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5 Emerging AAPI Artists You Need To Listen To: Luna Li, Wallice, OHYUNG & More
(From left) OHYUNG, Weston Estate, Luna Li, Kainalu & Wallice

Photos courtesy of the artist except: OHYUNG by Acudus Aranyian; Wallice by Skylar Steinberg; Kainalu by Julianna Photography

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5 Emerging AAPI Artists You Need To Listen To: Luna Li, Wallice, OHYUNG & More

Awareness about the marginalization of Asian American and Pacific Islanders has helped improve their representation in music. Artists like Raveena and Olivia Rodrigo are changing the image of the pop star, but there are still more stones to throw.

GRAMMYs/May 12, 2022 - 01:26 pm

Throughout our history of loving music, Asian Americans have had to scroll through downloads, playlists, articles and liner notes, and accept that a lot of it isn’t written with us in mind. In the United States, the pop or rock star archetype is often white and blond, a rumpled Brooklynite. It doesn’t leave much room for dark skin and hair smoothed with oil, hands folding dough for dinner  — or much else that we know intimately.

In recent years, an increased awareness about the unique marginalization Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) face has helped slowly change their underrepresentation in music. Now, AAPI artists like Raveena, Japanese Breakfast and Olivia Rodrigo sprout national recognition with their artistry, diversifying popular music and putting a crack in the long held picture of a white pop star. But there are still more stones to throw.

U.S. popular music needs to embrace the full spectrum of AAPI artists  — across genres, lyrical content, skin color and heritage — and refrain from exoticizing and fetishizing the few Asian artists promoted to the main stage. Nor should AAPI artists be forced into constricting narratives about their immigrant parents or being bullied as children. Instead, they must be allowed to experiment, create and fail with as much grace and energy as white artists. 

The goal of diversity initiatives and representation isn’t to create novelty, but remove it completely. Non-white artists shouldn’t be an exception to the rule, but part of it. For Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, which takes place in May each year, GRAMMY.com has put together a list of emerging AAPI artists you should know.Though AAPI representation in music is just the smallest slice of racial equity, it’s still a slice. With this list of emerging AAPI artists, which is by no means exhaustive, you can help level music’s playing field as long as you’re willing to listen. 

Luna Li

The Korean-Canadian indie rocker Luna Li is all about controlled energy. Her debut album Duality, released March 4, is weaved together with the same delicate intricacy you typically reserve for tying flower crowns. But instead of flowers, the album is frosted with twinkling high hats and crystal, crying strings.

Li’s skill at creating quietly vibrating songs, like her breakout single "Afterglow," released in 2020, or the instrumental, buzzy "harp jam" from her 2021 jams EP makes sense. She’s a multi-hyphenate producer, composer and player of piano, guitar, and harp — among other things — and her skill floats effortlessly into each warbling press of the keyboard, as well as breathy acknowledgements of her loneliness and love.

Wallice

Headlines about 23-year-old Wallice usually call out two things: she’s a jazz school dropout and she makes killer indie pop. A New York Times profile notes that Wallice (who identifies as half-Japanese, half-white) first burst onto the scene in 2020, when her song "Punching Bag" landed on Spotify’s teen-movie-friendly "Lorem" playlist. But when you listen to the song, don’t expect to hear much music school influence (Wallice was only there for a year, after all), just enjoy the swing of her voice, her self-conscious melancholy as she identifies as "emotionally available in my dreams."

In the two years since her Spotify coronation, Wallice has been busy getting bigger. She has been consistently releasing sassy, pulsing singles on Dirty Hit, the London-based label home to alt-pop favorites like The 1975 and Rina Sawayama, and will release a concept EP called 90’s American Superstar on May 6.

Weston Estate

Four of slick-as-a-lollipop R&B band Weston Estate’s five members are South Asian (vocalist Marco Luka is Cuban-American), and happily brand themselves as "ya aunty’s favorite boyband."

"Straight-edged middle aged women getting lit to our music is our aesthetic," they snark in a press release. They may joke, but South Asian commenters on the Weston Estate TikTok note how they "love the brown boy representation" — and no aspiring aunty could be fully immune to this brown boyband’s charms. 

Like the world learned with Brockhampton and BTS, boybands haven’t been composed of homogeneous swaths of white denim since the early 2000s. Instead, they’ve evolved to reflect the diversity and sensitivity of the modern American man. The gentle mourning found on Weston Estate’s recently-released EP, Maggie Valley, represents the advent of the earnest boyband. 

As a whole, Weston Estate’s success solidifies that South Asians should no longer accept acting as supporting role fodder; it’s time for us to lead.

Kainalu

The Japanese and Hawaiian Trent Prall, who makes wooly psychedelic funk as Kainalu, wasn’t always confident about his race. "I moved to the Midwest as a teenager and began being bullied because [of] my race shortly after," Prall recalled in an interview with the Aussie World. He resented his ethnic background for a while, but Kainalu (the Hawaiian word for ocean wave) as part of his "journey of self-acceptance."

