‘Sukiyaki,’ Kina Grannis’ music and the random magic of YouTube

hapa singer-songwriter kina grannis Surfing YouTube videos can be like the early days of surfing the Internet. Following links to random Web pages is a leap of faith, a trust in kismet, that what you’re about to see is both somehow related to what you were seeking in the first place, and hopefully entertaining.

In the midst of one of my YouTube forays, following related videos then backing up and taking another path to other videos, I came across one of my favorite songs of all time, “Ue O Muite Arukou” by Kyu Sakamoto, the Japanese pop star who had a worldwide #1 hit with the song in 1963.

You probably know the song better by the name put on it by its American label, “Sukiyaki.” It’s been covered in English by a number of artists, most notably Taste of Honey in the ’80s and the Viet pop singer Trish Thuy Trang more recently. She sings both English and Japanese in her version. (See Sakamoto’s, Taste of Honey’s and Tran’s video versions below. They’re all available on YouTube.)

From there, I clicked to a cover version of the song by a hapa musician named Kina Grannis and was pleasantly surprised by the sweet, cool, understated quality of her version of the song — which she sings in the original Japanese — as well as the scope and depth of her talent on other videos. Here’s the video:

Grannis is from Southern California, and won a songwriting contest sponsored by Doritos with the catchy song, “Message from Your Heart,” which was aired during the Super Bowl in February. The contest led to a deal with Interscope Records.
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Multi-racial Asian Americans speak up

I wrote an article for Asian Avenue magazine, about mixed-race Asian American Pacific Islanders. The print edition, which is available at 500 locations around Denver, has lots of photos with it.

The article highlights some of the issues facing people of multiple racial heritage in general: the lack of acceptance by either side of your racial background; the disruption — or not — that a bi-racial relationship and children might cause within families; the richness of their experience, but also the cultural clashes. And, it also reflects the strength of identity that the people I interviewed have found for themselves, whether they’re Filipino and black, Korean and black, Japanese and Vietnamese, Japanese and white, or any other combination.

Maybe growing up mixed-race simply gives you the foundation to grow up internally with a strong sense of self, because your identity is such a major part of who you are externally.

Here’s my favorite quote, from a friend of mine that I used to work with, Michelle Butcher, who’s half African American and half Korean, and spends many weekends helping out her mom at a Korean gift shop on Havana in Aurora:

“I definitely feel that it makes my life more interesting to come from such a diverse background. How many black, kimchi eating, hip-hop listening, Korean girls do you know?”

Here’s also a sidebar article about the use of the word “hapa” for mixed-race Asians — its origins and the controversy over its use — as well asd a list of famous mixed-race AAPIs.

(Full disclosure: Erin is currently the Editor-in-Chief of AAm.)

Tiger Woods: The most influential Asian American?

Update 18 June: News media are reporting Tiger Woods will miss the rest of this year’s golf season because he needs more surgery on his left knee. That’s a big bummer, but not surprising, given how he grimaced after many of his tee-offs. I almost winced with empathy pain as he twisted his knee each time.

Everyone’s favorite hapa/Asian American, Tiger Woods, is important enough news to accomplish a pretty impressive feat.

I’m not just talkin’ clinching the U.S. Open Championship in a nail-biting last round and sudden death match against Rocco Mediate. I’m talkin’ about pushing up the publication date of one of the most popular magazines in the country, Sports Illustrated.

MinOnline.com reports that the July 23 issue of the mag, which had been scheduled to hit the newsstands with a Woods cover on Wednesday, was rushed to the printers early, and is already out, one day after the golf superstar’s victory. Continue reading