REVIEW: Sounds from the East to the West

Two of my recent musical passions are classical music and Chinese pop music. Recently I have been listening to Johannes Brahms second symphony and the Chinese band Sodagreen. This concert wasn’t a blend of classical music and Chinese pop music, but it is a western take on Chinese music.

Grace came out to play the first song in a beautiful red dress. What was most interesting about this first piece is that Grace played with only one hand. I am not sure if this is how the piece is supposed to be played, if she was showing off, or was doing a technical exercise, but I can only imagine it is easier to play any song with two hands. My favorite song by Grace was the second song she played Jasmine Flower Fantasia because of how different her right and left hand played in this piece. Her right hand played a peaceful quiet background which sounded like raindrops while her left hand more forcefully played the actual melody. Her left hand reminded me of someone busily basking away, if that makes any sense.

Grace’s style in this concert was very focused around emphasizing loud notes. It was like she would just buildup until she hit a few key important notes and then would start again. For the piano the loudness of the note played is extremely important. Whether the note is banged by a hand crashing down or carefully pressed by a finger makes it a completely different note. This is what I think distinguishes the piano most from other instruments like the guitar.

Oliver Jia was a piano master. He style was fast and quiet. I am not sure what the technical term is, but he would hit a few notes very fast so it sounded like musical notes in a flurry. When doing this if he messed up one note or missed the tempo, it would be a very apparent mistake, so thankfully he played this perfectly. A lot of his songs had a showtooney feel to them, which I assume was the western influence. My favorite song Oliver played was The Bright March in Liu Tianhua Impromptus. It really sounded like a march.

The second half of the performance they played together. Even though I had my wisdom teeth pulled the day before, I felt extremely comfortable sitting there and listening to the beautiful music. Classical music brings up emotions in me that I can’t communicate with words. It was a remarkable performance and I was very happy to see a standing ovation at the end.

REVIEW: Yoni Ki Baat

It is unique to have a space centered around women of color and only women of color. It is a space to be vulnerable, powerful, and truthful.

Yoni Ki Baat– which loosely translates from Hindi as “Talks of the Vagina”– is a show that centers around these women, whose voices are often stifled. 

Inspired by The Vagina Monologues, YKB started off for South Asian women. At the University of Michigan branch, the organization expanded to a larger array of diverse performers.

Before the monologues kicked off, there was an art gallery for audiences to observe. Artists were able to talk about their work and explain what inspired them, which added another layer to the gallery. The artwork was presented through a slideshow in Rackham auditorium, but I found it much more effective to view it in person and actually seen the work up close.

The monologues themselves ranged from deeply heart-wrenching to thought-provoking to humorous. The topics varied: stories about first love, war, objectification of women— all specifically tailored to how it affected their lives as well as perceptions of women of color. The performers of Yoni Ki Baat approached their stories with a nuance that is demanded of the space and the topic at hand.

In return, Yoni Ki Baat demands you to be empathetic, kind, thoughtful, comfortable, uncomfortable, and reflective. I was struck by the emotion that came from the performers and the hours of love and work that clearly went into the presentation. Yoni Ki Baat is a crucial organization that fulfill a vital role on this campus and you should absolutely head out to their next production!

Two people dancing the yonna

REVIEW: Birds of Passage

The beginning of Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego’s Birds of Passage opens with a symbolism-laden new beginning: a young girl’s transition into adulthood. The Wayuu people at the center of the film celebrate this occasion with a festival of family, friends and dancing. But it is the dancing that provides the clearest window into the future of this sprawling clan. The daughter on the brink of womanhood, Zaida, is dancing the Yonna, a fast-paced give-and-take between her and another man. She is dressed in a flowing red garment, racing back and forth to the beat of a drum, the camera closely following their faces and imparting the dramatic feeling that you too are being chased in the circle, racing around and around in the ambiguous fear of what might happen if you stop. Her first partner, a young boy named Leonidas, eventually trips and falls to the ground. The dance stops, but not for long, as an outsider to the clan named Rapayet steps up and enters the fray, outlasting the drum, and making his first mark on the clan he will eventually join.

The clan is led by a powerful matriarch, Úrsula, who makes clear from the start that her power lies in her willingness to do anything to protect her family. Rapayet, a suitor intent on marrying Zaida, strikes Úrsula as a danger, but possibly even she does not realize the depth to which he will uproot her family and her culture. The Wayuu of northern Colombia had persevered through the rise of the modern nation by their adherence to their traditional practices that Úrsula is determined to protect. As Rapayet ventures into the marijuana trade to finance his dowry for Zaida, he finds himself sucked into a whirlpool of greed and desperation despite his best efforts to preserve the culture of honor. It is only a matter of time before the consequences manifest themselves.

Rapayet, Zaida, and their two children eventually move into a grand stucco villa in the middle of the barren desert, a visual metaphor for the isolation their wealth has granted them. The film is a deliberate exploration of the fine line between providing for your family and sacrificing them in pursuit of these provisions. It showcases the delicate tension between the traditional ways and the allure of 20thcentury wealth and luxury, and the mythic power of the dollar, propelling business and violence across the Colombian desert in an ancient blue Jeep.