"I think that drives the music for me," he said.

You hear his confidence bloom in the music. Prall’s 2019 album Lotus Gate and his just-released single "Revelator" seem to drip with sunshine and orange juice. Whenever keyboards stomp, low and insistently, or stray bass notes dip in and out like lingering pool flies, Kainalu’s voice cuts through it; he seems to stand tall, like the director of his own dream. 

OHYUNG

Robert Ouyang Rusli has been creating inhaling, exhaling experimental music as OHYUNG since 2018. OHYUNG feels like a boundless project — Rusli tips their hand into every jar. In 2021, OHYUNG had a music residency at Pioneer Works, a New York non-profit and cultural center. Previously, OHYUNG made unreal, unrelenting experimental rap on albums like the 2018 debut Untitled (Chinese Man with a Flame) and 2020’s PROTECTOR. Rusli also composes music for film under their given name. In other words, if you’re looking for fire, you found it.

Their newest album imagine naked!, which was released on April 22, is a wordless swear to what makes OHYUNG so intoxicating. The entire album was written and recorded in about three days, but its crackling repetitions and fishbone-light melodies will needle something eternal in the pit of your stomach. It could be your curiosity, or perhaps your pure awe, unleashed.

The Reawakening Of Raveena: How The Singer/Songwriter Found Renewal In Indian Traditions While Looking Ever-Forward On Her Sophomore LP

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GRAMMY SoundChecks With Gavin DeGraw

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

On Aug. 28 Nashville Chapter GRAMMY U members took part in GRAMMY SoundChecks with Gavin DeGraw. Approximately 30 students gathered at music venue City Hall and watched DeGraw play through some of the singles from earlier in his career along with "Cheated On Me" from his latest self-titled album.

In between songs, DeGraw conducted a question-and-answer session and inquired about the talents and goals of the students in attendance. He gave inside tips to the musicians present on how to make it in the industry and made sure that every question was answered before moving onto the next song.

 

Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

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Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

Annual star-studded gala slated for Nov. 4 in Las Vegas during 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Week celebration

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

 GRAMMY.com

 Internationally renowned singer/songwriter/performer Juan Gabriel will be celebrated as the 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, it was announced today by The Latin Recording Academy. Juan Gabriel, chosen for his professional accomplishments as well as his commitment to philanthropic efforts, will be recognized at a star-studded concert and black tie dinner on Nov. 4 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nev. 

The "Celebration with Juan Gabriel" gala will be one of the most prestigious events held during Latin GRAMMY week, a celebration that culminates with the 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards ceremony. The milestone telecast will be held at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 5 and will be broadcast live on the Univision Television Network at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central. 

"As we celebrate this momentous decade of the Latin GRAMMYs, The Latin Recording Academy and its Board of Trustees take great pride in recognizing Juan Gabriel as an extraordinary entertainer who never has forgotten his roots, while at the same time having a global impact," said Latin Recording Academy President Gabriel Abaroa. "His influence on the music and culture of our era has been tremendous, and we welcome this opportunity to pay a fitting tribute to a voice that strongly resonates within our community.

Over the course of his 30-year career, Juan Gabriel has sold more than 100 million albums and has performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world. He has produced more than 100 albums for more than 50 artists including Paul Anka, Lola Beltran, Rocío Dúrcal, and Lucha Villa among many others. Additionally, Juan Gabriel has written more than 1,500 songs, which have been covered by such artists as Marc Anthony, Raúl Di Blasio, Ana Gabriel, Angelica María, Lucia Mendez, Estela Nuñez, and Son Del Son. In 1986, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Oct. 5 "The Day of Juan Gabriel." The '90s saw his induction into Billboard's Latin Music Hall of Fame and he joined La Opinion's Tributo Nacional Lifetime Achievement Award recipients list. 

At the age of 13, Juan Gabriel was already writing his own songs and in 1971 recorded his first hit, "No Tengo Dinero," which landed him a recording contract with RCA. Over the next 14 years, he established himself as Mexico's leading singer/songwriter, composing in diverse styles such as rancheras, ballads, pop, disco, and mariachi, which resulted in an incredible list of hits ("Hasta Que Te Conocí," "Siempre En Mi Mente," "Querida," "Inocente Pobre Amigo," "Abrázame Muy Fuerte," "Amor Eterno," "El Noa Noa," and "Insensible") not only for himself  but for many leading Latin artists. In 1990, Juan Gabriel became the only non-classical singer/songwriter to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and the album release of that concert, Juan Gabriel En Vivo Desde El Palacio De Bellas Artes, broke sales records and established his iconic status. 

After a hiatus from recording, Juan Gabriel released such albums as Gracias Por Esperar, Juntos Otra Vez, Abrázame Muy Fuerte, Los Gabriel…Para Ti, Juan Gabriel Con La Banda…El Recodo, and El Mexico Que Se Nos Fue, which were all certified gold and/or platinum by the RIAA. In 1996, to commemorate his 25th anniversary in the music industry, BMG released a retrospective set of CDs entitled 25 Aniversario, Solos, Duetos, y Versiones Especiales, comprised appropriately of 25 discs.   

