Interview: Mike Park of Asian Man Records on why community is everything. New Noise. https://newnoisemagazine.com/interviewmike-park-of-asian-man-records-on-why-community-is-everything/ Tseng, A. (2016, November 23). How Far East Movement took success into their own hands. The World. https://theworld.org/stories/2016-11-18/how-far-eastmovement-took-success-their-own-hands Yu, E. (2021, December 27). Raveena makes music with soft power. Billboard. https://www.billboard.com/music/features/raveena-makes-soft-powerhonda-1235013912/


COLLAGE IMAGES Abbas, B. (2018). Hundred lanterns [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/ Z1pAofkalYY Abdul A. (2021). Green and white alarm clock [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/ CxRBtNe243k Autumn Studio. (2017). Orange and white bicycle [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/ photos/zv3ckJKftC4 Bailey, J. (2018). Writing and working [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/WeCoLo0Rxp4 Banks, C. (2020). Glove up! [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/e6pK_snssSY Banks, C. (2020). Latex & chill [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/cEzMOp5FtV4 Beloch, C. (2018). Red and white heart balloons [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/ photos/P2fBIamIbQk Carrie, G. (2020). iPod shuffle [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/L3PjAtjoeV0 CK, K. (2019). White Sony corded headphones [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/ RZmiDOpv1lM Cooper, J. (2021). White window type air conditioner [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/ photos/PrF6K6GNZSk Cottonbro. (2020). People sitting on white plastic chairs [Photograph]. Pexels. https://www.pexels. com/photo/people-sitting-on-white-plastic-chairs-4881609/ Cottonbro. (2021). Activism, activist, artistic [Photograph]. Pexels. https://www.pexels.com/photo/ food-banner-sign-industry-6484520/ Curology. (2019). Hands holding a phone with text [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/ photos/eqTdTtFyABU Das, S. H. (2021). Doodle and hindi handwriting [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/ photos/anJigjkKKSw Duncan, H. (2018). Apanman [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/F9ge7eR66SE Edi, Sm. (2020). Gray crt tv on white table [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/ knr1B719QAg Eisakiryota. (2020). Green trees near white concrete building during day [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/hF5RIILwrFY ETA Plus. (2020). White crt tv turned on [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/LhNcIFse95A FLY:D. (2021). Piece of newspaper [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/QDoSGl_kYd0 Girl with Red Hat. (2020). Colorful keyboard white background [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/Z6SXt1v5tP8 Hara, T. (2019). Red and blue neon light signage [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/ photos/5CSaeDK8vxU Industri, H. (2018). Bong statue [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/dXv02KiFp4I Inside Weather. (2019). Beige rotary telephone [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/2EUdAWQ3Uko Iwata, R. (2017). Waiting for the walk signal [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/3vk8Dgkd_Sc J, D. (2020). Bass guitar [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/iTFTl6jXUfk Kredenets, I. (2019). Pair of white-and-orange athletic shoes [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://un-

Mclean, E. (2020). Person in white pants and white sneakers riding blue skateboard [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/qcKAq5nUcOU Mehndi Training Center. (2019). Person with brown mehndi tattoo holding white rose flowers [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/CBWotctkWYw Moquete, K. (2020). Hands up [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/LOV7Gbmgm30 Natali, A. (2017). Leather [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/jdTtkmr1axk Nord, A. (2018). Rest [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/IQUyLpKDFKI Not Pot. (2020). Two yellow and white plastic bottles [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/ photos/j8Pfv4nnuyE Not Pot. (2020). White and blue labeled plastic bottle [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/ photos/Q2wQZFE9Ot0 Raychan. (2018). Kanji text [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/vHf8wYS2aeY Rosseels, S. (2020). Person’s hand on blue sky [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/ iUmQbuiIb0Q Roy, M. (2021). Stethoscope [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/lYVQm_WYXJk Schmetz, F. (2021). The grandfather of the iPod [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/ Rks6FTfX5OU Seiler, K. (2020). Person in blue denim jeans and black converse all star high top sneakers [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/MlM9ywuSEkk Sergienko, O. (2019). Black and gray film camera [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/ photos/9-uSCnBaVGU Shimazai, S. (2020). Man in blue denim jacket holding a megaphone [Photograph]. Pexels. https:// www.pexels.com/photo/man-in-blue-denim-jacket-holding-a-megaphone-5935743/ Siloine, Y. (2018). Canon Argentique [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/_T4w3JDm6ug Spiske, M. (2022). Vintage music record vinyl long player [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash. com/photos/h9B0FjYJpsw Szymanski, B. (2021). Halloween themed iPod mini [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/ photos/jRZGUdc4DRQ Vats, A. (2019). Man painting the wall [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/Zu0OcGi_Vms Weatherall, D. (2020). Vintage cafe in Thailand [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/ K2qN68Pg6TI Wook, K. (2020). Free medication [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/ZyxNWi3JCto Yang, X. (2021). Jansen [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/AGGA9LH3FLo Yoon, I. (2018). Sign that says dream [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/LWhdzPZ1RGM Yoshitake, R. (2018). Tokyo summer [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/rD28m9BmXVs Valdivia, A. (2020). White concrete building under blue sky during daytime [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/uneWmLY2v8g Zilles, M. (2020). Colorful drug mix [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/KltoLK6Mk-g Zhuldybin, I. (2021). Yellow flag [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/c2lC721XOxg

splash.com/photos/dwKiHoqqxk8 Leung, J. (2017). Multicolored wall art [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/wHddViTmSvA

IN BETWEEN | 143




SLUG