Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | music
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Pitchfork has published a rambling list of the "200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s," beginning with the Kinks' "Sunny Afternoon" at 200 and ands with the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" at #1 (presumably -- the final 20 aren't numbered). It's an interesting list because it's in a British publication, and these songs were chosen (and reviewed very earnestly) by young rock critics, most if not all I bet who weren't even born when the '60s closed out with Altamont and a few months later, Kent State.

jakeshimabukuro.jpgThink “ukulele” and you’ll invariably get a quaintly exotic image in your head (and the wrong pronunciation – it’s “oo-koo-leh-leh,” not “you-koo-leh-leh”): warm sun, swaying grass skirts, coconut bras, colorful cocktails with umbrellas, and palm trees and a beach in the background.

It’s true, the ukulele is a stringed instrument that was born in Hawai’i (albeit it has its actual origins in a Portuguese instrument that was brought to the islands by 19th century sailors) and given its name, which means “jumping flea” in Hawai’ian. And it’s also true that the ukulele, which basically looks and acts like a miniaturized, four-string guitar, has helped spread Hawai’ian music and culture for a century, since Hawaiian music first caught the fancy of mainlanders during a 1915 exposition in San Francisco.

But the cute little uke isn’t just a tool for strumming up tourism to Honolulu.

transistorradio.jpgI grew up – like all baby boomers – during an era of radio when the Top 40 format was perfected during the first two decade of rock and roll, and genres didn’t divide up into separate formats. An entire generation of pop music fans pretty much grew up listening to a wild mix of rock, soul, country – white and black – with a lot of novelty songs thrown in for good measure. This was true through the 1960s, certainly and also up through the mid-‘70s. But two things happened to radio between, say 1969 and 1974. First, the FM progressive or freeform format that had emerged in 1967 began attracting the older rock music fans, and for the first time, after 1969, there was a defined generation gap. If you were in college and protesting the Vietnam war, chances were the Archies’ “Sugar Sugar” wasn’t as relevant to you as, say, Ten Years After’s “I’d Love to Change the World.” For me, being just 11 during the summer of 1969, bubblegum rock was a sweet and welcome part of my musical diet. There was a lot of crossover between FM and AM, especially during the early ‘70s. For instance songs like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “Ohio” was a hit on AM as well as FM stations.

phyllisheitjan.jpgOne of the most satisfying aspects of the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, the annual Asian community event that I've been involved in since its debut in 2001, is the mix of traditional Asian and Pacific Islander culture on display along with the new, Asian American values and ideas. That mix is most evident not in the festival athletic competition or the marketplace, where 90+ vendors sell their wares, but on the Performing Arts Stage. In recent years, some of my favorite performances have been by APIA artists playing contemporary music: Chinese-Filipino Wendy Woo, a popular Colorado singer-songwriter and guitarist, with her Woo Crew rock band; Dwight Mark, a Chinese American multi-instrumentalist mining everything from blues to bluegrass for his original music; and this year for the first time, Korean American singer-sonwgriter Phyllis Heitjan from Philadelphia.

CNN this week ran this Associated Press story, about how musicians who've been holdouts from the iPod/iTunes bandwagon -- the Beatles, Led Zep, Garth Brooks and others among them -- will probably cave in and finally allow their music to be downloaded song-by-song. Apple's iPod dominates the digital music player market, and iTunes accounts for over 70 percent of the (legal) digital music market. Meanwhile, CD sales have been dropping steadily. The era of the compact disc is over, it seems.

Candle_during_processionLast night I attended the tail end of an all-day event in Manhattan, and was glad I did. The event was a cross-denominational commemoration of Universal Peace Day, to mark the Aug. 6 anniversay of the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 with an atomic bomb, and Nagasaki three days later with a second atomic bomb. The event started early in the day with speeches and music (Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary was the most notable performer) at Riverside Park, but it went well into the night, so I didn't feel I missed anything. Besides, I got to the New York Buddhist Church on 105th and Riverside Drive in time for the Candlelight March to Riverside Church, where the event finished up, and that was the highlight for me.

The Pipettes. It had to happen - the cyclical nature of pop music demanded that eventually, the girl group sound of the early '60s would become hip again. That's exactly what might happen with the release next week of the Pipettes' first full album in the UK. The British group, fronted by a trio of women wearing polka-dots and singing shrill harmonies to bouncy punk-pop that's rooted in the simple romance but shot through with new millennium irony and cheek, has released a handful of singles to date (well, three, at least).