In addition to his numerous accolades and career successes, Juan Gabriel has been a compassionate and generous philanthropist. He has donated all proceeds from approximately 10 performances a year to his favorite children's foster homes, and proceeds from fan photo-ops go to support Mexican orphans. In 1987, he founded Semjase, an orphanage for approximately 120 children, which also serves as a music school with music, recreation and video game rooms. Today, he continues to personally fund the school he opened more than 22 years ago.   

Juan Gabriel will have the distinction of becoming the 10th Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honoree, and joins a list of artists such as Gloria Estefan, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana among others who have been recognized. 

For information on purchasing tickets or tables to The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year tribute to Juan Gabriel, please contact The Latin Recording Academy ticketing office at 310.314.8281 or ticketing@grammy.com.

Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013
Grizzled Mighty perform at Bumbershoot on Sept. 1

Photo: The Recording Academy

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Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Alexa Zaske
Seattle

This past Labor Day weekend meant one thing for many folks in Seattle: Bumbershoot, a three-decade-old music and arts event that consumed the area surrounding the Space Needle from Aug. 31–Sept. 2. Amid attendees wandering around dressed as zombies and participating in festival-planned flash mobs to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," this year the focus was on music from the Pacific Northwest region — from the soulful sounds of Allen Stone and legendary female rockers Heart, to the highly-awaited return of Death Cab For Cutie performing their 2003 hit album Transatlanticism in its entirety.

The festival started off on day one with performances by synth-pop group the Flavr Blue, hip-hop artist Grynch, rapper Nacho Picasso, psychedelic pop group Beat Connection, lively rapper/writer George Watsky, hip-hop group the Physics, and (my personal favorite), punk/dance band !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Also performing on day one was Seattle folk singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, who was accompanied by the Passenger String Quartet. As always, Orlowski's songs were catchy and endearing yet brilliant and honest.

Day one came to a scorching finale with a full set from GRAMMY-nominated rock group Heart. Kicking off with their Top 20 hit "Barracuda," the set spanned three decades of songs, including "Heartless," "Magic Man" and "What About Love?" It became a gathering of Seattle rock greats when, during Heart's final song, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready joined for 1976's "Crazy On You."

Day two got off to an early start with performances from eccentric Seattle group Kithkin and Seattle ladies Mary Lambert and Shelby Earl, who were accompanied by the band Le Wrens. My highlight of the day was the Grizzled Mighty — a duo with a bigger sound than most family sized bands. Drummer Whitney Petty, whose stage presence and skills make for an exciting performance, was balanced out by the easy listening of guitarist and lead singer Ryan Granger.

Then the long-awaited moment finally fell upon Seattle when, after wrapping a long-awaited tour with the Postal Service, singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard returned to Seattle to represent another great success of the Pacific Northwest — Death Cab For Cutie. The band celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their album Transatlanticism by performing it from front to back. While a majority of attendees opted to watch the set from an air-conditioned arena, some of us recognized the uniqueness of this experience and enjoyed the entire set lying in the grass where the entire performance was streamed. 

Monday was the day for soul and folk. Local blues/R&B group Hot Bodies In Motion have been making their way through the Seattle scene with songs such as "Old Habits," "That Darkness" and "The Pulse." Their set was lively and enticing to people who have seen them multiple times or never at all.

My other highlights of the festival included the Maldives, who delivered a fun performance with the perfect amount of satirical humor and folk. They represent the increasing number of Pacific Northwest bands who consist of many members playing different sounds while still managing to stay cohesive and simple. I embraced the return of folk/pop duo Ivan & Alyosha with open arms and later closed my festival experience with local favorite Stone.

For music fans in Seattle and beyond, the annual Bumbershoot festival is a must-attend.

(Alexa Zaske is the Chapter Assistant for The Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter. She's a music enthusiast and obsessed with the local Seattle scene.)

Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Neil Portnow and Jimmy Jam

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

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Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Jimmy Jam helps celebrate the outgoing President/CEO of the Recording Academy on the 61st GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Feb 11, 2019 - 10:58 am

As Neil Portnow's tenure as Recording Academy President/CEO draws to its end, five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam paid tribute to his friend and walked us through a brief overview of some of the Academy's major recent achievements, including the invaluable work of MusiCares, the GRAMMY Museum, Advocacy and more.

Portnow delivered a brief speech, acknowledging the need to continue to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion in the music industry. He also seized the golden opportunity to say the words he's always wanted to say on the GRAMMY stage, saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy," showing his gratitude and respect for the staff, elected leaders and music community he's worked with during his career at the Recording Academy. "We can be so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together," Portnow added.

"As I finish out my term leading this great organization, my heart and soul are filled with gratitude, pride, for the opportunity and unequal experience," he continued. "Please know that my commitment to all the good that we do will carry on as we turn the page on the next chapter of the storied history of this phenomenal institution."

Full Winners List: 61st GRAMMY Awards