Monday, November 20, 2017

Why This 61-Year Old Likes "Far East Movement"

Two of the original hip-hop musicians who formed Far East Movement are Kev Nish (Kevin Nishimura) and Prohgress (James Roh).  They were school friends, and their musical collaboration was cemented in 2003 by the Far East Movement name.

They were both born a couple days apart in January of 1984, grew up near Downtown LA, and as they like to say, "repre K-Town".  I'd say that 1984 was when I probably wasn't going to "Asian dances" any longer, or I was attending few and far between.

I appreciate Far East Movement due to the strides they have made to break through the bamboo ceiling.  With their number one hit "Like a G6" in 2010, they're the first Asian American group to have a number one on Billboard.  Despite touring with Lady Gaga, Rihanna and others, their Asian faces still impeded their cred (seen as too Asian, or labeled K-Pop at first impression).

Now's a good time to draw a bit of comparison between them and the jazz fusion band Hiroshima.  They are both the only Asian American bands to hit the mainstream.  They're both L.A. bred, yet both their band names harken back to ...well, the Far East, away from L.A.

I was pleased to view on YouTube one of the official videos for "Bang It to the Curb" that it was filmed at the Elks Club!!!  Now called the MacArthur, this elegant 1924 building is currently a private venue for events and filming only.  If Far East Movement reads this - do you know the pleasing irony of you guys filming here??  This was our hangout in the 1970s - Asian dances, cruising, scoping out the guys and the girls, me with a drink in hand feeling very sophisticated.

Find out what Kev Nish and Prohgress are all about at Not Your Average part one interview and Not Your Average part two interview.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Asian American Culture

Check out three recent blog postings at Los Angeles Revisited:

And the Oscar goes to...Li Ling Ai!

Asian Americans in film

Los Angeles Chinatown ephemera

Monday, April 24, 2017

Hey, remember George Tong?

Jerry C. wrote to me a couple of weeks ago:

"Read ur blog. Great memories. I was a part of that time . My buddy  Nathan lived in Bakersfield and would drive to LA to be among Asians. Nathan told me he would see his older brother. At the dances.  The draw was powerful to be amongst people alike. There were the Holiday bowling leagues.  And thr Rafu Shimpo would list the dances.  Christmas day  night was a big crowd. If I recall Hiroshima played at Baby Lion Bar on Wed nite for free. I was offered to be their roadie by Dan's brother.  Society of 7 and Kalapana were concerts we would buy tickets to see. Great times.  Don't forget George Tong the man his parties were the foundation of this time. The private houses he would rent."

Jerry, do you remember in the late 1980s into the 1990s, it was primarily Claudia Mark organizing dances and the big New Year's dance?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Dance at Mary Knoll Auditorium August 27, 2016

Carolyn Carrera wrote me about an upcoming dance:

"We’re trying to revive those great memories (and raise money for our building maintenance fund) by having an ‘oldies’ dance!   Anyone who is Japanese and over 40 either attended Maryknoll or knows someone who went there!   While the school closed in 1994, the church (now 104 years old!) is still quite active as the St. Francis Xavier Chapel Japanese Catholic Center.  The school was rededicated as the “Maryknoll Activity Center” with rental space for classes/meetings/etc.  I am VP of our church Auxiliary Group who is sponsoring the dance.  Forgive me, but I’m not used to blogging and I have no clue how to post anything, but I would be ever so grateful if you would post our flyer on your blog.   We want to try to reach anyone who wants to relive those great dance memories!  We will have a LIVE band---several members used to play with the familiar bands of the day (Free Flight, Chosen Few, Fire & Ice and Buddhaheads Ltd…"

Friday, May 27, 2016

Hiroshima and Tyrus Wong

This posting is also on Los Angeles Revisited.

The Asian Pacific American Heritage Month concludes in a few days.  The month of May was designated due to key historic May events that defined the Japanese-American and Chinese-American experience.

African-Americans have their month in February; National Hispanic Heritage month runs from September 15th through October 15th each year.

My mementos from the concert

The L.A.-based jazz band, Hiroshima, scheduled a concert in Arcadia this recent May 14th.  The group leader, Dan Kuramoto, called the attention of the audience to the heritage month, explaining that he coincided this at-home concert because "this is our month".

Dan Kuramoto and musician on May 14th

Several weeks earlier, the L.A. Asian Pacific Film Festival featured a screening of "Tyrus Wong:  Brushstrokes in Hollywood" in Little Tokyo's Aratani Theatre.  Tyrus, now 105 ½  years old, was the center of attention in receiving rounds of applause as he entered the theatre in a wheelchair.  His long-time friend, colleague and fellow artist, Milton Quon, arrived shortly before, with the help of a walker.

