As many of you know, May is API Heritage Month. Given the mosaic of unique cultures that form the “Asian and Pacific Islander” community here in America, I say it is only fair that we have a full month to celebrate our rich heritage.
The fact is, there is a diverse range of talents within the API community that are worth celebrating. Our show last year was proof of this. Kollaboration Seattle 3 brought together competitors from the Korean, Chinese, Indian, and Filipino communities. They included a musical theater actress, a traditional instrumental band, a classical dance troupe, a hip-hop trio, and two vocalists.
However, we still live in a time in which the mainstream media is slow to recognize these talents. The average American music aficionado would be hard pressed to name even one Asian-American singer or band that he or she listens to on a regular basis.
If you have followed the Kollaboration movement, you may have observed that each year, each Kollaboration city releases a music video, usually a cover of a popular song, featuring most or all of their competitors for that year. The purpose of the music videos is to give audiences a preview of the talents that will be showcased and to promote that year’s show in the given city.
To me, though, these videos serve a larger purpose as well. Kollaboration music videos present imagery that is frequently missing from our television sets: talented Asian Americans rocking the guitar, keyboards, and drums, belting their hearts out, and dancing like superstars. As you might have guessed, MTV will probably not air our music videos. Instead, you’ll only find the videos on Youtube, a user-generated platform. But that’s powerful to me, because it says that we as a movement are creating our own media as an alternative to unsatisfying media images that don’t truly represent our community.
So, without further ado, in honor of API Heritage Month, I would like to share my top five favorite music videos from previous Kollaboration shows.
1. Kollaboration Los Angeles, 2010 - “Hey, Soul Sister”
This video has a special place in my heart because it introduced me to Kollaboration. Unlike most music videos, it’s very simple. The video shows the competitors from Kollaboration LA’s 10th annual show jamming together and goofing off. Yet there’s something about the spontaneous energy in the air that perfects the harmony and makes everyone’s talents shine through. Two years ago, after watching this video on a lazy weekend in my bedroom, I knew that I had to get involved with the amazing organization that made the performance possible.
2. Kollaboration Honolulu, 2012 – “Wade in Your Water/Simple Love Song”
Who can resist Hawaii’s idyllic landscape? There must also be magic in Hawaii’s waters, because boy does everyone sing with a hearty dose of soul. Kollaboration Honolulu’s debut video stands out because it showcases the reggae and folk influences in Hawaii’s distinct heritage. There is such a warmth in the performance that you can almost feel the sunshine on your arms.
3. Kollaboration Seattle, 2011 – “Firework”
Full disclosure: as a Kollaboration Seattle staff member, I am bound to be biased towards my city. But the truth is, what we have achieved in Seattle over the past four years has given me every reason to be proud. “Firework” is one of my favorite songs, so it’s a pleasure watching our talented competitors from 2011 put their spin on the piece and kill it. Beyond that, the video itself is of superb quality and has beautiful artistic direction. Every time I watch this video, I am reminded of the gold standard that we hold ourselves to each year at Kollaboration Seattle.
4. Kollaboration Acoustic, 2011 – “New Soul”
“New Soul” is a song with a whimsical, fresh character. This is reflected in both the vocal performance and stylistic effects of the video. I can always appreciate when a music video finds creative expression in both the audio and visual dimensions. The acoustic nature of the cover and the sweet violin lingering in the background makes it a relaxing treat for the ears.
5. Kollaboration Boston, 2011 – “Show Goes On”
Lupe Fiasco’s original song is about rising above his disadvantaged circumstances, and encouraging others to overcome adversity, no matter their beginnings. In this cover, Kollaboration Boston’s 2011 competitors channel the original song’s uplifting spirit and make it an anthem of their aspirations and dreams as performers. This video was touching to me because in a way, it captures the quintessential story of Asian American artists everywhere who nourish the drive to pursue their dreams even in the face of all the barriers invented by society. The video also provides a fulfilling auditory experience, incorporating singing, rapping, and beatboxing.
Clearly, my list doesn’t do justice to full range of fabulous music that Kollaboration cities have been making since the beginning of time. I hope that this encourages you to check out all the other past videos. Feel free to leave a comment noting which music video from a past Kollaboration show is your favorite!