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LOG - 8


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26 July 2001 - Caught the last part of a radio interview of Prach Ly, Cambodian American mc in Long Beach, California. He was being interviewed on the Canadian Broadcast Corp.'s news and public affairs show, "As It Happens", about his rap CD that became a hit in Phnom Penh. He figures that his recording was brought to Cambodia around December of '99. (I already noted the Asiaweek magazine article about him and his CD (see Print of Note #8), which failed to mention a date when the recording started playing in Cambodia.)
The best part of the interview came at the end, when Ly recited one of his recent bilingual rhymes. His rapping in Khmer sounded so gritty and funky!


5 August - Saw Chicago-based Jenny Choi and the Third Shift perform at Metro Cafe in DC. The audience was tiny, but that allowed me to sit at a table closest to the stage. I could stand up, step forward, and snap pictures freely. The difficulty is that the stage is a bit high, which puts limitations on good shooting angles and unobstructed views of the performers.
Her music was quite enjoyable, and ranged from folkish ballads to pop/punk songs to r&b/jazz stylings. She sang and played a Kurzweill keyboard, and the rest of the band was the usual electric guitar, bass, and drums. She must keep her boys (the members of her band are white guys) on a tight leash. They certainly seemed kinda subdued (well-trained?) and only able to release their performance energies through instrumental exertions. (She was the only one with a voice mike.)
Afterwards, I was able to interview her. We had a good exchange, and I was able to explore some of her activities outside of music. For example, she teaches literature at a suburban high school, and wants to expose her students to multicultural writings.


8 August - Arrived in Chicago and caught the jazz show of the "Rising sounds of Asian American music" series at the Old Town School of Music. First up was Yoko Noge's Jazz Me Blues. They played with swing. Noge's vocals reminded me of enka style (an old form of Japanese pop, 40-50 years old?). Her style was complemented by the sweet, smooth voice of Elijah Levy. The rest of the band was Sonny Seals (tenor sax), Jimmy Ellis (alto sax), Clark Dean (soprano sax), Tatsu Aoki (bass) and Phil Thomas (drums).
Then followed a solo bit by the bassist, Tatsu Aoki. At one point he was beating his strings with a chopstick. Sounded like a berimbau, a Brazilian instrument.
The last group, Wakame no himitsu, was a quartet of 2 Japanese (Toru Hironaka -sax and Kotoro Seki -bass)and 2 whites (actually father and son, Benjamin Miller -sax and Barrett Miller -drums). They played the most interesting music of the night. Short to medium length pieces that combined free jazz, structured rhythms, and improv.


11 August - Talked with expat Japanese blues harmonica player, Seiji "Wabi" Yuguchi. He leads a 50's/60's Chicago -style blues band comprised mostly of expat Japanese like himself. Minoru Maruyama, his guitarist, was with him as well.
It was pretty neat talking with Wabi, since he sounds black. That's only natural since before forming his own band, he'd been on tour for 4 or 5 years with Chicago-based blues bands. He figured he'd paid his dues, and wanted to do his own thing.
Maruyama was an interesting contrast, in that he came to Chicago from Nigata (sp?) a small town in Japan.
In the evening, I saw the Asian female pop/rock trio, Kim, perform at a private party. They seemed to be in top form. And I was able to interview them afterwards.


12 August - In the afternoon, I found out that the Tatsu Aoki's Miyumi Project was playing the Korean Street Fair. So I rushed up there via train and my own 2 feet. I arrived just as the ensemble was finishing their last piece. Afterwards, I buttonholed the bandleader and interviewed him about his musical concept behind Miyumi Project and the "Rooted: Origins of Now" ensemble. (The latter will be performing at Ping Tom Park at Chicago Chinatown on Aug. 26, at the Chicago Jazz Festival on Sept. 1, and at the Chicago Asian American jazz festival in late October.)
Getting back to the music-making approach... Tatsu wanted to explore beat-based music, and not be constrained by chord progressions. So neither group contains a chordal instrument like guitar or piano. He wanted to do explore rhythms, which he feels is ignored by European improvisationalists (like Peter Brötzman).
Later experienced the sounds of Ikue Mori playing her Powerbook (Apple laptop) as a finale of the transmissions 004 festival (This performance was held at the Chicago Cultural Center). Joining her on stage was Skuli Sverisson, the bass player from NY and Iceland. He also performed on a Powerbook.
The sounds were often intriguing, but there was no visual accompaniment.


18 Aug - Saw folk singer/songwriter Michael Hsu at 49 West in Annapolis. It's been nearly a year since I've heard him at the same place. Doesn't seem to have changed. I looked up my notes from before, and they still applied.


2 Sep - Happened to be in Raleigh, North Carolina and turned on the radio. I caught the last 25 minutes of Seyma (shayma) Bennett's show, "World Cafe" on WKNC 88.1 FM. She played a lot of bhangra and Turkish club dance music. Even mixed in some Latin stuff. Something unexpected for a smaller metropolitan area. The station is run by students at NC State.


9 Sep - Saw a free show by the Madagascaran groupTarika at the Kennedy Center in DC. I was particularly interested in hearing songs off their latest album, "Soul Makassar," which was inspired by the bandleader's trip to Indonesia. Hanitra Rasoanaivo wanted to uncover cultural ties between Madagascar and Indonesia.
I wish she would have explained more about the pieces they performed, or had handed out descriptions and translations of lyrics, because I felt I missed out on a lot.
One song that needed no translation was their rendition of the Phil Spector oldie, "Be My Baby" (originally sung by the Ronettes?). Rasoanaivo explained that she'd always heard that song played on Malagasy radio, and assumed it was a local tune. (Apparently, someone had translated it into the local language and titled it, "Malalaku".) It wasn't until 1990, that she found out it's true origins.


