meta-scriptPipa Master Min Xiao-Fen On The "Harmony And Balance" Of Traditional Chinese Music & Her New Album, 'White Lotus' | GRAMMY.com
Min Xiao-Fen

Min Xiao-Fen

Photo: Jiang Bingqing

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Pipa Master Min Xiao-Fen On The "Harmony And Balance" Of Traditional Chinese Music & Her New Album, 'White Lotus'

To Min Xiao-Fen, the music of the West and East aren't so different. And although "Anicca," off her new album, 'White Lotus,' has an otherworldly quality, a closer listen evokes a universal sensation of integrity and order

GRAMMYs/May 21, 2021 - 02:38 am

To hear Min Xiao-Fen's "Annica," named after a Buddhist term meaning "impermanence," is to feel pulled between the earth and the ether. She plays the pipa, which, in America, is typically thought of as a Chinese lute. The tonality of the strings may evoke something close to an acoustic guitar, but the harmonies have depth and darkness beyond description—to say nothing of her droning, rasping vocal over the top.

But after a minute or two, gravity sets in. The tune, premiering exclusively on GRAMMY.com, from her new album White Lotus, out June 25, reveals ancient dimensions of harmony and order. (The pipa's been around for more than 2,000 years, after all.) What initially may have come off as strange and different becomes incontrovertibly human—something from the heart or the guts. In conversation, Xiao-Fen is kind, bubbly and informative, and she's quick to note that American sounds aren't so different from those ringing from China.

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"Blues and bluegrass reminds me of what I studied in China!" she says with a dash of mirth. "Talking blues reminds me of a Chinese [form] called pingtan. It's music from the Southeast that I grew up with."

Speaking of transdisciplinary connections without borders, here's another: The relationship between music and cinema. White Lotus is Xiao-Fen's original score to the long-lost 1934 Chinese silent film, The Goddess. The music isn't just played on pipa, but on a variety of other plucked instruments—plus, eerie loops mixed with Buddhist chanting. The results sound far more familiar than alien thanks to Xiao-Fen's mastery and deep connections to American improvisational music.

GRAMMY.com caught up with Min Xiao-Fen to talk about her roots in traditional Chinese music, how she came to score The Goddess, and how music can explode cultural barriers between the East and the West.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity from two conversations.

Tell me about the pipa's history and significance in China.

The pipa developed during the Qin Dynasty between 220 and 270 B.C. Of course, it's a plucked instrument. Western people say it's a Chinese lute. It's a pear-shaped wooden body. The name "pipa" comes from Chinese syllables: pi and pa. The maker of the instrument played it and heard sounds like "Pi-pa, pi-pa," so he kept the name. The most common technique is to use your first finger, strike down, and with your thumb, strike back, so it sounds like "pi-pa."

The pipa has four strings. The tonality is A-D-E-A. During the Tang Dynasty from 618 to 907 A.D.,  a pear-shaped wooden body pipa was introduced to China from Central Asia. At that time, the pipa only had three or five frets, was held horizontally and they used a plectrum. During the Tang Dynasty, the pipa became a principal musical instrument in the imperial court, and it was played solo or with an orchestra. 

Right now, I'm playing the modern, reformed pipa, so it's chromatic-scaled and has six large frets and 24 bamboo frets. It's been around so long that it has a large repertoire; [it can be] played lyrical-style, martial-style. It's a wonderful instrument, especially for solo.

What feelings is it meant to convey? Is it meant to capture the entire spectrum of emotions? Or does it have a specific role in that regard?

Chinese music is always associated with nature and seeking that harmony and balance. When we play traditional music, which is very hard because you have to use your inner energy, we always emphasize strong but not aggressive, soft but not weak. This is how I was trained as a traditional Chinese musician. You have to be very careful how you play, with your energy. Just don't show too much! Always the balance.

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How did you come to this instrument?

I grew up in a musical family. My father—he passed away—was an educator and pipa master. He taught at Nanjing University for 60 years! My sister was a well-known erhu player; that's a Chinese two-string fiddle. She passed away, too. I'm the youngest. My brother is an orchestra conductor.

When I was young, I just wanted to play. I didn't want to study music. My father always encouraged me to study a Chinese instrument, but I was just not into it. One day, I remember my father, after university, came back home and said, "Hey, your classmate wants to study pipa with me!" I lent her the pipa and immediately got jealous. So I told my father, "I want to learn!" I was 10 years old.