Now showing at the State Theatre. In Wayuu, Spanish, and Wiwa with English subtitles.

REVIEW: GenAPA Cultural Show 2019: “TECHNICOLOR: Vivid past, vibrant future”

This was my first time attending GenAPA’s annual cultural show. There were so many performances that I surprisingly enjoyed and would otherwise not have seen if I had not gone to see TECHNICOLOR. Each performance showcased a unique aspect of Asian and Pacific American culture. A video, played before each group’s performance, described what ‘technicolor’ as well as the Asian and Pacific American community meant to each student group. There were thirteen featured groups and performers in total. Below, I will mention a few of the performances that I particularly enjoyed.

Sinaboro, Korean traditional drumming group, was the opening act. Throughout their whole performance, the musicians remained seated on the floor of the stage. Their joy and passion for samulnori was delightful to observe (samulnori is a genre of percussion music that originated in Korea. The word samul means “four objects”, while nori means “play”. Samulnori is performed with four instruments: a small gong, a larger gong, an hourglass-shaped drum, and barrel drum). The way the musicians played their instruments was almost like a dance, and it was fascinating to watch.

Michigan Hula’s performance was also intriguing. Prior to the show, the only exposure I had to hula dancing was through the movie, Lilo and Stitch (really sad, I know). You know the scene where Lilo went to hula class? Yup, that’s it. I really appreciated hearing, what I believe is, the Ipu (percussion instrument made from gourds that is often used to provide a beat for hula dancing) and the language the dancers chanted and sang during the performance.

Taekwondo put on a skillful, entertaining, and also humorous performance. The taekwondoins began by monotonously demonstrating different kicks and moves. And then the music came on, and the audience went wild. They demonstrated jumping and spinning kicks and fast kicking techniques. They broke wood boards and performed with nunchucks. It was a blast.

DB3 was one of my favorite performances during the show. They are a male k-pop dance crew. During their performance, they danced hip hop as well as k-pop. Seeing their performance made me feel like a judge on the show, World of Dance. The dancers were so in sync and the choreography was refreshing and stunning. I’ll be looking out for their shows in the future.

Overall, TECHNICOLOR was a blast. There was a wide-range of performances which showed different aspects of Asian and Pacific American culture. The show was both educational and entertaining. In terms of the crowd, there was a great turn-out. A lot of people came out to support their friends and also clubs they enjoyed. I am so glad I went this year.

REVIEW: 24th Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners

I had many thoughts and expectations going into the 24th Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners while riding Commuter North up to the Duderstadt, and none of them were correct. I was going in with little idea as to what kind of art I would see in this exhibition. Drawing on my experience with art galleries, I was expecting a sparsely-filled space with the kind of art that people feel the need to step back and frown at to feel sophisticated. That was not what I saw in the Dude’s gallery space showing the many ways this project defies preconceived ideas. The walls were full of paintings and drawings while sculptures and other three-dimensional pieces sat on stands and other pieces sat in boxes waiting to be shuffled through. The room was organized according to theme with one section holding more whimsical pieces while another featured darker art. I immediately realized that my idea of art worthy of a gallery was being challenged; I had never thought about crochet finger puppets sitting in an art museum. I realized something I hadn’t considered before attending this exhibit, I have no idea how prisoners gain access to art supplies. Paints and pencils are reasonably easy to come across, but what about all the crochet work featured in the gallery? I could easily see crochet hooks being considered weapons and banned from prisons. This led me to appreciate the ingenuity of the work I was looking at. There were several boxes and even a clock which had been crafted entirely from popsicle sticks cut and glued together to look like wood. I realized that making art in prison requires much more than the traditional kind of creativity which society associates with artistry; it also requires creativity in finding and using resources to express their artistry. Another preconception I had going into this exhibit was that the art would be mainly influenced by the experiences of prison. While there were quite a few pieces that dealt with the failings of the carceral system and the societal failings that have contributed to the incarceration of such a large portion of our population, there were also many pieces that dealt with the more positive aspects of life. Some pieces were fantastical while others were landscapes. Overall, the exhibit did a fantastic job of displaying the universal nature of art and creativity.



PREVIEW: Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land Film Screening

The CHOP Film series presented by the U-M China Ongoing Perspectives programs is presenting a viewing of Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land  (暗戀桃花源) with special guest, direct and writer Stan Lai. The warmly received movie was an adaption from Lai’s self-penned play of the same name, and was the Taiwanese Oscar submission in 1992. The comedy features a unique mix of tones and themes as it features on a single theater that is housing two different plays, both a modern romantic tragedy (Secret Love) and a historical comedy (The Peach Blossom Land.)  

Following the film will be a Q&A session with Stan Lai, who is one of the most prominent and acclaimed playwrights in Asia.  He was the first to receive the highest degree of Art Award in Taiwan, the National Arts Award, two times in 1988 and 2001 respectively.

The event will be hosted at the State Theater, Tuesday, March 16th at 7:00 PM.  It’s completely free and open to the public, so if you’re interested you have nothing to lose!

As a note- the event is titled “Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land,”  However the movie is also sometimes translated as “Secret Love for the Peach Blossom Spring.”