8 June 2002 - Finding myself in North Carolina, I tried to contact a friend or two. I got through to Judy Tseng. I knew her years ago from the internet and from her years in DC.
She invited me to a social gathering of the Raleigh-Durham chapter of NAAAP (Nat'l. Ass'n. of Asian American Professionals), of which she's (chapter) president.
Judy and her husband, Andrew Chin (?), do an Asian American show for a local community access cable tv channel. (Either Channel 8 (Durham) or 10 (Raleigh), or maybe both.) The program is called, "Asian Focus." And they interviewed me about this, here, website (AAMP!itude) for their show. I'm afraid I didn't look that good on camera, from what little playback I saw. (So you potential viewers out there, consider yourselves to have been warned!) Although, I imagine it will be repeated over the course of the ensuing months (probably at unusual hours), so viewers might be able to get used to my odd screen presence. (That is, if Judy and Andrew decide to use the material.)
And afterwards, we all watched part of the Stanley Cup hockey game between the Detroit Red Wings and Carolina Hurricanes (being played at ESA in Raleigh).
15 June - There was a free concert tonight by singer/songwriter Tom Prasada-Rao at a local outdoor amphitheater (in Catonsville, MD), so I decided to take advantage of it. I've known about him for several years, but this was my first time seeing him onstage.
He performed 15 songs. One of them, co-written with Tom Kimmel, will be recorded by country & western star, Randy Travis, on his upcoming album. That was a very touching song. It seemed too short, though. I expected it to last longer.
From what I could tell of the lyrics, the song was a humanistic (perhaps pacifist?) response to the fighting in Afghanistan. What made it doubly interesting were his remarks that led in to the song. He talked about having been pulled off a flight leaving Dallas, back in October (2001), and being interrogated by various personnel (Nat'l Guard, INS, FBI, etc.). It's 'cause he's South Asian (Indian) in ethnicity, and looks like he could be a terrorist in the eyes of some...
28 June - This year's Smithsonian Folk Life Festival on the Mall in DC, is an extravanganza with a Silk Road theme. Although overrun by people, I managed to get into the tent / stage featuring the Silk Road Ensemble end-of-the-day performance. The star of the ensemble and "guru" of the festival is Yo-Yo Ma. And the audience adored him.
29 June - I went back to the Folk Life Festival. This time, I spent a couple hours, there. I went back to the same stage/tent I visited yesterday and came upon an Assyrian folk choir. ("Assyrian" is a friendlier term for "Iraqi"?) There were a string of people hold hands and line-dancing around the tent.
Following them was the Silk Road Ensemble...
Muras, Kyrgyzstani folk group... unsmiling, somewhat glum for the most part (maybe because they'd been rushed by their handlers?)... The men wore these sloped white caps that made them look like they'd wandered in from a Disneyland Matterhorn ride. One of the women wore a skullcap (that extended below the ears) that seemed reminiscent of the knit skullcap worn by Incan men. (Yeah I'm talkin' 'bout the headgear from South America that seems to have become a fashion accessory for hipsters in the last year or two. Talk about globalization!... Or maybe the Incans and the Kyrgyzstanis have parallel cultures?)
Roksonaki, Kazahk folk rock band.
5 July - Headed over to the Velvet Lounge in DC to see Jenny Choi & the Third Shift from Chicago. The start time isn't until a couple hours after I arrive, so I wander up and down a couple blocks of U Street, to see what restaurants and clubs have opened in the past few years. Several Ethiopian places, as well as Caribbean and West African. And I mustn't forget the famous Ben's Chili Bowl, a local institution (since 1958?).
Jenny and the band are in fine form. Their music is, often, compelling. There's harmonic and rhythmic variety. On the other hand, her voice gets a little screechy, at times. It happens when she shifts from quiet, breathy tones to loud and/or higher notes, but you can tell she's putting lotsa feeling into her singing. It feels like she's trying to get stuff off her chest... almost like some sort of scream therapy. (Wasn't that in vogue many, many years ago?... Something called primal therapy and was featured in some of John Lennon's stuff. Hmmm... wonder if that had any influence on Yoko Ono's vocal style. Or maybe vice-versa.)