Is the pipa the only traditional instrument you play on White Lotus?

I played several other plucking instruments. Actually, it's a whole family of instruments. One is the ruan. It's also a plucked instrument, four strings. It's kind of a lower tone, like a viola, a little bit. Also, I play the sanxian. It's also in the Chinese plucked-instrument family. The sanxian has three strings and no frets with a long handle. Also, the guqin, one of the ancient seven-stringed instruments. We're going back 3,000 years.

Tell me about scoring The Goddess.

I had to compose a musical theme for each character in the film. For the single young mother forced to work as a prostitute, struggling to support her young son, I used Buddhist chanting and voice with electronic loops to surround her and to show her lotus-like purity. 

For her young son, I created some simple notes to emphasize his innocence. The sounds for the thug, or gangster, who was stealing money from a woman trying to save money for her son's education, are dark, ugly and irregular. The climax of the film occurs when the young mother grabs a bottle and smashes the thug on his head. That moment is so strong, so I decided to simply use silence and let the action speak.

Min Xiao-Fen. Photo: Jiang Yu

Where do traditional Chinese music and American improvisational music connect for you?

I was a pure traditional musician, and I have a lot of stories I could tell you about how I went in this direction. Basically, I learned all kinds of genres and styles of jazz on stage, because I work with so many great musicians. I started composing my music in 2012 with my Dim Sum CD. I was thinking, "I want to do something for myself." Just spontaneous. I thought I would start to improvise on swing notes and see how it goes.

Is there a way that understanding the ancient musical heritage of Asian-Americans can help combat xenophobia?

That's what I want to do. I feel like it's my duty. I want to introduce not only my instrument, but all kinds of things, arts and film. America's a great place for all kinds of races and cultures. 

First of all, I feel very lucky because I never thought I could go that far. I was totally trained as a traditional musician, not changing the notes, just following what the master taught me. Coming to America, I felt very lucky. I met so many musicians that influenced me. I could become myself. Before, I was so stiff! When I came to America, everyone just said, "Hey, do what you want to do! Be yourself!" I fundamentally changed.

It's not only films. I also worked with dancers and opera singers. Also, visual arts. I learned so much from different kinds of formats and arts. It's good to share your experience and share your culture—to tell people what a great history China has.

I feel like when one views another fearfully as an interloper, understanding that they have their own rich traditions and inner lives just like them can help soothe those pains. I mean, China is an ancient place; America is only about 250 years old.

You know, there are a lot of similarities. Blues and bluegrass remind me of what I studied in China! Talking blues reminds me of a Chinese [form] called pingtan. It's music from the Southeast that I grew up with. It's a form of singing and talking and making jokes and playing and acting. It's very similar to the blues. This world is small, you know? People should be open-minded.

We think these lands are so far-flung, but they're not. The East and the West aren't on different planets.

You don't know this instrument, but music is a universal language. You don't need to say something. You just play it and make them happy.

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Lurrie Bell Lil Ed Williams
Lurrie Bell and Lil' Ed Williams

Photo: Christopher Caldwell

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Blues Music Awards 2024 and Blues Hall Of Fame Inductee Ceremony Honor the Past, Present, & Future Of The Blues

The Blues Music Awards kicked off several days of events honoring the genre's legacy, which included the Blues Hall of Fame Inductee ceremony and the opening of an innovative new exhibit at the Blues Hall of Fame featuring a hologram of Taj Mahal.

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2024 - 12:40 am

It was a big week for music in Memphis. The 45th annual Blues Music Awards, a top honor in the genre, were handed out on Thursday, May 9, in Memphis, Tenn. in a ceremony sponsored by the Recording Academy. The awards were the capstone to several days of blues-related events, including the annual Blues Hall of Fame induction ceremony the day before.  

An audience of approximately 1,000 — including industry professionals, fans, and some of the genre's biggest artists — packed the grand main exhibit hall of the recently renovated Renasant Convention Center for the BMAs banquet, produced by the Memphis-based Blues Foundation. With 25 awards and more than a dozen performances, the awards show, hosted by broadcast veteran Tavis Smiley, often felt more like a homecoming than an industry event.

Read below for four key takeaways from this year's Blues Music Awards and Blue Hall of Fame Ceremony.

