6 April 2K -- Caught a bus up to NYC and visited a club, Arlene Grocery, (just south of Houston on the East Side) to catch the p.i.c. gig. It heralded the release of their album, hiphopunkfunkmamboska.
Unfortunately, I was fading fast from lack of sleep and having walked over from the Village. So I left before they finished setting up. (They were probably ready to go by 11:30pm). I did manage to get a copy of the cd before leaving. (Stay tuned for my brief impressions.)
Just preceding them on stage was a band called Broken Atlantic. It looked like 2 members of BA were Pinoys. I was told that one or more of BA used to play with p.i.c.
7 April 2K -- At the end of the day, I visited the Guggenheim Museum to experience "The Worlds of Nam June Paik." Known as the Father of Video Art, he actually started off in music in the 50's...[more to come]
8 April 2K -- Attended some of the sessions of the FreeZone; APA Youth conference at NYU. I was surprised that there weren't more attendees, but given the fact that it turned out to be first warm Saturday of spring in New York City, some people probably decided they had better things to do than sit indoors and listen to talking heads.
Of course, not me. I'm a glutton for punishment. Moreover, I wanted to take some more pictures of people that I could post on this website.
You see, the first panel I went to was on hip hop...[more to come] Afterwards, I happened to meet a Pinoy from Rocklin (which is north of NYC) who's in a band, Cookie Galore, that'll play next month at CBGB's. (We took pictures of each other simultaneously.)
29 April 2K -- attended the Grain of Sand Reunion Concert at the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum on the Mall (Washington, D.C.). It was a must-see performance for me, because many of the songs dated from the time of the Asian American Movement (late 60's, early 70's)...
9 May 2K -- DJ Kid Koala, DJ P-Love, and Bullfrog at Fletcher's in Baltimore. What a fun, tight show! Mad skillz displayed by Kid Koala (a.k.a. Eric San) as well as P-Love (a.k.a. Paolo Kupanan). Turns out that the Kid's parents were in the audience! They were standing behind me. It was the first time they'd seen their son in action. I hope they were impressed with the crowd's cheers for the Kid. (The crowd's screams at the end of the performance damn near blew out my eardrums!)
14 May 2K -- The band eX-Girl landed from the Planet Kero Kero and zapped an audience at the Ottobar (a club in Baltimore). They're a trio of sexily clad Japanese women who perform a curious mixture of punk, pop, avant garde, and wide-ranging vocals. It's all infused with a Japanese pop culture aesthetic, yet their alluring and cutsey personas are belied
or subverted by the the rumbling, raucus, and discordant sounds they produce. In order to better examine the dichotomy between appearance and sound, this intrepid reporter attempted to communicate with the alien lifeforms...
Some hours earlier, I had made it down to the Mall in DC, catching the last vestiges of the Million Mom March. There wasn't much left to see, so I headed over to the "300 years of the Piano" exhibit at the underground Ripley center. I'll have to revisit the exhibit because I didn't have enough time to carefully examine and read everything before closing time.
I did note several items of special relevance:
- Duke Ellington's manuscript for the piano solo of a 1965 piece, The Far East Side Suite. The solo was titled, "Ad lib on Nippon."
- a panel describing "The Asian Experience": "Today East Asia is where the action is. More pianos are made and played in Asia than anywhere else in the world..." As if to reinforce this claim, on the wall behind a nearby rhinestone-laden Baldwin grand (customized for Liberace) was a giant photo poster of a "concert using 97 Pearl River grand pianos in celebration of the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997."
21 May 2K -- Attended the bhangra event at the Smithsonian, part of its APA heritage month celebration. The main draw for me was the possible appearance of DJ Rekha (Rekha Malhotra) to do a demo of spinning records. There was no mention of her in the publicity material for the event, but she had listed it on her webpage.
At the reception afterwards, I introduced myself and told her I had a picture of her when she was on a panel at the Asian American studies conference at Cornell. She was amazed, since it was 7 years ago. (Was it really in '93, that long ago?. I must check.)
When I asked, she said she'd started to spin at that time. (Maybe she was learning.) I oughta dig out the photo, scan it, and post it.
Sunaina Maira was there, too, adding some academic perspective on bhangra. She teaches Asian American studies at UMass, Amherst (and can be found in a panel photo on one of the picture pages of this, here, website [Too lazy, for the time being, to set up a link]). I'd imagine that some of her remarks went over the heads of those who hadn't thought much about the South Asian youth (desi) social scene and how it might be interpeted and contextualized. Especially, because she has a tendency to overwhelm the audience with too many concepts and ideas, not giving them time to digest her remarks, before making another point.
Perhaps she was a bit nervous. (Well, I'd probably be speaking too fast, myself, if I were lecturing in an auditorium.) In any case, the open discussion at the end of the program turned out pretty well, with good participation from the audience.
