Melodies of Heritage: Celebrating Asian Music in the US

May is Asian Heritage Month, a time to honor the diverse cultural traditions, histories, and contributions of Asian communities. At CMC, we celebrate the significant influence of Asian music and musicians in the United States. This month, we spotlight the rich contributions of Asian musical traditions and artists who have enriched the American musical landscape, fostering connections and cultural understanding.

Asian music encompasses a vast array of styles, instruments, and traditions. From the classical ragas of India and the serene melodies of the Japanese koto to the dynamic rhythms of Chinese percussion and the soulful sounds of the Korean gayageum, Asian music offers a rich mosaic of sounds that have captivated audiences around the world.

In the United States, these traditions have found a vibrant home, contributing to the diversity of the American musical scene. Many Asian musicians have become cultural ambassadors, bringing the beauty and complexity of their music to new audiences and inspiring a deeper appreciation for these ancient art forms. Notable among them is Yo-Yo Ma, a Chinese-American cellist renowned for his extraordinary talent and his efforts to bridge cultural gaps through music. His Silk Road Ensemble showcases the power of collaboration and cultural exchange.

Asian American Music Recommendations

To celebrate Asian Heritage Month, here are some outstanding Asian American musicians and their works that you should explore:

1. Ryuichi Sakamoto

A Japanese composer, pianist, and electronic music pioneer, Ryuichi Sakamoto has had a profound impact on contemporary music. His work spans from pioneering electronic music with Yellow Magic Orchestra to composing film scores like “The Last Emperor,” for which he won an Academy Award.

Recommended Listening:

  • Album: Async (2017)
  • Film Score: Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983)

2. Arooj Aftab

A Pakistani-American singer and composer, Arooj Aftab blends classical Sufi music with jazz, folk, and minimalism. Her hauntingly beautiful voice and innovative compositions have garnered critical acclaim.

Recommended Listening:

  • Album: Vulture Prince (2021)
  • Song: Mohabbat

3. Kishi Bashi

Kaoru Ishibashi, known professionally as Kishi Bashi, is a Japanese-American singer, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter. His music combines indie pop with rich, orchestral arrangements and often explores themes of identity and heritage.

Recommended Listening:

  • Album: Omoiyari (2019)
  • Song: It All Began With a Burst

4. Tokimonsta

Jennifer Lee, known by her stage name Tokimonsta, is a Korean-American DJ and producer. Her music fuses electronic beats with hip-hop and R&B influences, creating a unique and modern sound.

Recommended Listening:

  • Album: Lune Rouge (2017)
  • Song: Don’t Call Me (feat. Yuna)

5. Tao Lin

A virtuoso pianist of Chinese descent, Tao Lin is celebrated for his exceptional technique and expressive performances. He performs both solo and as part of various ensembles, bringing classical piano music to diverse audiences.

Recommended Listening:

  • Album: Beethoven: Piano Sonatas (2020)
  • Performance: Various chamber music recordings with the Delray String Quartet

Get to know more about our Faculty production job with Asian inspiration here:

Betty Anne Wong & Phoenix Spring Ensemble

Jon Jan

Shirley Anne Wong-Frentzel

Are you interested in incorporating Asian music inspiration into your life? We invite you to learn more about our private Chinese Instrument classes with our talented faculty here.