2017 – 2018 Golden State Warriors Asian Heritage Night

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve become a fan of the Golden State Warriors when the Warriors first signed on Jeremy Lin back in 2010. And since then, the Warriors have gotten better and better (although Lin has been long gone), including winning the 2017 NBA championship last year. So when I get the opportunity to attend a game on behalf of 8Asians.com, I do!

Back on Monday, December 11th, the Warriors held their annual Asian Heritage Night celebration game against the Portland Trail Blazers, with the Crystal Children’s Choir performing the national anthem and San Jose Taiko providing the half-time entertainment.

To be honest, I had never heard of the Crystal Children’s Choir prior to attending the game:

“Crystal Children’s Choir was founded in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1994. Since then, it has grown into an organization of over one thousand members. Choir members rehearse every week with their respective ages and skill levels in four Bay Area cities – Cupertino, Fremont, Foster City, and San Jose. … We aspire to be cultural ambassadors of children’s choral music, especially in the field of Chinese folk songs and newly commissioned works. Through a unique musical and life-enhancing education offering to its choristers, Crystal Children’s Choir hopes to nurture teamwork, love of music, and excellence in choral singing among younger generations.”

As far as taiko drumming, I’ve definitely seen that before and have heard of San Jose Taiko:

Since 1973, San Jose Taiko has captivated global audiences and critics alike with the powerful sounds of the taiko.

Inspired by traditional Japanese drumming, company performers express the beauty of the human spirit through the voice of the taiko, creating a vibrant, contemporary art form as they strive to connect people through cultural understanding, creative expression, and rhythmic heartbeat.

San Jose Taiko was founded by young Asian Americans searching for an outlet to convey their experiences as third generation Japanese Americans, or Sansei. Looking to Japan for inspiration, they were drawn to the empowering sounds of the taiko – the Japanese drum – an instrument that embodies the spiritual essence and heartbeat of Japan.

As for the game itself, the Golden State Warriors are an exceedingly good team, so I never really had any doubt that the Warriors would win the game against Portland, which they did – even though star players such as Stephen Curry and Draymond Green didn’t play due to injuries.

8Questions with Rock Taiko Drummer Yusuke

I grew up LOVING taiko drums. I remember trips with my family to festivals in LA’s Little Tokyo in the summers to watch taiko groups performing. My dad had taiko albums playing on our stereos at home all the time, and when he wasn’t playing them, I would borrow them so that I could listen to them on my own. So when my friends the band Random Ninjas started up as a rock band integrating taiko drums as a core part of their sound, I was ECSTATIC. Like our Bad 8Asian Mike, I love rock as much as I love taikos, and to have both in one sound is just a music lover’s dream come true. Add on top of that strong female vocals, and this is my favorite band in the universe, hands down.

They’ve got a free show at the Los Angeles Hard Rock Cafe at Hollywood and Highland right next to the Academy Award’s Dolby Theater this Friday June 7th @ 9pm. As expected for an American rock band with taiko drums, Random Ninjas has regularly performed at San Francisco’s Asian Heritage Street Celebration, LA’s Asian American Expo, Little Tokyo’s Nisei Week, LA’s Chinatown Summer Nights, and the Zenshuji Soto Mission’s Annual Obon Festival. The video above is of their performance at the LA’s Chinatown Summer Nights. Their awesome first full length album RANDOM HERO just got remixed and remastered. Here’s 8Questions with one of Random Ninja‘s taiko rock drummers (first ever?), The Yusuke:
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Asian America in 2013: Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? Part 3: All Boundaries Are Conventions

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Many cultural identities are not discernible from appearance. Because all of us belong to many different groups, choosing generalizations linked to one apparent identity as a basis for relating is presumptuous. We know that cultural influences are variously salient in different situations and that the influences themselves shift and change over time. ―  Michelle LeBaron, Bridging Cultural Conflicts

There is a necessity to bind Asian America by ideals and a tangible goal worth pursuing rather than strictly by race. For one, Asian America is diverse, not in terms of race and the many cultural groups people are descended from, but within America itself. Much of what is written about Asian America is centered around California, as many of the loudest voices come from Southern California, especially with a huge concentration of the population in California. This does not give a good sampling, for the culture of Asian-Americans living in the Midwest and various East Coast states is notably different, if my times living in Indiana, New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island are any indicators. Revision: And often, the popular voice is not the best representative of the experiences of many Asian-Americans.

To recall what is distinctly a product of Asian America’s culture, it is difficult to name three things for most people, so I will identify three from my own experiences: fortune cookies, Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do martial arts style (and Hawaii’s Kajukenbo), and taiko drumming.

For fortune cookies, there are claims from both Japanese-Americans and Chinese-Americans as to who invented them, but the end result is that it became American, if not Americana, and remain popularly associated with Chinese-Americans.

Both Jeet Kune Do and Kajukenbo came from an amalgamation of multiple martial arts styles that became distinctly their own, functioning as both a philosophy and series of techniques–very much along the lines of what makes the fusion of cultures in America not bits and pieces from everywhere, but as America’s own distinct brand and identity.

Lastly, taiko, upon its introduction to America by Seiichi Tanaka in 1968, transformed in America due to its use with Western ensemble-style arrangement as opposed to the traditional uses, which in turn led to something that is truly a magical piece of culture transformed by the American cultural landscape into something wonderful, and popular too with TAIKOPROJECT appearing in mainstream films and commercials. My days with the collegiate teams Yukai, Kyodo, Asayake, and with Tanaka himself in the San Francisco Taiko Dojo are all what revealed to me that there is indeed hope and something distinct about Asian America, that is not lost while the popular voice is focused on discrimination and representation, rather than giving attention to what we create through transformation in America.

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