My souvenir button purchased after the screening

Pamela Tom's film reveals his contributions to the 1942 animated film, Bambi.  Tyrus' delicate expressions of forest scenes led Walt Disney to ultimately adopt his conceptual style for the entire film's background scenes.  In recent years, Tyrus was belatedly recognized and honored for his considerable contributions to the film, notably by the late Diane Disney (daughter of Walt).  The documentary also explains the influence of storyboard artists, (like Tyrus, who later worked for Warner Bros.) whose visual layouts for movie scenes often swayed the directors.

Filmmaker Pamela Tom during the Q&A session
following the screening at the Aratani Theatre

It would be wonderful if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences could present an Honorary Award to Tyrus next year .  It might redeem the sting from the last two years' Oscars ceremonies:  the #OscarsSoWhite show earlier this year was inclusive of Asian Americans but only to poke fun at the same old stereotypes; last year's awards show brought on comedian Margaret Cho to act as a North Korean.

Tyrus in 1928, seated with legs crossed at front row, second from left.
Courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research

Tyrus Wong was born in 1910, about the same time East Coast movie companies were discovering the year-round sunshine in L.A.  Tyrus immigrated from China to the U.S. as a child.  All he ever wanted to do was draw.  He made it a successful livelihood in order to raise a family by working in Hollywood but also branching out as a commercial artist.  He managed to bring his artistry into the cultural fabric of our country.

The band, Hiroshima, formed with a unique sound through the accompaniment of the Japanese string instrument, a zither called the Koto, played by master kotoist June Kuramoto.  The early band was a pride of the 1970s local L.A. Asian American dance scene, and Hiroshima later found mainstream success, radio play and Grammy nominations.  Like Tyrus, the band Hiroshima managed to bring their artistry into the cultural fabric of our country.

June Kuramoto on the Koto

This post is published on the day of President Barack Obama's historic trip to Hiroshima, Japan, one of the two sites bombed by U.S. atomic bombs to force an end to World War II.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"Yesteryear Remembered" Calls It Quits

My fellow alumnus from John Marshall High School submitted his last and final blog post at Yesteryear Remembered: remembering things from my past.  KSquared ended his five year running blog by telling about the time around 1974 when the band Hiroshima played Marshall High.

I was there that year, but I don't remember this.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Ron Quan Remembers the East L.A. Scene and More

LOl.......yes, I distincly remember "Land of a Thousand Dances" , a band out of East Los Angeles.  It was one of their "two hit wonders" ("Farmer John......I'm in love with your daughter.....").   It was during the mid-60's and East Los Angeles was jumping with dances almost every weekend, with popular local bands that played at those dances (like the Midnighters), and cruising up and down Whittier Blvd. every Saturday and Sunday (it was packed then). 
the Japanese crowd (aka, "Buddhaheads") followed along with their own dances at locations like the Aeronautical Ballroom (near Fairfax and Beverly), the Old Dixie Ballroom (on Western Ave, near Vernon Ave),  the Rodger Young Auditorium, the Elks Club in Gardena, and others. 
Those other the Watusi, the Monkey, the Shing-ga-ling, the Harlem Shuffle (to name a few), the Skate, the Tempttation Walk, were made popular on the East Coast mostly in the black ghettoes of Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, etc.  We had one out here called "The Slauson" and you can guess
what community that dance came from..........yup, Slauson and Central Ave, that's right!!!

In the 70's, things started to change as Psychedelic music came in to being as well as the English influence (the Beatles).  Everyone changed to growing their hair long, wearing bell-bottoms, worn down denims, tee shirts with "tye-dye" designs on them, started smoking weed and dropping pills, gang activity reduced significantly but Black militancy and revolutionary fervor increased (Black Panthers, Black Muslims, the Red Guard, Brown Berets, the Weathermen);   Young people preached "love and peace" concepts, "Love-ins" were held frequently at Griffith Park, huge marches against the Vietnam War were held on Wilshire Blvd. with crowds or easily 100,000+ people,  young girls were leaving home and hitchhiking west from across the country to become part of the new "hippie" counter culture in San Francisco.   What a crazy time, it was.   And, not to mention that you guys straight out of high school were starting to disappear because either they got drafted into the service and sent off to Nam or they disappeared (fled to Canada) to avoid the draft.