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At Home In The World
Asian Canadian Music

  • At Home in the World: Asian Canadian Music
  • At Home in the World: Asian Canadian Music

At Home In The World

Spoiler: Many of these pages are linked to video and audio samples of the performances. Enjoy!

As Asian Canadian musicians aspire for self-expression, they are also sensitive to their Asian Canadian cultural heritage. Their music is unique, capturing their quest for self-expression as well as their response to ethnic cultural traditions. Award-winning, Hong Kong-born Canadian composer Alice Ho is acclaimed for her distinctly individual style and organic flow of imagination. She has written in many musical genres and received numerous national and international awards including the 2013 Dora Mavor Moore Award Outstanding Original Opera for her opera Lesson of Da Ji and Glistening Pianos for two pianos (Centrediscs label) nominated for the 2015 JUNO Award Classical Composition of the Year. Kiran Morarji presents pure Indian Classical tabla, taking the challenge to present the purest form of tabla through expression of self. Lee Pui Ming plays music of her own creation that is filtered through the mind, hands and voice of an uncommonly fearless artist determined to make her own way in the musical world. Her music is about transcending the myriad of genres, niches and pigeonholes that can trap musicians.

Music by Asian Canadians is inspired by the history of Asian Canadians. Professor Chan Ka Nin, who has also won numerous national and international awards, is known for his opera, Iron Road, which won the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Musical in 2001. Some Asian Canadian composers like Kan have also built their own musical instruments. He constructed a six-foot instrument called "Parlour" to represent a spider's web, a symbol of defining moments in one's life, which featured in his 2010 chamber work The Consequential Web of Life. Likewise, Ganesh Anandan is a percussionist, composer, improviser and instrument builder, who built the electric six- and 12-string Shruti Stick, a cross between a Zither and a Prepared Guitar, and wrote music for his new instruments.

Asian Canadians are definitely talented musicians and great performers. Pianist Dr. Christine Mari Yoshikawa was acclaimed as a pianist of "pure power" (South Bend Tribune), "radiant lyricism, elegance and warmth" (The Observer) and her performances as "a fine balance of sensitivity and virtuosity" (Minami Shinbun, Japan) in her wide-ranging concerti and recital repertoire from Bach to Xenakis. Multiple award-winning pianist Dr. Minna Re Shinhas excited and captured the hearts of audiences around the world with her virtuoso technique, mature artistry, stage personality, and rare sensitivity. Critics have raved her performances as "intense," "inspiring" and "powerful."

One would expect the exotic and the ethnic. The Asian Canadian artists are keen to bring ethnic Asian art forms to Canada. Jeng Yi, a Korean drum, dance and music ensemble based in Toronto, perform an exciting and dynamic repertoire of original compositions and dance works as well as traditional pieces. They perform the dances with the sangmo, a ribboned hat.

Asian Canadian musicians are strategically positioned to connect Canada to various traditional Asian cultures on the one hand, and to the world on the other. They travel to other countries as cultural ambassadors. Anna Guo leading her Dunhuang Chamber Ensemble develops and promotes fine Chinese chamber music, creating new forms and styles, and enhancing the communication between eastern and western cultures. Pipa artist Yadong Guan established the first string band in Quebec that works in an East-meets-West style. The group, comprised of local musicians, successfully merged Pipa and its music with western musical instruments and repertoire. Gauri Guha is an established and highly acclaimed professional North Indian classical vocalist who travelled around the world each year to teach, perform and deliver numerous presentations. Narendra Datar, a teacher and a performer of Hindustani (North Indian) classical music, has performed world-wide, is also a composer. His composition includes aproject entailing the musical setting of a series of devotional songs, based on texts by Mr. Kishan Varma of Halifax. Multi-lingual Lucille Chung has been heralded as an impassioned and refined concert pianist. She has performed worldwide. Kiran Ahluwalia explores the language of the heart through ghazals and Punjabi folk songs. Her music reflects her on-going quest to bring the ghazal style into a modern and global context while maintaining a seamless through line from its storied beloved past. Zameer, a world-class pop/rock singer/songwriter of South Asian origin, was influenced by bands like Wham and N'Sync, Metallica and Alice In Chains. Award-winning multi-instrumentalist, Yiannis Kapoulas is an artist that continues to break new ground with his infectious blend of ethno-fusion, World Instrumentals, a unique sound that runs the gamut of influences from Latin, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Jazz, Classical and Funk.

And don't miss the Asian-Canadian bands! Little Empire aspires to unite a universal community through paying homage and expressing their love and dedication to both Canada and the Tamil Eelam. Its three members use music to deliver messages that are positive and encouraging in nature, while simultaneously denouncing deviance and violence. The hugely popular Bilz and Kashif deliver unique commercial urban/pop music straight out of Montréal. Their smash international singles, 2 Step Bhangra and Spanish Fly dominated radio waves across Canada and internationally. Other artists are actively bridging traditional ethnic music with the world here and now. JoSH's Rupinder (Rup Magon) and Q (Qurram Hussain) combine vocals, compositions, poetry and lyric writing, percussions, tablas, and dholkis for a unique sound. Raging Asian Women is a diverse collective of East and Southeast Asian women carrying on the North American taiko drumming tradition and promoting social justice while making music.

Would you like to learn more about traditional Asian musical instruments such as the Indonesian Gamelan? Click here for the Giri Kedaton Balinese Music Ensemble, the only Canadian gamelan to perform on a five-tone gong kebyar ensemble.

For Asian Canadian children and youths born in Canada, or who arrived at Canada at a very young age, how can they learn more about the music associated with their Asian roots? See how Hasheel Lodhia, whose parents came from a South African society rich in Hindu culture and traditions, developed a passion for East Indian music, art and dance.