6 July - Back to the Folk Life Festival. What is billed as a jam session turns into a duel between 2 boy singers, one from Rajasthan and the other from Azerbaijan.
Forgot to listen to Studio 360, the public radio show on the arts and humanities. Today's show had a piece on Margaret Leng Tan, the avant garde pianist. She's known for her devotion to the music of John Cage, as well as recording 2 albums of music for toy pianos.
7 July - Folklife festival for the last time... I see performances by members of the Silk Road Ensemble, once again. ... Indian fusion group, Indian Ocean... demo on silk road fiddles (Mongolian, Kyrgystani, and Azeri)...
Thankfully, it is overcast, so the heat isn't too oppressive, today. But the wind is blowing, and picks up sand and dirt stirred up by the hordes of festival visitors. It's probably the closest thing to a Silk Road sandstorm that I get today. And when I get back home, I gotta clean the sand out of my nostrils. (I guess this is what the hip-hoppers call, "keepin' it real" !)
14 July - Even though it was Bastille Day, I didn't do anything French. I did go down to DC to check out Annie Lin at the Metro Cafe. She was sandwiched between Karen Jacobsen and Amy Speace on the bill. And quite a contrast to them.
While Jacobsen and Speace had large, melodic voices and sang in measured rhythms, Lin was like a busy bee. She was buzzing her words into the mike, bouncing up and down, slashing her pick across guitar strings. (In fact, she broke 2 strings, and was saved by the generosity of Speace's loan of her guitar.)
I had a chance to talk to Annie afterwards...
19 July - I wasn't sure if I could make it down to the 9:30 club, tonight... in-time to see J-pop stars, Puffy (or PuffyAmiYumi, as they are known in this country). But traffic, while sluggish, going into DC wasn't nearly as bad the traffic leaving town. I didn't quite know what to expect, but they were a pretty good show. At first, it was a little odd to see the way they moved on stage. The Dynamic Duo have these J-pop female vocalist movements and gestures, that seem overly showy and kitschy to an American rock audience in a club. But maybe their movements and gestures are designed for the largest of venues, like auditoriums and stadiums. Whatever the case, they were, downright, entertaining.
After being steamrolled by about 17 songs, many of them back-to-back, I must declare myself "Puffy-ized". (Oh dear! Is this a sign that I've become brainwashed by the devilish, mass marketing pop machine? But with sales of 14 million cd's in Japan, Puffy must be doing something right... I'm not sure. I haven't been paying much attention to the equivalent American popstars, so maybe I should investigate such luminaries as Brittany Spears, 'Nsync, Donny & Marie Osmond, Abba (oops! they're Swedish!), and the Jackson 5.)
26 July - I'm back in North Carolina. Tonight, I attended the "Summer Jam" tour concert at the Cumberland County Civic Auditorium in Fayetteville, North Carolina. It was a Christian rock and pop show. My main reason for going was to check out Rachael Lampa. (I'd read a rumor somewhere on the internet that she might be part Filipino.) She's only 17 years old with great pipes. Also on the bill, were New Song, TAIT, True Vibe, Brother's Keeper and Freddie Colloca.
The lead singer of New Song blew me away, at one point, during one of his "sermons" or "testimonials". He said, "I know that there're some people here on drugs!"
Christian druggies?! Is there such a thing?!! Hmmm, if that were true, what would be their drug of choice? Cocaine? Heroin? Crack? Crystal meth?
Ahhh, I know... it would have to be X or E (Ecstacy). What other drug would make one want to stand up, stretch out their arms, and shout, "Hallelujah!" (On the other hand, I should point out that 99.79% of the folks at a concert like the one I attended would have little need for chemically-induced inspiration.)
But isn't E is more associated with raves? (Note to self: next time, check out a Christian rave... Although, for the purposes of this website, it would have to be an Asian Christian rave.)
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