Mississippi's Blues Roots Remain Strong

Located right next to Memphis, Mississippi is home to one of the country's four GRAMMY Museums and is widely regarded as one of the birthplaces — if not the birthplace — of the blues. The state has nurtured some of the genre's greatest talents, including Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and B.B. King. The Magnolia State's deep connection to the blues was evident during the awards, with Mississippi mainstays and GRAMMY winners Bobby Rush and Christone "Kingfish" Ingram among the top winners. 

Despite a 65-year age difference, Rush and Ingram share a deep devotion to the blues. At 90 years old, Rush, an incredibly spry chitlin' circuit road warrior who has re-emerged in recent years as perhaps one the blues' biggest stars, won Best Soul Blues Album for All My Love for You and his second B.B. King Entertainer of the Year award. Ingram, only 25 years old and already a GRAMMY winner for Best Contemporary Blues Album in 2022, was the night's top winner, taking home four awards: Album of the Year and Contemporary Blues Album of the Year for Live in London, Contemporary Blues Male Artist, and Instrumentalist-Guitar.

Other multiple award winners included another artist originally from Mississippi, 79-year-old Chicago guitarist John Primer, who won Traditional Blues Male Artist and Traditional Blues Album for Teardrops for Magic Slim, and Texas' Ruthie Foster, who captured top vocalist honors and won Song of the Year for "What Kind Of Fool," co-written with Hadden Sayers and Scottie Miller.

The Blues Need To Be Seen To Be Heard

Though the BMAs largely honor recorded works, the show itself emphasized that the blues are a genre best experienced live. The ceremony, which ran about four hours (historically on the shorter side for this event), was packed full of performances, most running longer than your typical awards show slots. 

Highlights included the opening set by emerging artist nominee Candice Ivory, who performed selections from her BMA-nominated album When the Levee Breaks: The Music of Memphis Minnie, backed by keyboardist Ben Levin and guitarist William Lee Ellis, who also played songs from his album Ghost Hymns, a nominee for Best Acoustic Album.

Another Mississippi artist, powerhouse bandleader Castro Coleman, known as Mr. Sipp, who has one GRAMMY nomination and an appearance on a GRAMMY-winning Count Basie Orchestra album, brought the crowd to their feet early with his gospel-fueled segment. To cement his Best Guitarist win, Ingram delivered a blistering performance with his band, wading into the audience for one of his beautifully precise, soaring solos.

There was so much music to be heard that it spilled out into the streets. Most nights following BMA-related events, fans and fellow artists could be found in the clubs on Beale Street, the famous Home of the Blues, for showcases and impromptu jam sessions. These were highlighted by the 10th annual Down In the Basement fundraiser for the Blues Foundation on Wednesday. Organized and hosted by Big Llou Johnson, a blues musician and host of Sirius XM's B.B. King's Bluesville channel, the show featured appearances by Mr. Sipp, GRAMMY nominees Southern Avenue, and more.

Honoring The Blues' Past

Among the other events that made up BMA week was the Blues Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, held on May 8 at Memphis' Cannon Center for the Performing Arts before a crowd of about 200, including past inductees Bobby Rush and Taj Mahal. Hosted by artists Gaye Adegbalola (Saffire — the Uppity Blues Women), GRAMMY winner Dom Flemons (Carolina Chocolate Drops), and veteran blues radio deejay Bill Wax, the observance saw the induction of seven artists, five blues singles, one album, a book, and a blues academic into the Hall of Fame.

Highlights from the evening included Alligator Records head Bruce Iglauer's humor-filled induction of Chicago house stompers Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials in the performers category; the heartfelt introduction of the late folk singer Odetta by her friend Maria Muldaur and the emotional acceptance by Odetta's daughter, Michelle Esrick; and former National Endowment for the Humanities chairman William R. Ferris, inducted as a non-performer, delivering a circuitous-but-engrossing recounting of his life documenting blues music and culture.

Bringing The Blues To Life 

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal stands in front of the exhibit featuring his own hologram. | Photo: Kimberly Horton

One of the non-award related highlights of the week was the opening of a new exhibit at the Blues Foundation's Blues Hall of Fame, also on May 8, which introduced a high-tech element to the down-home genre. Musician Taj Mahal was on hand the day before for the unveiling of a cutting-edge AI-powered hologram of himself that acts as a virtual tour guide for the Half of Fame, allowing visitors to interact with the blues great. 

