60 Minutes: Little Jazz Man – Joey Alexander 12 years old

In early January, I caught this 60 Minutes segment titled “Little Jazz Man,” about 12-year-old Indonesian American Joey Alexander:

joeyalexander“We’ve never seen anyone like the young boy we’re going to introduce you to tonight. His name is Joey Alexander, he’s 12 years old and he’s becoming a musical sensation. He’s not a pop star or classical music prodigy…he’s a jazz musician, a piano player. He has been nominated for two Grammy awards this year. But it’s not just his young age that makes him remarkable, it’s where he’s from: Bali, a small Indonesian island that’s hardly famous for jazz. Since he arrived in New York 18 months ago, Joey has been captivating fans and fellow musicians alike, and after you meet him…we think you’ll understand why. … Joey began expressing himself on stages across Indonesia. Videos of him playing went viral and made it to Wynton Marsalis, who’s managing and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York. … That concert changed Joey’s life. His parents sold what they had in Indonesia and moved the family to New York. He started playing gigs, touring the country, winning fans and learning the rhythms of a very different world.”

I’m can’t say I’m a really big fan of jazz, but this story really warmed my heart as Joey Alexander seemed to play out of pure joy and bring out joy in others who truly do appreciate jazz.

I’d have to say that my favorite jazz tune is probably Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five,” which I became aware of in the early 1990s when Nissan’s Infiniti’s car brand first launched and that song was featured prominently in the background of those commercials.

Traveling Japan: Tokyo Sky Tree 634 Musashi Restaurant


So after eating mostly train bentos and convenient store food for the majority of the trip, my friends and I did give ourselves a little break from the cheap eats and forked over some dough for a fancy feast up at the Tokyo Sky Tree 634 Musashi Restaurant. Needless to say, the meal was not only delicious but gorgeously presented with a beautiful night view of Tokyo city on top of that to boot. The main course was venison, and after my run-in with the rather pushy Miyajima deer (more on this later), I had to qualms about chowing down on this deer meat.



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Traveling Japan: Tokyo Sky Tree

tokyo sky tree

Previously, the tall building to visit in Tokyo was the Tokyo Tower, which I have been before, and although it’s kinda nice and affords a decent view of the city, it wasn’t so breathtaking that I wanted to visit it again the next time I went to Japan. Now, they’ve got the brand new Tokyo Sky Tree which pretty much is now the reigning monolith in the city. I would definitely want to visit the Sky Tree again because not only is the view spectacular, but because you can see so far and wide, the time of day and the season has a dramatic impact on the view.


Luckily, this time, I was able to see an outline of Mt. Fuji from the tower 90 miles away. Ridiculous right? You can’t see it too well in this Instagram I posted on it, because of the glare of the setting sun on the window, but I would just love to see this on a blue-sky day. If only I had gotten there sooner. The cool thing they did with the windows was to frame them like postcards so that when you take a picture, it looks like a postcard, but it’s like a living one since it’s always a different picture. Very nice idea, whoever thought of that one. Definitely makes it more of an “instagram”.

#tokyo #skytree postcard ready window view. #nihon can you see #Fuji in the distance?

A photo posted by @tinabot on

I love it when I look down from a really high place and the city and all its people looks like a dynamic toy model, like so.

#tokyo #skytree #nihon

A video posted by @tinabot on

#skytree #tokyo #skyline

A photo posted by Carlomus Prime (@carlomusprime) on

Clearly, I don’t really have a fear of heights, but if you do, you may want to bring some pills or something, especially if you’re going to try out that glass window in the floor you can step on and look straight down at the steep drop of the tower.
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Southeast Asian Rock: Your Imaginary Friends

Growing up in Manila in the late 90s and going to international school (long before MP3 file-sharing became the norm), I had an opportunity to hear a wide variety of music most people stateside had never heard of from around the world, a statement that indie music hipster snobs often flaunt to annoy others. Whether it was my Scandinavian friends introducing me to The Shermans and Eggstone, or discovering the Manila underground thanks to news from the now-defunct radio station NU107 and its legion of music lovers who rebelled through rock, it was a great place to grow up for art.

There were many times I would be rocking out late at night to some of the American classics and currents that ruled the airwaves, and songs would catch my attention before completely surprising me to find that they were local Philippine bands. They had a sound that continued that high-energy octane that you could hear in early 90s grunge in some, or that natural progression from the sounds people are going nostalgic over and bringing in the retro fad of the lost time that people who reminisce want to return to, and people who are new are enthralled by. And most of the time, they sang in English, too, a result of being an American possession for many years before independence.

Whenever I want to imagine what music today would sound like instead of that horrible decade where the pop rock of the 2000s was nails on a chalkboard due to high-pitched vocals versus the gruff and rugged laments of the early 90s, I hop on a plane to Manila and check out some of my old haunts and discover new ones. Every time, I am always happy to find new groups and new venues where the spirit of rock and roll’s rebellion lives on with people who go out of love for the music and to support one another, instead of just downloading a song and bragging about what new band increases one’s indie credibility on Twitter or Facebook.

Recently during a jaunt to Manila, I dropped by a location around Katipunan, near the University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila campuses. It was there that I found out that the sound I miss that everyone wishes never died out when the 2000s came was still there–in Philippine rock. Amongst the bands I encountered and befriended, one of them gave me a run-down on some of the interesting characteristics of being a rock band in the Philippines. This is from Your Imaginary Friends. It would be a shame to deprive the world of some talented artists because of geography, so check out the album version and jeepney session of their single, “Your Silence is the Villain” embedded in the videos above before hearing some words from AhmaDylan.

