Happy AAPI Heritage Month! If you didn’t know, May is Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. Especially with the rise in violence against AAPI people in America, it is important to learn about the complicated history of AAPI people in America and highlight their contributions to food, culture, and more.
I have a lot of close AAPI friends and even got the opportunity to study abroad in Shanghai, China during college, but I’ll admit, I’ve had my share of blind spots to work through in learning to be a respectful ally. A lot of the work comes from learning the painful world history and listening to voices that educate how to be better.
I want to share Eugene Lee Yang’s documentary on Anti-Asian Hate here. It’s a comprehensive look at the painful history in America and a great tool to start or augment your journey.
Now, I also want to say that in addition to learning, I think it’s crucial to celebrate as well. Everyone that knows me well knows that nothing makes my day like getting some dumplings, or some noodles, ooh or some good quality sushi, or like some nice and steamy soon tofu, omg or some mochi donuts ughhh, or boba OH GOD I have to mention boba I really want some boba right now…wait what was I saying again? Oh yeah, it’s important to celebrate the contributions of the AAPI community. And I want to make some space to talk about some PHENOMENAL AAPI artists and AAPI-led bands.
So, here’s some….
Dynasty – Rina Sawayama – “Dynasty, the pain in my vein is hereditary…” – Look, if you’re not in love with Rina Sawayama like I am, then YOU ARE LATE. This song gives me chills EVERY.SINGLE.TIME I listen to it, and it’s incredible. I don’t think I’ve gotten chills quite like I have when I listen to this one. Rina sings about breaking the chains of family trauma. And she sings this song with her WHOLE self and it’s electrifying to listen to. Truly a powerful performance and arrangement, I am floored every time.
Amerika – Young the Giant – “Always talking about one day in Amerika. Same old story, oh. You want glory, son…” – Sameer Gadhia of Young the Giant has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve EVER HEARD. This song’s lyrics talk about the American Dream and the disillusionment with it. It’s spacey in a cold, pensive way and it’s almost haunting as a result. I love this band and their thoughtful so much. I want to see them live again SO BAD.
Maybe Some Other Time – Joanna Wang – “Oh but one day, I’ll show them what I’ve got. On that one day, I’ll give them sorry thoughts. Just not today, but maybe some other time…” – Joanna Wang is so talented and I need everyone to know. I found her when I was pre-gaming my study aboard trip to Shanghai by looking for artists from Asia on Spotify. I fell in love with her because of the fact that she had done covers of the same songs I grew up listening to. Her acoustic Wild World cover helped me study and still so vividly reminds me of freshman year of college in the best way. Her voice is jazzy and smooth and she has very much been influenced by artists of the 70s-80s. It’s amazing.
Desperate Weather – Talk Time – “Take a look at your life, can we step in the light, can we keep it together?” – I have to thank KROQ Locals Only for this one. I was randomly listening to the radio when they highlighted this indie LA-based band through this song. I instantly fell in love. The band got together in the neighborhood I grew up in so it just makes them extra special to me. They’ve got new music coming out this summer and I’m very much planning to do a proper New Music Crush article for them.
Monica – The Linda Lindas – “Sometimes you’re a brat, but you’re my favorite Siamese cat…” – I have to hype up these phenomenal girls who are currently going viral. First of all, I found out about them because Queen Hayley Williams of Paramore posted about them on Instagram because they were featured in the Netflix film Moxie doing a cover of Bikini Kill’s Rebel Girl. I decided to check them out and was IN AWE of the talent. They’re ages 10-16 and they ROCK SO FRICKIN HARD. I would love to see them tour with The Regrettes. I am so excited for the music that’s to come from them, but please enjoy this adorable punk rock song about a cat named Monica.
Boy With Luv – BTS – “Love is nothing stronger than a boy with love…” – We COULD NOT talk about AAPI Excellence without mentioning BTS and the tidal wave impact they’ve made on music. Like just to start, every performance I’ve seen of them just blows me out of the water like no one else can. (This Beatles-Ed Sullivan theme is perfect in every way and it gets me every time.) I had a lot of friends in high school that loved K-Pop, but I was never into it which is a damn shame because I learned later that K-Pop acts have been crushing it for DECADES. When BTS came out with this song, I fell in love and finally understood the hype. It is impossible to be sad after listening to this one. Impossible.
Who are your favorite AAPI musicians?