Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | music
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Charmaine Clamor, Queen of JazzipinoThe music is straight ahead jazz -- the classic, swingy stuff with lots of space between instruments and a smoky, sultry voice caressing the lyrics. It's jazz, the classic American artform. But the words... aren't... English. The words to the lovely "Dahil Sa Yo (Because of You)" are sung in Tagalog, the native language of the Philippines. It's a jazz standard nonetheless, written for a Filipino movie in 1938 and better known for an English-Tagalog version recorded in 1964 that made the charts in the US. The singer is Charmaine Clamor, the self-described "Queen of Jazzipino," who sings with a lovely voice in both English and Tagalog, a range of songs from traditional jazz to a fine jazzy version of the U2 rock hit "With or Without You," to traditional folksongs of the Philippines in her jazzipino style. Clamor's built a loyal following of Filipinos worldwide by bringing her jazz chops to songs in Tagalog, updating her cultural heritage with a modern sheen. She was born in the Philippines and started singing when she was just 3, entertaining bus riders. She later learned to play the piano and accompanied her mother, who sang Filipino torch songs called "kundiman." Her family moved stateside when she was 16 and she retained her cultural ties to the Philippines. She's released four albums, including the wonderful, low-key "My Harana: A Filipino Serenade" that's almost entirely in Tagalog, and mostly sparingly accompanied with just a guitar or percussion. For fans of Brazilian jazz and samba sung in Portuguese, sitting back with Clamor's Tagalog songs has the same lilting, lulling effect. Clamor kicks off her 2007 album "Flippin' Out" with a wonderful take on "My Funny Valentine," "My Funny Brown Pinay," a powerful affirmation of her ethnic identity that starts out with a spoken poem backed by piano, bass and drums before she breaks into the melody:

Here are some videos from Sunday night's API Extravanganza, an under-promoted concert that featured a bunch of great local Asian American talent, plus Chicago's hilarious Asian American sketch comedy troupe, Stir-Friday Night. The local lineup included singer-songwriter )and killer guitarist) Jack Hadley, Shaolin Hung Mei Kung Fu, Hype 303 hip-hop dance crew (shown above), sand painter Shaina Vo, covers by the Pacific Jam Band, award-winning singer-songwriter Wendy Woo and headliners Denver Taiko. The concert was sponsored and produced by Isle Casino Blackhawk, which, through Peggy Moore in ist marketing staff, supports a ton of Asian community events in this area. (Full disclosure: Erin was the emcee for the evening, and Isle Casino made a small donation in exchange to the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, for which Erin is the executive director. Most of these acts have performed at the festival.) One of the coolest things about the lineup of artists was that most of the acts were Asian American, not the ol' kimono-and-traditional-dance routines. Sure, the kung fu was old school, and taiko drumming is traditional too. But they're cool, right? Here are the other videos:

Dan Kuramoto, founding member of the Grammy-nominated fusion jazz group HiroshimaWe've taken several months off, but Erin and I are ready to resume our series of interviews with inspirational Asian Americans for 2010. We're especially proud to be able to speak with Dan Kuramoto, one of the founding members of the fusion jazz group Hiroshima, because the group has been nominated twice for a Grammy award! We'll be speaking with Dan on Tuesday, March 2 at 6 pm PT (9 pm ET). You can register now for the call and submit questions for Dan on our webcast page. Only a few Asian Americans have been nominated for a Grammy Award over the years, and Hiroshima has managed the feat twice -- once in 1980 for "Winds of Change," a track off the groups second album, "Odori." Hiroshima was nominated again for their latest album "Legacy," a collection of re-recordings of songs from the band's first ten years together. The band has been together for over 30 years, and have become an institution on the fusion jazz and R&B scene.

The social media blog Mashable snagged a pretty cool interview with Hawai'ian ukulele maestro Jake Shimabukuro at the annual TED conference (TED stands for "Technology, Entertainment, Design" and it's a chi-chi invitation-only think-tank gathering of great minds) after his performance yesterday, which drew a standing ovation. I've written about Shimabukuro before, and I'm glad he got to play in front of...

Tim Be Told, led by singer-keyboard player Tim Ouyang, center Colorado music fans can get a taste of an up-and-coming Asian American indie band from Charlottesville, Virginia next week, when Tim Be Told comes through Colorado Springs and Denver during their national tour. Tim Be Told are alternative rockers led by a young, multi-talented Chinese American singer, songwriter and keyboard player named Tim Ouyang. The other members are Korean American guitarist Andrew Chae, Vietnamese American guitarist and backup vocalist Luan Nguyen, Filipino American drummer Jim Barredo and European and Native American bassist Parker Stanley. Their sound is rooted in unabashed pop, with well-crafted melodies polished off with a shiny veneer of tight harmonies. You know the genre: think Maroon 5, and Denver's own Fray. Ouyang brings a wide sonic palette to his songs, from simple, piano-based arrangements to full-on rockers. His voice cuts through even the densest wall of sound with an amazing clarity and power -- you can imagine his soulful, gospel-drenched vocals taking the finals at American Idol, or the show-stopping spotlight in a Broadway production. Ouyang hails from New Jersey and had already written dozens of songs by the time he was out of high school; Tim Be Told came together when the members were all students at the University of Virginia. They won the UVA Battle of the Bands, and have since become regulars playing the college circuit. The group released a debut album, "Getting By" in 2007, and they've recently released an EP, "From the Inside." You can download the song "Analyze" from the new EP for free below. It's worth knowing that the band's popular within Christian rock circles, but their music isn't overtly Christian in tone or message. You can catch the group during their Colorado swing on Feb. 9, 3pm at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and Feb 10, 7pm at the Chinese Evangelical Church of Denver (1099 Newark Street in Aurora). Download "Analyze" here, or check out some more songs on Tim Be Told's MySpace page:
Here's the band's full upcoming schedule as they criss-cross the country (note that they're back in Colorado to play at Denver University on May 12):

I saw this on Angry Asian Man and it made me smile, both because Erin and I really enjoy the Fox series "Glee!" and because it's good to see that Akebono, the sumo wrestler who sings "Don't Stop Believin'" on the commercial, is still a star with drawing power in Japan. You might notice that for a sumo wrestler, Akebono sings...