Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | music
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Barack Obama's victory last night in the U.S. presidential election brought tears to my eyes not only because of the incredible historic nature of his mere candidacy, and the poignancy of his life story, and the righteousness of overcoming the odds and connecting with the majority of Americans to win the White House. The emotions welled up because of his ability to engage me throughout the campaign -- even though I was early on a supporter of Hillary Clinton -- at a personal level. It wasn't just the emails and text messages and the idealistic ubiquitousness of his campaign's eager, enthusiastic volunteers and supporters. The enthusiasm certainly was catching, however. It was simply the man, and his seeming thoughtfulness and determination. And his determined disregard for the most historic part of his grand run: his color. He didn't really disregard it. He simply refused to make it the focus of his identity. The only time he addressed it head-on was with his speech during the primaries about the nature of race in America. But last night, during his victory speech in downtown Chicago's Grant Park, he acknowledged that he understands the enormity of his accomplishment very well. He mentioned it right away, in a reference to his place in the racial narrative: "It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day. "Its been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America." That last line struck a familiar note with me. It was a reference to a 1964 Sam Cooke song, one of the former gospel-singer-turned-pop-star's lesser hits. "A Change Is Gonna Come" was Cooke's own acknowledgement of his place in the race narrative, but it was one of his last singles, released after he was killed under mysterious circumstances. (A Los Angeles motel manager claimed she shot him in self-defense.) Cooke had written "Change," his only protest song as a follow-up to Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind." Dylan returned the favor after Cooke's death with "The Times They Are a-Changin'." The slow, measured ballad is not one of Cooke's well-known, bright, sugary love songs like "You Send Me" or "Cupid," where he mixed gospel style with pop sentiments. The powerful chorus of the song, which went on to become a familiar refrain to those in the civil rights movement, is, "It's been a long, a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come." Like Obama said last night, that change has come to America, at last.

One of the great advantages of working for MediaNews Group Interactive is that our office, on the 9th floor of the same building that houses both the Denver Post, which we own, and the Rocky Mountain News, is that we have a terrific view. Located at the corner of Broadway St. And Colfax Ave., our building overlooks Civic Center Park, which is surrounded by us, the City and County Building, the Denver Art Museum and Denver Public Library complex, and the gold-topped Colorado State Capitol. Off in the distance to the west beyond the City and County Building rise the mellow foothillas and then the already-snow-dusted Rocky Mountains. With the sun shining and the air crisp with early fall -- a rarity here, since fall is often skipped in the rush from summer to winter -- it's easy to remember why we love living in Colorado so much. Today, the view off our 9th floor balcony of Civic Center Park showed some event going on. The summertime Farmers Markets had already stopped, and beside, they were held on Wednesdays and this was Thursday. You could hear the amplified sounds of music wafting up off street level, though, and a weird-looking tower was spitting out soap bubbles. There was a large, colorful peace sign drawn on the grass of the park, so I figured it must be an anti-war demonstration of some sort. During lunch, I wandered downstairs and crossed the street to check it out. It turned out to be a peace-and-art event, and a celebration of the late musician-activist-Beatle John Lennon's birthday. Lennon was born in Liverpool, England on Oct. 9, 1940.

The hip-hop dance scene of b-boys and b-girls isn't exactly underground -- 39 million votes were cast for the second season finale of "America's Best Dance Crew" on MTV, and movies such as the 2007 documentary, "Planet B-Boy" and the movie "You Got Served" from 2004 (or, for that matter, the previous generation's "Beat Street" and "Breakin'" and "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo," all from 1984), have all proven that there's a healthy above-ground audience for the exciting moves and urban beat culture of hip-hop dance. But last night, when Erin and I attended Rockers Rumble III, the third annual competition of Colorado breakdancers, held at CU-Boulder's Glenn Miller Ballroom, I had a flashback of nights hanging out in crowded clubs, makeshift concert halls and low-rent bars in the early '80s, when I used to be a music critic. The scene back then was small but growing, and there was a palpable sense of community, kind of a shared language and shared values. Everyone knew what was good and what was bad, and everyone agreed on the sound and spirit of the underground music scene. Check out the move that comes about 20 seconds into this clip -- and then watch for a couple more seconds.

Erin and I got to see a really interesting traditional Korean dance and music performance last week. Think about it -- you've seen taditional Japanese dancig in kimonos, and heard lots of traditional Japanese music, with the wood flute, koto and taiko drums. You've seen Chinese dance and heard Chinese music. And at events such as the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, audiences have been intorduced to the traditional dance and music of Bali, Vietnam, Philippines, India and more... but not that much from Korea. During the early years of the CDBF, a troupe of Korean seniors used to perform, but their act was mostly 20 minutes of the large group in traditional dress, circling the stage to no particular rhythm and randomly beating on drums. The festival has also featured a solo Korean dancer who did a slow and meticulous mask dance. Abd last year during the Miss Asian American Colorado pageant, one contestant performed a Korean fan dance with a bunch of cute kids helping out. I'm not sure why, but there hasn't been much exposure, at least in my world, of a lot of traditional Korean performance. Maybe the noisy, sometimes chaotic nature of traditional Korean dance just doesn't appeal to Americanized tastes. Whatever the reason, though, we got plenty on Saturday, Sept. 6, when the Korean Consulate General in San Francisco sponsored a rare U.S. visit by a Korean dance troupe, Festive Lands, for a performance at the DCPA’s Temple Buell Theater titled “Colorado Forever.”

Super Cr3w, the Las Vegas-based group of b-boys that includes Asian Americans, has won the top honors for the second season of producer Randy Jackson wildly popular show, "America's Best Dance Crew," on MTV. Congrats to the six-man group. We took a break from incessant Olympics viewing to watch the live MTV season finale program last night, and were holding our breath. An astounding 39 million votes were cast for these two finalists, a reflection of how huge the hip-hop dance culture has become. We wanted the other finalists, SoReal Cru from Houston, because they're all Asian Americans, two of the members are women, and one of the members said poignantly during the season premiere that their parents expected them to be lawyers and doctors but they wanted to pursue their passion for dancing.

I just got a surprising amount of respect for Hilton, who responded this week with this spoof to an ad by John McCain's campaign criticizing Barack Obama for being too popular, and comparing him to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton: See more funny videos at Funny or Die And this one is just a wonderful acknowledgement of Joe Cocker's impenetrable mumbling. Yeah,...

. Saw this via Angry Asian Man (a daily must-read): Young Asian Americans are proving they can dance, and not just on MTV's "America's Best Dance Crew." This cool video is performed by FarEast Movement but created by Wong Fu Productions, a trio of Chinese Americans from UC San Diego who started making cool content online in 2003 and now run...

I know I still need to blog the JANM conference, but I had to write about this: Officials at a Louisiana school district are trying to prevent students from including foreign languages in their graduation speeches. The brouhaha was sparked by Vietnamese American cousins Hue and Cindy Vo, who were co-valedictorians at Ellender High School’s graduation in Houma, Louisiana. Cindy Vo spoke one sentence in Vietnamese dedicated to her parents, who don't speak fluent English, from the podium. "Co len minh khong bang ai, co suon khong ai bang minh," she said, and explained to her English-speaking classmates that the sentence roughly translates as "always be your own person." Her cousin Hue gave more of her speech in Vietnamese, but again, the point was to pay homage to her parents. At least one member of Terrebonne Parish school district, Rickie Pitre, took offense to the Vietnamese passages, and he says that all graduation speeches should be given in solely English, or that passages can be paraphrased in foreign languages -- but only after they're spoken first in English.