Elena Moon Park’s “Rabbit Days and Dumplings” serves Asian children’s music for all ages

rabbit days and dumplings - elena moon parkI have a soft spot for children’s music, especially if they’re traditional folk songs of any culture. But the children’s music that really tugs at my heart are the timeless melodies I grew up with as a kid in Japan.

So when I listened to Elena Moon Park and Friends’ beautiful and fun album, “Rabbit Days and Dumplings,” I was most enchanted by “Akatombo” (“Red Dragonfly”) which opens with fingerpicked guitar and is joined by a flute whistling the gorgeous, lazily floating melody I remember from my childhood. Park and executive producer/guitarist Dan Zanes sing both in English and phonetic Japanese, and the music is rounded out with flutes, the buzuk, an Arabic stringed instrument, and koto, the Japanese harp that looks like a surfboard with strings.

The album is chock-full of such world music mashups of culture while the songs are treated with respect for their cultural origins. On some of the songs, Park brings in guest singers to handle the Japanese, Chinese and one Tibetan song.
Continue reading

“Gangnam Style” artist PSY signed to US deal: Will he be the 1st Korean superstar here, or a one-hit wonder?

Scooter Braun, the management guru behind Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen, today announced he’s signed Korean rap artist Park Jae-Sang, better-known as PSY, the dude with the huge viral video hit, “Gangnam Style” (see above).

The goofy, annoying techno-dance thumper with the horsey-straddling giddyup choreography is unavoidable — with more than 107 million views as of this writing, it’s become a meme with a life of its own. There’s a pretty fun (slightly less annoying) mashup of the song with bits by LMFAO, Far East Movement (featuring Dev), Offspring and Bloodhound Gang titled “Like a Bad White Guy Party Gangnam Style” (see below).

The song’s video was choreographed by PSY, whose name is a reference to “psycho” for his outsized personality. The “Gangnam” in the song refers to the high-toned part of Seoul, where he probably hangs out — Park is a star in Korea.

No doubt the song will now become a megahit with the backing of a US pop music label. There’s a general buzz around Korean pop music, or Kpop, these days, so PSY benefits from that spotlight.
Continue reading

V there or be square: V3con update — panelists, schedules, Early Bird price ends tomorrow!

Jane Lui -- performing at V3con

Jane Lui will be performing at the Opening Reception and Awards Ceremony for V3con.

We’re deep in the planning process for V3, the Asian American Digital Media Conference, scheduled for Aug. 25 at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles with an Opening Night Reception and Awards ceremony on Friday, Aug. 24 at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena. Most of the panelists are set and confirmed. We’re lining up performers like Jane Lui (shown here) to take the stage at the Opening Night soiree.

If you’re Asian American, a blogger, a social media maven, a journalist or just a fan of artists like Lui or David Choi or Clara C, or a reader of bloggers like Phil Yu of Angry Asian Man, Jen Wang of Disgrasian or Jeff Yang of the Wall Street Journal, you won’t want to miss this ultra-cool event.

They’ll all be there. Or V there. So don’t be square.

And, the low Early Bird price is only available through tomorrow, so register today and you can feel good about being oh-so-Asian frugal. If you’re a slacker Asian (like me), the pre-registration price ain’t so bad, only $10 more. If you’re traveling from outside SoCal, we’ve arranged for pretty good rates at the Miyako Hotel in Little Tokyo, just half a block from JANM and across the street from a row of ramen shops. Yowsa!
Continue reading

Abeya Tsugaru Shamisen Performance Ensemble throwdown – who’s got the fastest fingers?

This jaw-dropping shamisen throwdown took place during a free performance sponsored by the Consul General of Japan at Denver, of ABEYA Tsugaru Shamisen Performance Ensemble. It’s an incredible eight-piece group that performs traditional folksongs (and original material) on the shamisen, a three-stringed lute with a tone similar to a western banjo, that’s plucked with a tool that looks like a putty knife.

The two men, Kinzaburo and Ginzaburo Abe, are brothers and both past national champions of shamisen. The woman, Maya Nemoto, who’s also an awesome vocalist, is the current national champion. These musicians are so amazing that it’s like imagining a similar face-off on guitars between rock giants like Jimmy Page, Richard Thompson and Les Paul.

Who do you think is the winner of this competition?

Matsukawa Kyougaku taiko drummers wow Colorado audiences on “Thank You Tour” of the U.S.

Erin and I missed seeing the Kyogaku taiko drum group from Matsukawa, Japan, when they played full concerts in Colorado Springs and Denver sponsored by Nippon Kan, the non-profit organization founded by Domo restaurauteur and aikido sensei Gaku Homma. The shows were part of their “Arigatou” (Thank You) tour of the United States to show Japan’s gratitude for the outpouring of support after the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami that killed almost 20,000 people. But we were fortunate to get to see a brief sample of their great performance.

The group was the surprise entertainment booked by the Consulate General of Japan at Denver, for a memorial reception to mark the one-year anniversary of the March 11, 2011 disaster. The memorial was the culmination of efforts by the Japanese government to thank the rest of the world.

At the Denver Botanic Gardens, where the memorial reception was held, speakers included Consul General Ikuhiko Ono, who recounted the tragic day last year, and the outpouring of support from Coloradans both from individuals as well as organizations from the Red Cross to the Japan America Society of Colorado. Invited guests got to enjoy an amazing culinary spread provided by Sushi Den and Sonoda’s Sushi.

After the speeches, Deputy Consul General Hiromoto Oyama introdue the evening’s surprise guests, who entered the room and walked through the crowd beating their drums. Before anyone realized, the entire group — of mostly young musicians — assembled on the stage and pounded out a kinetic number with precision choreography.

We were glad we got to see even just a few songs by this talented ensemble. I hope they come back again so we can sit through and entire performance.

Here’s another song they played, featuring members wearing “oni” masks. Oni are demon spirits but not necessarily evil or Satanic like the western devil. They may be scary-looking but they can be just mischievous. Playing taiko isn’t easy — my abs hurt just watching these musicians playing while they’re leaning back.