Smithsonian Folkways has announced the launch of the Asian Pacific America Series, a new collection of albums dedicated to the experiences of multiple generations of Asian Pacific Americans. The series will include a broad range of styles, from traditional to popular, highlighting how music connects people to shared senses of history, community and place. It will focus on young artists as they explore the impact and legacy of the generations that came before them, as well as musicians who have been voices of their communities for decades. As these artists sustain the musical heritage of Asia and the Pacific, they are building and transforming traditions in the Americas in many musical idioms.
Certain recordings in the series reach toward the formation of a pan-Asian American political identity, while others reflect interethnic experiments in jazz, contemporary songcraft, and beyond. The series begins with Wild Wild East, a landmark solo album by Sunny Jain, the acclaimed drummer and dhol player from Red Baraat, out February 21. In recasting the immigrant—steeped in the courage to leave a familiar homeland for a new beginning—as a modern-day cowboy and cowgirl, Jain sources musical inspiration from the scores of Bollywood classics and Spaghetti Westerns, Indian folk traditions, jazz improvisation, and rollicking psychedelic and surf guitar styles.
The series will continue this spring with a release from singer-songwriter No-No Boy, a suite of songs that reckons with American histories of persecution, displacement and migration. The fall will see a double album of new and old recordings by Nobuko Miyamoto, whose seminal album with Chris Iijima and Charlie Chin, A Grain of Sand, was released on Barbara Dane’s Paredon label in 1973. Two additional releases will feature NEA National Heritage Fellows: a collection of recordings by Danongan Kalanduyan, the legendary Pilipino American master of kulintang, and an album by the Maryland-based Cambodian Buddhist Society Cultural Group featuring master musician Chum Ngek.
With a broad, provocative reach, the series expresses the complexity of community and reflects the dynamic nature of tradition. It reveals the project of reconciling political histories, identity and music-making as a powerful work in progress. Asian Pacific Americans are the fastest growing racial minority in the US. They include people of the Pacific Islands living in US territories whose families have been here for millennia, as well as settlers, sojourners, immigrants and refugees. They draw on their diverse experiences to sing, dance and perform the musical heritage from the Asia-Pacific region.
This series is supported by the Asian Pacific American Initiatives pool, Federal funds administered by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.