Celebrating Asia Night at U-Mass

Joy Chan ’14
Web Editor

On April 6, UMass, Amherst celebrated this year’s Asia Night 2013: Year of the Snake at the UMass Fine Arts Center. Cambodian-American rapper Lil Crazed (real name: Alexander Ou) and Korean-American singer Clara C (of YouTube fame) jointly headlined this year’s event. Past headliners include WongFu Productions in 2011 and Tim Be Told, Justkiddingfilms and Model Minority in 2012.

The two-hour plus free concert opened with an elegantly performed ancient Chinese dance by the Mount Holyoke College Chinese Dance Club. The dance highlighted the rich cultural history of different ethnic minorities within China, in particular the Dai people from Yunnan Province.

Jhumka, another dance group from Mount Holyoke, gave a highly stylized, coordinated performance that served as a South Asian foil to the dance previously performed by the MHC Chinese Dance club. The group is a multi-talented act with a repertoire that includes “South Asian classical, pop, film and folk styles with ballet, jazz, hip hop and other western genres.” The name of the group itself derives from a traditional ornament worn by women of the region and is a symbol of “femininity, maidenhood and grace.”

From UMass there were dance performances by Sigma Psi Zeta Sorority, Inc. and the DBJ Dance Crew, which were spectacular in their reproductions of dances by various K-Pop groups.

Jamyang Tenzin and Namkha Norsang went on stage next, with Tenzin on the guitar while Norsang sang three separate, haunting but lovely songs in Hindi, Nepali and Tibetan. Though one might not have understood the meaning of the lyrics, the emotions of the song were not lost in translation. Norsang’s wonderful, warm voice went well with the tonal qualities of the songs the pair chose to perform.

Cole Hermida and Victoria Lee were another singing pair, who performed duets. A sweet couple themselves, Hermida and Lee harmonized extraordinarily well together. Zan Yang, also known as Mr. “Shanghai Night,” also came onstage, singing “Yan Hua Li Leng” while playing the er hu, a traditional Chinese instrument.

One of the most powerful performances of the night was by recent UMass alumnus Yevin Roh. The topic of his spoken word poetry this year was the plight of Asian-American men searching for identity in America. The problems plaguing many Asian-American men extend far beyond the obvious racial stereotypes – problems that are rarely discussed in either academia or the mainstream media. Roh successfully exposed such issues and further affirmed his fellow Asian-American men in their struggles to find self-worth and identity through self-love and acceptance.

A family man currently residing in Minnesota, Lil Crazed first tried to raise the roof with high-energy songs, but what truly touched the hearts of the audience was “Tick Tock” featuring Andrew Garcia. Inspired by the death of a young acquaintance of Lil Crazed, the song discussed the tragic effects of rampant cyber bullying among teens. The song can be purchased from iTunes and all profits will be donated to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center.

Last but not least came an exquisite musical performance by the bubbly Clara C, along with Ken Belcher as a fellow guitarist and backup vocalist. Performing a mix of original compositions as well as covers of current popular music, Clara C stunned the audience with her soulful voice. Her creative cover of the number one hit single “Thift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz was quite possibly the most memorable performance of the night. Comfortably interacting with the audience, Clara C exuded stage presence and energy.

This year’s success proves yet again that Asia Night remains one of the most important cultural fixtures in the Five College community. Not only does the annual event showcase traditions of underrepresented minorities, it also raises awareness on issues that continue to plague many Asian-Americans today, including the invisibility of such issues in mainstream media outlets.

Asia Night is a free annual event hosted by the Asian American Students Association at UMass Amherst, with special thanks this year to ECSA, YKCC, SIA and Lydia Washington.

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