This hologram, only the second exhibit of its kind in America (the first is in the Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame in Boston), uses Holobox, a new technology from Holoconnects, to render a life-like image that can answer questions, talk about exhibits, and play instruments. Taj Mahal, who had to sit and talk for several hours for the technology to scan his likeness and voice, is the first artist to receive the virtual treatment from the Blues Foundation. Bobby Rush and Keb' Mo' are expected to be added later.

Explore the full list of 2024 BMA winners below to celebrate the artists keeping the blues alive and discover who took home the top honors this year. 

2024 BMA Winners

B.B. King Entertainer of the Year

Bobby Rush

Album of the Year

Live In London, Christone "Kingfish" Ingram

Band of the Year

Nick Moss Band

Song of the Year

"What Kind Of Fool," written by Ruthie Foster, Hadden Sayers & Scottie Miller

Best Emerging Artist Album

The Right Man, D.K. Harrell

Acoustic Blues Album

Raw Blues 1, Doug MacLeod

Blues Rock Album

Blood Brothers, Mike Zito/ Albert Castiglia

Contemporary Blues Album

Live In London, Christone "Kingfish" Ingram

Soul Blues Album

All My Love For You, Bobby Rush

Traditional Blues Album

Teardrops for Magic Slim, John Primer

Acoustic Blues Artist

Keb' Mo'

Blues Rock Artist

Mike Zito

Contemporary Blues Female Artist

Danielle Nicole

Contemporary Blues Male Artist

Christone "Kingfish" Ingram

Soul Blues Female Artist

Annika Chambers

Soul Blues Male Artist

John Nemeth

Traditional Blues Female Artist (Koko Taylor Award)

Sue Foley

Traditional Blues Male Artist

John Primer

Instrumentalist – Bass

Bob Stroger

Instrumentalist – Drums

Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith

Instrumentalist – Guitarist

Christone "Kingfish" Ingram

Instrumentalist – Harmonica

Jason Ricci

Instrumentalist – Horn

Vanessa Collier

Instrumentalist – Piano (Pinetop Perkins Award)

Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne

Instrumentalist – Vocals

Ruthie Foster

Washington D.C. Chapter Dinner & Conversation Answers "Can We Have Rhythm Without the Blues?"

Alex Ritchie, Emily Vu, Myra Molloy, Alex Aiono, Brooke Alexx in collage
(From left) Alex Ritchie, Emily Vu, Myra Molloy, Alex Aiono, Brooke Alexx

Photos: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images; Robin L Marshall/Getty Images; Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images; Disney/PictureGroup; Sam Morris/Getty Images

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10 Exciting AAPI Artists To Know In 2024: Audrey English, Emily Vu, Zhu & Others

In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, get to know 10 up-and-coming AAPI artists — including Alex Ritchie, Curtis Waters and others — whose music spans geography and genre.

GRAMMYs/May 13, 2024 - 01:16 pm

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have made strides in the music industry for many years. Every year, more AAPIs enter executive roles in the industry, increasing their visibility and impact.

Artists in the Asian and Pacific Islander diaspora — including Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak), Olivia Rodrigo, and H.E.R. — have graced the stage and won golden gramophones at Music's Biggest Night. During 2024 GRAMMY Week, the Recording Academy collaborated with Gold House and Pacific Bridge Arts Foundation to create the Gold Music Alliance, a program designed to foster meaningful connections and elevate the impact of Pan-Asian members and allies within the Academy and wider music industry. 

Yet, AAPI groups are significantly underrepresented in the music industry. Pacific Islanders are often forgotten when it comes to lists and industry due to their smaller percentage in the population.

Despite the lack of representation, social media and streaming platforms have introduced fans to new and rising artists such as Chinese American pop singer Amber Liu, Japanese American singer/songwriter Mitski, and Hawaiian native Iam Tongi. Others are showcasing their sound on the festival circuit, as San Francisco-based indie rocker Tanukichan and Korean American guitarist NoSo did at last year's Outside Lands festival. With AAPI-led music festivals, such as 88 Rising’s Head in the Clouds and Pacific Feats Festival, artists in this community are given opportunities to exhibit their talent and, often, their heritage. 

