From The Beatles’ use of the sitar in the 1960s to the homage of martial arts woven throughout Wu Tan Clan’s unique style in the 1990s to the hyper sounds of K-Pop dominating hearts and minds today, it’s undeniable the impact of Asian influence on Western music and in popular culture. In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage month, we’re highlighting a few performances and events at Levitt venues and concert sites in 2022 that showcase the beauty, artistry, and diversity of AAPI musicians, from the traditional to the contemporary, bringing joy and deepening cultural understanding among Levitteers across the country.
On May 15th, Levitt Pavilion Arlington hosted its inaugural Asian Heritage Celebration in partnership with the Mayor’s Asian Advisory Council to showcase Asian culture and to foster interactions between the city’s nearly 30,000-strong Asian population and the rest of the Arlington community. The free community event highlighted traditional and modern Asian cultures, including musical numbers, a dragon dance and Chinese, Hindi, Thai, Tibetan and Vietnamese dancing, along with a multicultural fashion show. Guests also enjoyed demonstrations and exhibits from on-site vendors, including Japanese origami, chopsticks games, and tea tastings, as well as traditional Asian finger-food fare from on-site food trucks. Levitt Arlington’s Executive Director Letatia Teykl said the Asian Heritage Celebration is one of a trio of first-time multicultural events the Levitt is hosting this year. “In similar fashion to our collaboration with the Mayor’s Asian Advisory Council, we’re teaming up with the Arlington Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma and the Mayor’s Latino Advisory Council to host the Arlington Juneteenth celebration on June 18, and a Hispanic Heritage Celebration happening sometime during Hispanic Heritage Month,” said Teykl. “It’s exciting to see our venue continue to expand its tradition as a gathering space for community members from all cultural backgrounds and walks of life.”
Audiences at Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles will experience the multiculturalism of L.A. County featuring a multi-bill of local artists on June 26, 2022, at 4 p.m., including internationally renown TAIKOPROJECT. Founded locally in 2000, by the young, emerging taiko drummers Bryan Yamami and Masato Baba, the group continues to define a modern American style of taiko, blending traditional forms with an innovative and fresh aesthetic. TAIKOPROJECT first made waves when they became the first American taiko group to win the prestigious Tokyo International Taiko Contest in 2005, besting all of the Japanese taiko groups in the competition. That year, they were cast in the Mitsubishi Eclipse commercial, the first and, to this day, only national advertising campaign to prominently feature taiko. Since then, the group has performed on the Academy Awards, the GRAMMYs, NBC’s “The Voice,” Jimmy Kimmel Live, and the iHeartRadio Music Festival, among many other high-profile events and programs. In 2021, the Ford Foundation, in association with the J. Paul Getty Trust and the California Community Foundation, recognized TAIKOPROJECT as one of “America’s Cultural Treasures.” Utilizing authentic instruments hand-crafted in Japan, TAIKOPROJECT weaves traditional and modern forms of taiko together and shares elements of their Japanese and Japanese-American culture.
Among the U.S. states, Wisconsin has the third-largest Hmong population, after California and Minnesota, and a large community of Hmong immigrants and descendants live in central Wisconsin’s Portage County, home the Levitt AMP Stevens Point Music Series. Levitt AMP Stevens Points will throw down the beats with a couple of Hmong artists as part of its summer season on July 14, starting at 6 p.m. Supryze started rapping and writing songs ever since he was 13, but did not emerge into the Hmong music scene until December of 2018, when he was featured on the viral hit song “Pov Pob/Ball Toss – Lt. Jaddy.” As a songwriter and visual artist, Supryze creates original content that empowers and embraces the Hmong arts and language through his music. Joining him will be fellow Hmong rising star Chenning Xiong. Chenning is known for his beats, lyrics, and, most of all, his voice. They will perform back-to-back as well as in solo sets. The Hmong are members of an ethnic group that have not had a country of their own. For thousands of years, the Hmong lived in southwestern China, however as the Chinese began limiting their freedom in the mid-1600s, many migrated to Laos, Thailand, and other neighboring countries.
Modeled after typical village groups found throughout Bali, and learning by traditional methods, Gamelan Tunas Mekar will provide audiences with a glimpse of one of the world’s most fascinating cultures on Sunday, September 4 at Levitt Pavilion Denver from 4–8 p.m. Based in Denver, Gamelan Tunas Mekar is a community ensemble, under the direction of Balinese composer and Artist-in-Residence I Made Lasmawan. Their mission is to learn and perform traditional and new music and offer a cultural exchange about the unique island of Bali. Gamelan is a percussion orchestra composed of tuned gongs of various types and metal-keyed instruments. Conducted by a drummer, Gamelan often includes voice, bamboo flute, xylophone, and stringed instruments. Unlike Western orchestras, each Gamelan musician learns more than just one instrument—based on the belief that it is necessary to know and understand what each instrument provides to the whole ensemble. The special performance will also feature the artistry of the Leela Dance Collective, an internationally touring dance company that advances kathak, a classical dance from North India. Through traditional works and cross-genre collaborations, the Collective brings the richness and depth of Indian classical dance to contemporary audiences worldwide.
Each of these artists offer audiences a true lesson for building community through music! We can expand our connections and understanding of one another through the power of music, a universal language that creates joy, inclusivity, and shared experiences. Appreciating the many beautiful cultures, including the dynamism of Asian American culture, is how we can continue to strengthen the social fabric of our nation, one city and one concert, at a time.