11 Sep - Fortunately, my sister avoided harm from the airstrikes on the World Trade Center. She works nearby, but arrived at her building after the second plane had hit and left before the first tower crumbled.


11 Oct - I enjoyed the soundtrack for the opening night screening of the DC APA film festival. The main feature was "The Flip Side", a comedy set in Southern California and shot in black & white. The soundtrack included songs by Moonpools & Caterpillars, a group (3 Pinoys + 1 white female) that one doesn't hear from these days. Seems they put out an album a couple years back and then were gone from the scene. Too bad, because their pop/rock sound is catchy.


14 Oct - Attended another screening of the DC APA film festival, and saw the film, "Shopping for Fangs." The soundtrack was by someone named Steve Pramoto, and wasn't bad.


20 Oct - By the time I arrived at the last day of the film festival, most of the video, "The Split Horn: Life of a Hmong Shaman in America, had been projected. There was a Q&A session afterwards, with the filmmakers and family. Turns out the 2 teen kids of the shaman are fairly musical. The boy, Birthanie, plays the khene (a pan-pipe -like harmonica) well enough to perform at Hmong funerals. The girl, Chai, ended the session by singing a song written by a Hmong band or r&b group from Minnesota called, Dr. Teen. The lyrics were mostly in Hmong, with some English phrases like, "Baby, I'm so sorry" and "Please come back"


28 Oct - Tomorrow's my last morning in Toronto. I've been here since Thursday. Bought a few used CD's: "Lavinia's Tongue" by Sook-Yin Lee (who'd recently announced that she was going to leave her job as a VJ and interviewer at Much Music, the Canadian MTV), a cheesy-sounding Cambodian pop recording, and Lee Kim's "Close to You". (I suspect that LK is a Korean Canadian.)
Friday night, I attended the first Toronto appearance by Pinoy comedian, Rex Navarette. Opening the show, was Ron Josol, a local Pinoy. He's a rapidly rising talent whose tv solo performance will air on Comedy Network and CTV in January (2002).
I spoke with both comics, and a full report will be forthcoming.


3 Nov - On the radio (WAMU 88.5 FM), I happened to catch a woman's voice with koto playing in the background. Immediately, I guessed that it was Miya Masaoka speaking. Sure enough, that's who it was. She was on an NPR-distributed series, called "Jazz Profiles" hosted by singer, Nancy Wilson. The point of this particular program was to demonstrate how jazz was being played on unusual instruments or settings. After the Masaoka soundbite finished, there followed a rendition of Thelonius Monk's "Round Midnight" by Miya on the koto, with Reggie Workman on bass and Andrew Cyrille on drums.
Also that evening, I watched a profile of the musical composer, Richard Rodgers, on PBS tv. It made me wish that many of today's emerging singer/songwriters should listen to his music and learn from it. (Melodic inventiveness and his use of harmony.)


10 Nov - Heard a good radio piece on qawwali (produced by Jocelyn Gonzales for "Studio 360"). Ishrat Ansari, of the Pakistani cultural foundation Virsa, and Robert Browning of the World Music Institute talked about this devotional folk music of the Sufi Muslims of South Asia. I liked Browning's remarks about the role of the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the best known qawwali vocalist.


11 Nov - Saw a couple bands play at Cafe Tatoo in Baltimore. (The owner and bartender, Rick, is quite a character and is apt to carry on conversations with himself.)
Starting off was The Wontons from Austin, Texas. They're an exciting trio to see and hear. (Dean Hsieh -guitar; Scott West -bass; Dwayne Barnes -drums) Their current sound is punk with moments of rock. (Their press says they have a lotta garage rock mixed in, so I'll go with that.) And while they did repeat the primordial Ramones song form a couple times, they also mixed in some other sounds and rhythms... enough variety to keep my interest. (It also helped that they threw in some revolving, flashing lights.) The final song was punctuated by flash pots. Flames leapt into the air as Dean and Scott did likewise.
The Wontons were followed on stage by their tourmates, Kabochack. These 3 women from Shizuoka, Japan (Mariko -guitar; Riri -bass; Tamaki -drums) were a very disciplined band and would change loudness and tempos, sometimes within their songs. Once in a while, they'd remind me of the Cranberries, but generally their sound was more alt-rock mixed with indie j-pop. When asked what the name of the band meant, Tamaki said it had no meaning. Perhaps that was just as well, since they sung in Japanese (a language I've yet to learn).
Mariko (or is it Maripoo?) did most of the singing, while playing a Stratocaster. (I think she probably writes most of the songs.) For the last song, she had to borrow Dean Hsieh's guitar, because she'd snapped a string on her's.
After their set, club owner, Rick played their CD over the room's speakers. The songs were brighter and more up tempo than what the group had just performed.
  The next group was a cabaret rock duo with a strong beat and stream-of-consciousness lyrics called, Less Pain Forever. They're 2 white guys in orange suits from Phoenix. Following them were a local trio called, The Henchmen. They were sorta punk and rock in a cabaret way, and a bit rough around the edges. They wore ties and fedora hats.


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