For many emerging artists, a like, reshare, or subscribe can help them gain the attention of mainstream studios and bolster tour attendance. So, in honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, check out these 10 up-and-coming AAPI artists performing everything from pop to soulful R&B and EDM. 

Alex Aiono

Maori-Samoan American singer Alex Aiono moved to Los Angeles from Phoenix at 14 to pursue a music career. After going viral for his mashup of Drake's "One Dance" and Nicky Jam’s "Hasta el Amanecer," Aiono now has over 5.73 million YouTube subscribers. He was then cast in several popular films and television series, including Netflix’s Finding Ohana, Disney Channel’s "Doogie Kameāloha, M.D.," and "Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin."

But, for the 28-year-old R&B/pop singer, music has always been his calling. Aiono released several singles and, in 2020, a full-length album, The Gospel at 23. Inspired by his experience in Hollywood and his relationship with his religion (as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), The Gospel at 23 plays on the simplicity of a piano, drums, tambourine, and a choir, beautifully fusing modern soul with the old-fashioned gospel. Since then, the artist has released tender medleys – with his most recent heartbreaking single "Best of Me."

"I view this as a very, very lucky life that I get to express myself and that's my job," he told AZ Central. "My quote-unquote job."

Alex Ritchie

L.A.-based singer/songwriter Alex Ritchie has been honest about her journey as a queer mixed-Asian woman in the industry. The Filipino-Japanese-Spanish artist said she was constantly overlooked or told she wouldn’t be commercial enough in the American music industry.

"I’m the only musician in my family, and I came from a family of humble means; so even though I had conviction in what I wanted from a young age, it wasn’t realistic," Ritchie told GRAMMY.com in 2019. said. "Pursuing something like entertainment was so risky. I couldn’t afford to fail. We couldn’t afford to dream like that. BUT I had unrealistic dreams anyway, and after my first gig at the Whisky I knew that was it."

Ritchie has been thriving in the industry, becoming the youngest sitting committee member in the history of the Recording Academy’s Los Angeles Chapter, advocating for LGBTQ+ and Asian American representation in music. After her experience with GRAMMYU in 2019, the alternative rock singer released 404 EP and several sultry singles, including a melodious and fervent love song, "Blueprint," released this January. Ritchie plans on releasing more music and on her terms. 

"Time and people have finally caught up with the vision that I always had for myself, even if they didn’t see it before," Ritchie tells the Recording Academy. "One of the things I’m most proudest of is that I never really changed. I’ve stayed exactly who I am to the core. I think when you do that and when you realize there’s no one else like you, you become the most powerful person in the room."

Audrey English

**You may not have heard of Audrey English, but you have heard her music on "America’s Got Talent," "American Idol," and Netflix’s "Love Is Blind." Her songs are featured on the shows during the most prominent moments of the contestants’ lives on screen: In "AGT" and "American Idol," English’s rendition of "Lean On Me" played during golden buzzer moments and emotional arcs; er song "Mama Said" went viral after being played during Ad and Clay’s wedding scene in season 6 of "Love Is  Blind."

Inspired by Etta James, Nina Simone, and Amy Winehouse, the Samoan American artist swoons audiences with her soulful, powerful tone with songs that focus on relationships, empowerment, and love. English also showcases her culture in her videos; in the music video for her harrowing ballad "Happy," English featured the beauty of Samoa alongside a Samoan romantic love interest. She hopes one day to write a Samoan song. 

In her latest single "Unapologetic," released on April 25, English wrote the song as an anthem for others to live without shame. "In a world where we are so influenced by others, social media, and being our own worst critics - sometimes we need to take a step back to realize it all doesn’t really matter," English wrote on Instagram. "Regardless of your beliefs, background, and passions, this is a call to be authentically you, however, you define that!"

Brooke Alexx

**Brooke Alexx’s bubblegum pop personality is infectious, and her catchy hooks, including her latest pop-rock single, "Hot Like You," are fit for everyone’s summer playlist.

Alexx has never shied away from revealing intimate parts of her life. The Japanese American artist writes her music from her experiences as the oldest child, being best friends with her exes’ moms, and her connection to her Asian roots. 

In her 2022 gentle ballad, "I’m Sorry, Tokyo," Alexx reveals the shame she once felt for not wanting to learn about her Japanese heritage, as well as the guilt she feels for never learning the language and culture. "There’s so much about the culture that I don’t know and missed out on that would be so cool to be a part of my life now," Alexx told Mixed Asian Media. "So, I’m trying to return to those roots a little bit these days."