24-28 May 2K -- Attended the annual Asian American studies conference (I call it, "AAAScon".) in Phoenix. The outside temperature peaked in the triple digits. (As Apache Indian would say, "Hotter than vindaloo curry!")
1 June 2K -- Heard a radio piece this morning on NPR's Morning Edition about bhangra. It was okay, but I would've done it differently. Some points made were not set up or explained well enough. Some musical excerpts could've been shortened. I wonder who edited or reviewed the piece. (The reporter was someone named Reena Advani.)
The question I still have is whether modern bhangra has spread beyond the desi dance parties.
Meanwhile, what's this I hear about music and ads of Taiwanese singer Ah-mei being banned in Mainland China due to her having sung Taiwan's national anthem at the inauguration of Chen Shui-bian? These Commies need to get a clue! I would only ban her bad songs, the ones I thought were really lame.
It seems the political censors want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. (And that's one cutie I wouldn't want to throw out.) But, hey! That's politics!
3 June 2K -- I spent a little time this evening in the back seat of Jane Wang's car... listening to her unreleased album. (She was seated in the front, operating the controls of her car stereo. Hate to disappoint some of you, but there was absolutely no hanky panky!) The music was by one of the groups she plays with, WhoSheBe. They're
an Asian American women jazz quartet, and Wang plays upright bass. She and the group are from the Boston area, but I ran into her in Baltimore. She was joining 3 other bassists in performance at an anniversary party for Normal's bookstore and the adjoining Red Room performance space. (The latter is well-known amongst those musicians who make
the rounds of the improvisational music circuit.) The bass players are known as Vattel Cherry's Bass Response.
Cherry is a bassist who lives in Baltimore. The other members are David Kaczorowski from Philadelphia and Alan Lewine from DC. The group had played in NY and DC just recently, so with the end of their brief tour, they were talking of getting together and recording a CD.
That they should end their mini tour in Baltimore at that time was appropriately coincidental with the week long World Cello Congress being held at nearby Towson University (and other performances at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in the city of Baltimore).
The cello is a smaller cousin of the bass. I found out from talking to the bassists, that their instrument comes in various sizes, most commonly 7/8's and 3/4's. (Those are what the bassists this evening were playing.)
9 June 2K -- Caught the last half of a concert by the Vijay Iyer Quartet at the Meyer Auditorium (Freer Gallery of Asian Art) in D.C. What I heard sounded fairly structured, with very coordinated playing (inotherwords, very tight). It reminded me at times of the music of McCoy Tyner, but more deliberate, with complex, dissonant chords or harmonic
I liked the last piece the best. It was an adapted from a piece ("Configurations") written for a year-old trio of Iyer, Mahanthappa, and Trichy Sankaran (a mrdangam player and Carnatic music teacher in Toronto). What was particularly interesting was how the drummer, Derrek Phillips, imitated the sound or timbre of a South Indian drum, by striking the drumhead and rim at the same time. (That's what he told me about his technique. I found his timbre sounding like a ghatam or clay pot drum.)
23 June 2K -- By the time I arrived at the Natural History Museum in DC, the performance of "Must be the Music: Songs from Making Tracks" had just ended. People were starting to swarm the food tables and drink servers in the reception area.
Several folks told me that the singers were often overpowered by the band backing them up.
One singer who seemed able to overcome that, with strong projection and enunciation, was Rona Figueroa. This second-hand report, is, of course, subject to further clarification by any reader who may have attended the event. Nonetheless, having sat in that auditorium (Baird) many times, I'm well aware of the acoustical liveliness of it, and how easy it is to lose sonic control without an adequate sound check.
25 June 2K -- A slew of Pilipino American musical groups performed at a Philippines Independence festival at Tucker Road park in Oxon Hill, Maryland. (Props to Marlan Maralit for arranging the musical entertainment (and probably more) and Joe Montana for filling me in on who's who.) I arrived as VRS One, a vocal duo outta Joisey, were harmonizing on stage (along with some choreographed moves). They
were followed by Basement 31 (from Union, NJ and NY), The Speaks (Ft. Washington, MD), and Recognize (Northern VA). Oh, between the last two, a bunch 'o B-boys busted some moves.
It was one of those hot and humid mid-Atlantic summer days, so that people were moving around kinda slow (unless they were playing volleyball) and the absence of two members of the Virginia Beach band Silverscene (thus preventing their performance) didn't seem to arouse any ill will with the festival organizers. (Sorry that I missed the first act, Cigarbox Planetarium, as someone described that their sounds were loungey at times. [Can lounge music be turned into swamp music?])
2 July 2K -- Headed down to the Mall in DC once again. Saw the Dalai Lama, cowboys on horseback roping young cattle, and a small herd of yaks (including some baby ones) try to endure the humid heat.
Oh, and I watched a part of a show of traditional Tibetan song and dance.
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