1) How long has the band been around?

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Douglas Kim’s “I’m Asian American” Music Video

Duke University graduate Douglas Kim recently launched a parody of the song “Rockin the Suburbs” by Ben Folds. As someone who was a management consultant, made the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event, but is now involved in media and entertainment, Doug shares his perspective on Asian Americans today.

Says Douglas:

The video is social commentary on how I as an Asian American view myself in light of American media and portrayals. Much of what has been written about us recently has been from the perspective of a white male, which not to say that much of what has been written is inaccurate, but it’s a bit biased. That’s part of the reason I used this song, written by a normal everyday kind of dude (Folds) who also has a predominantly white male audience. My main goal was to give us a voice that is our own; I wanted to give a relatable character to people, to show a human quality to this object known as “Asian American”.

Check out his “Making of” blog post which gives a more detailed background of his social commentary.

Hey Sandy! A Very Special Holiday Effort for Hurricane Sandy Victims


Hey Sandy, you’re looking happily deranged (have you picked your target yet?) Watch out, because we’ve got an ensemble of artists, including Jason Chen, Clara C, David Choi, Inch Chua, Abraham Lim, Heart Hays, Haviland Stillwell, and Deborah S. Craig, all led by George Shaw and the Irvine Young Concert Artists, who have joined together to record a Christmas album to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy. Select members of IYCA will also do a benefit concert in New York for victims of Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut while donating CDs to families of the victims.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have had either Sandy, because George and the gang would have used their superpowers to make a difference. How would that scenario have turned out? In the words of several of the artists:
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Hawaiian Singer’s “Occupy” Song At Obama Summit

With the refrain, “We’ll occupy the streets, we’ll occupy the courts, we’ll occupy the offices of you, till you do the bidding of the many, not the few,” Hawaiian singer Makana’s song, “We Are The Many,” “turned a top-security dinner of Pacific Rim leaders hosted by President Barack Obama into a subtle protest with a song in support of the ‘Occupy’ movement.” The video was posted prior to the dinner on November 10 and though the roughly 400 protesters, including activists for native Hawaiian rights and those against globalization, initially planned to march towards the dinner site, they were changed their plans in light of the mass amounts of security.

8Questions with Electro Pop Group IAMMEDIC Leader Enik Lin

About a month ago, I kept getting pinged by people sending me links to the video of California-based electronic pop band IAMMEDIC jumping around in Star Trek uniforms. I’m a sucker for a Starfleet uniform, so I got in touch with IAMMEDIC’s starship captain leader, Enik Lin, and it turns out these guys aren’t even Trekkies! So who are these guys who they call their fans “Paramedics,” anyway? Read on for more about IAMMEDIC, Enik’s guilty pleasure, and of course, his Asian comfort food!
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Get your Cho on: Margaret Cho’s campaign

She’s at it again. No, not Britney. Margaret Cho! The Drop Dead Diva star is launching a campaign promoting her album, Cho Dependent and donating 20% of the proceeds to Immediate Justice, a human rights charity. However, this campaign focuses on encouraging and empowering the liberation of young women and queer colored people.

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Daniel Park Interview: A One Man Band

There aren’t that many Asian American singers and songwriters in the media these days. Actually, I don’t think Asian Americans get all the much recognition because they’re considered the underdogs of music.

As I was sitting at The Coffee Garden in Sacramento on a Friday night, I stumbled into a live show by an Asian American acoustic musician  from New Mexico named Daniel Park. I sat, listened and was blown away at his talent. A one man band who records his instruments and loops them, using no additional band members other than himself. The singer humored the audience with jokes about his life in New Mexico and his inspirations for his songs. If records were sold based on raw talent alone, Park would be in platinum status; however, the industry does not work that way. I felt compelled by his voice and his natural talent on stage.

One song in particular stood out called “Sparks Fly”. I imagined sitting by a train station watching the fireworks go off in the summer sky.

Throughout the night, Park did top 40 covers and interacted with the crowd like they were guests in his home. After the show, I went up and introduced myself and asked for an interview via email.  Find out what Daniel Park had to say after the cut.

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Dawen Wins Kollaboration Acoustic 4

If I hadn’t been hosting the Q&A for the L.A. theatrical opening of The People I’ve Slept With on Friday night, then I definitely would have been at Kollaboration Acoustic 4.

Luckily, there’s YouTube and fan-uploaded videos of the show, for those of us who couldn’t make it! Dawen, who has performed with Macy Gray and covered songs by Maxwell, won the night’s competition (and a cool $1,000) with an original song called “Shoes.” Congrats to Dawen and to all the performers!

Thanks to HypnoticAsia for the video!

Asian Beatboxing: Daichi & Hikakin


I am amazed at how people could even attempt to make the sounds they do through beatboxing. But just as Asians have started to dominate the bboy scene, it seems that they are starting to go crazy also with beatboxing. Daichi and Hikakin are the two most well known beatboxers from Japan, and both have done several television appearances.

Hikakin was the first one that my wife found out about when she was searching about Nintendo music and ran across his Super Mario beatbox. What’s really crazy is that most DJs use records and equipment to all the mixing and scratching, but these guys can do it straight from their throats with absolutely impressive beats.