She is now making up for lost time. Alexx embraces her Japanese heritage and will visit the country with a select group of fans

Curtis Waters

Curtis Waters doesn’t care for commercial success. Despite going viral on TikTok in 2020 for his raunchy, satirical, catchy song "Stunnin," the Nepalese Canadian-American alt-pop artist was unhappy with his career trajectory.

"I made some songs that I don’t fully love, hoping they would catch the same success as 'Stunnin’," Waters told Atwood Magazine. "But doing that made me depressed, so I had to stop and remind myself why I started making music in the first place."

Water's new album, Bad Son, was released on March 27. His press release says it is "a true immigrant story, a reflection on a young, brown creative being thrown into the mainstream overnight while navigating deep issues of self-doubt and cultural identity along the way."  

Waters didn’t intend to share his immigrant story but struck inspiration as a way to cope emotionally and be honest with himself. Filled with high-energy beats, elements of indie rock, and experimental hip-hop, Waters reveals an ardent part of himself through his breathy vocals and introspective tracks.

Emily Vu 

Vietnamese American pop singer Emily Vu has accomplished much in her 22 years: She amassed over 1.2 million followers on TikTok, her song "Changes" was featured in the 2023 Netflix film A Tourist’s Guide to Love, and is part of the Mastercard Artist Accelerator program. Her catchy pop tunes, including the recently released single "Heartsick," are inspired by personal moments in her life.

Vu has always been open and sure about her identity as a queer Asian woman. She came out in her 2020 music video for "Just Wait," which featured numerous women symbolizing her previous relationships. "The music video reflects how my past relationships are still burdens to me and how I still carry those experiences with me wherever I am," Vu told Stanford Daily, "I see myself being really happy with my life in a few years. I want to be happy with all that I’ve been doing and all the people I’m around."

Four years later, Vu still releases music and captivating fans on TikTok with her earthy vocals and angelic covers. Vu tells her followers on TikTok, "I just want to let you all know that I’m back. I’m going to be annoying you all every single day until I get bored."

Etu

Fijian American artist Etu is ready for the new era of the island industry, which is expanding far beyond island reggae and into different genres. "We got artists who do pop, R&B, and country. We’re going to embrace the things we bring into this," the island pop singer told Island Mongul.

Inspired by artists like Ed Sheeran, John Mayer, and Fiji, etu's hypnotic and haunting vocals fuse beautifully with traditional island music. The dreamy track "Au Domoni Iko" ("I love you" in Fijian), from his 2022 EP Spring Break, lays smooth harmonies over Fijian beats. The EP itself is filled with memorable melodies, upbeat pop styles, and uplifting lyrics. 

Etu has released singles for the past two years, including island renditions of Cyndi Lauper’s "True Colors" and Rihanna’s "Lift Me Up" in February. He’s set to release his debut album, SZN I,this summer. 

Etu believes Pacific Islanders are on the cusp of greatness in the music industry. "This is our moment right now," he continued to Island Mogul. "We’re moving into this era, in this season, where we get to make history… Come join this part of history or they're gonna tell it for us."

Myra Molloy

Thai American singer and actress Myra Molloy was merely 13 years old when she won "Thailand's Got Talent." She continued working in Thailand on Broadway productions and landed in the Top 6 of ABC’s Rising Star. As she pursued a music degree from Berklee College of Music, she found her love for music production and songwriting.

In 2021, Molloy dropped the sweet acoustic "stay." During the pandemic, she decided to apply the skills she acquired from college to her EP, unrequited. Released in November 2023, the album blends Molloy's soulful vocals with organic and electronic dance beats. It also marks her producing debut. 

"The hardest part for me was overcoming this impostor syndrome that I couldn’t be a producer (who was taken seriously, haha)," Molloy told Melodic Magazine. "Or that I wasn’t good enough to put out music I self-produced. I always give myself a hard time. But I feel like once I got into this "flow state," things just kind of came to me very quickly and naturally, and I would come out of a producing trance. Top ten best feelings."

As an AAPI advocate, Molloy has long called for more inclusion in television, film, and music. "I just want to see more. We are coming along slowly, but I want that to be faster. It should be more. I just want to see people taking more initiative." 

