npr talks asian american soul music

NPR's Tell Me More has a great conversation with our friend, professor and cultural critic Oliver Wang, on the up and coming generation of Asian American soul singers who are trying to break through into the mainstream:
Asian-American Artists Break Into Soul Music
. Yes, Asian Americans have got soul too:
KEYES: I wonder if you think that Asian-American singers who are trying to break into soul feel that they have to appeal to an African-American audience. I mean thinking, well, if they're listening to Beyonce and I sound Beyonce-ish, will, they listen to me?

Prof. WANG: Well, I think it must be in the back of their heads on some level. I mean obviously, if you're trying to appeal to an R&B audience that audience has always had a crossover appeal. It's never been monoracial. That said, you are going to have in the back of your head that you are engaging in, you know, a black music form and that part of your audience is going to be African-American. And I think those considerations for any artists: black, white, Asian, you know, Latino or otherwise would be on their mind.
The segment prominently features the music of our friend (and former Angry Reader of the Week) Heather Park, whose song "Trust You" is friggin' red hot fire. Dawen (also a former Angry Reader) gets some love too, though whoever transcribed the interview completely misidentifies him as "Darwin."

They also take it way back to talk about the attempted singing career of Gerry Woo, who had a hit single in the 80s, then later re-emerged and re-invented himself as Harlemm Lee on NBC's Fame talent show a couple of years back.

Make no mistake -- it's still an uphill climb. It's never easy for any indie artist, but hopefully things are getting better Asian Americans trying to make a career out of soul and R&B. I like what Oliver says here:
KEYES: Heather Park was saying, I read somewhere that she said she likes playing in front of Asian-American student groups because she thinks it changes the way that they themselves see artists so they don't think that they have to follow the unfortunate American stereotype that Asian-Americans have to all be doctors or lawyers or bankers. How much credence do you think that is?

Prof. WANG: I was having a conversation with the actor John Cho, who was in "Star Trek," is now on "Flash Forward."

KEYES: Mm-hmm.

Prof. WANG: And he was remarking that for his generation of Korean-Americans growing up in the '80s - and John and I are the same generation - it was very unusual to see other examples of Asian-Americans performing. But for this new generation that someone like Heather Park would be a member of, you have exposure not just to sort of Asian-American media, but also for international media coming from Korea and Taiwan and China and Japan. That kids these days have so much more examples and role models of performers that it opens up this awareness that wow, there are these other paths that I can take. That entertainment can be a different kind of route and a different passion to pursue.

Whereas, I think for the people of my generation there just weren't as many, you know, role models out there to sort of inspire us or really just to give us that basic idea like, wow, this is possible. You can actually do this.
Did I mention that Oliver is also a former Angry Reader of the Week. That's three in one NPR story! I like it. Listen to the story (or read the transcript) here. For more on Heather Park and her music, visit her website here. For more on Dawen, go to his website here.

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