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Empowerment, De-Orientalizing, and Asians: Three Aspects of Self-Determination in Asian American Music.

  • Nattapol Wisuttipat PhD candidate in ethnomusicology University of California, Riverside
Issue       Vol 3 No 4 (2020): Talenta Conference Series: Local Wisdom, Social, and Arts (LWSA)
Section       Articles
Keywords: Empowerment De-Orientalizing Asian American Music
Published 2020-12-04


Asian Americans experience on marginalization and their struggle against it is distinct yet not unrelated to other ethnic groups in the United States. They have been racially discriminated and othered while their gender identity suppressed, which amounted to oriental stereotypes of Asian Americans. The Asian American movement between the 60s and the 70s is a historic turning point that gave voice to the people once considered “foreigner” by the White culture and enabled them to counter the imposed images. Among other significant achievements, the movement stimulated a consciousness towards self-determination. Music is one platform that allows Asian Americans to express the desire. Yellow Pearl stands as the pioneer of Asian American political musicians with their oft-cited tracks from Yellow Pearl. Fred Ho is another proactive figure whose improvisatory jazz compositions challenge hegemonic social norms. Sean Miura, though himself not a musician, represents a younger generation who advocates artistic expression of Asian American. Despite these contributions, I still wonder how Asian Americans are recently doing in the popular music industry. Do they still strive for the same ideology as those mentioned above, and how? With this question in mind, my final paper will be a study of 88rising, a group of Asian American rappers. I will specifically focus on their music videos and lyrics and look for embedded political messages about Asian American struggles. I will also draw on relevant materials assigned from the class and online sources. I argue that self-determination is continuous process for Asian Americans. It is always a work in progress that permeates through generations and cuts across all musical genres.