Shreea Kaul 

R&B singer Shreea Kaul embraces her Indian heritage by fusing her silky falsetto and soulful pitch with South Asian and Bollywood sounds. Her "Tere Bina" and its accompanying music video are heavily influenced by her cultural upbringing.

Kaul wanted to be a crossover artist for Western and Indian audiences but found the lack of foundation for South Asian music challenging. 

"There's so much power in community, especially in the South Asian community. We stick together. We support one another. The talent is undeniable. It's only a matter of time before people are going to catch on," she said on the "DOST" podcast. "What a lot of platforms are doing right now by bringing South Asian talent to the map is exactly what we need. So I've been trying to get myself into these spaces or just be around the community more because that's what it's going to take."

On her 2021 single "Ladke" (Hindi for "boys"), Kaul contacted fellow South Asian singer REHMA to collaborate on the song. The harmonious R&B track smoothly fuses Western elements with South Asian languages. Kaul received an overwhelmingly positive response for the song, which motivated her to keep going.

"There’s a spot in the market for artists like myself—for South Asian artists, in general," says Kaul. "Whatever degree of South Asian you want to be and incorporate into your music, there’s space for it."

ZHU

Chinese American experimental EDM music producer ZHU recorded his fourth studio album inside the historic Grace Cathedral. Released in March and fittingly titled Grace, it blends trap, gospel, dance, rock, and pop with synths, organs, and strings to create a sinister, sensual tone that perfectly complements his signature sultry vocals.

Grace pays homage to the legacy of the Bay Area and its impact on his life. "The recording of this project, as well as the whole purpose and design and visuals, has a lot of tribute to [San Francisco] thematically. I think a lot of people don’t even know that I grew up there," ZHU told EDM Identity.  

At the end of the recording, ZHU and his team donned black cloaks and held a concert in the cathedral, sharing the new album with thousands of lucky fans who could attend. Like the symbolism of the cathedral, ZHU’s album represented the themes of religion and his connection to home.

"I’ve never really shared a part of the city, but I think it’s time to pay some tribute to some of the great influences that have come through the area," says ZHU

Leap Into AAPI Month 2024 With A Playlist Featuring Laufey, Diljit Dosanjh, & Peggy Gou

AAPI Month Playlist 2024 Hero
(From left) ATEEZ, YOASOBI, Peggy Gou, Kanon of Atarashi Gakko!, Diljit Dosanjh, Laufey

Photos: KQ Entertainment; KATO SHUMPEI; Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images; Medios y Media/Getty Images; Presley Ann/Getty Images for Coachella; Lauren Kim

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Leap Into AAPI Month 2024 With A Playlist Featuring Laufey, Diljit Dosanjh, & Peggy Gou

Celebrate AAPI artists this May with a genre-spanning playlist spotlighting festival headliners and up-and-coming musicians. From Korean hip-hop to Icelandic jazz-pop, listen to some of the most exciting artists from the Asian diaspora.

GRAMMYs/May 1, 2024 - 02:47 pm

With spring just around the corner, it’s time to welcome AAPI Month in full blossom. From rising musical artists to inspiring community leaders, it’s essential to recognize AAPI members of the artistic world and their achievements.

While AAPI Month is a U.S. holiday, the Recording Academy takes a global approach in celebrating artists and creators from across the Asian and Asian American diaspora. This aligns with the Recording Academy's growing mission to expand its reach on a global scale and celebrate international creators outside of the U.S.  

Musicians of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander heritage have not only helped establish the music industry, but have transformed it. From Diljit Dosanjh being the first artist to play a Coachella set entirely in Punjabi to Laufey winning a GRAMMY for her jazz-inspired pop, AAPI artists continue to influence music by both honoring tradition and reshaping modern standards.

It’s thrilling to see AAPI musicians continue to take centerstage — from Atarashi Gakko! to Tiger JK’s memorable sets at Coachella, to surprise appearances from Olivia Rodrigo, Dominic Fike, and Towa Bird. As festival season gets underway, examples of the AAPI starpower from every corner of the world abound.

As one of many ways to celebrate AAPI Month, listen to the GRAMMY.com playlist below — as a reminder to give AAPI musicians not just their May flowers, but their flowers all year-round!

Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

Looking for more GRAMMYs news? The 2024 GRAMMY nominations are here!

He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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