Skip to content What Is Asian American Music, Really?

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“Asian American” broadcast not just what they were, but what they stood for.

Following the lead of the Black Arts Movement, Asian American activists expanded their energy into artistic avenues, establishing their own cultural institutions and aesthetic priorities.

In 2018, NBC Asian America ran a year-end essay proclaiming that “Asian-American music shined”; tellingly, in this case “Asian American music” simply meant “music by artists who have Asian heritage”—anything from MILCK’s empowerment anthems to songs off Drake’s Scorpion, produced by Filipino-American Illmind.

(And what about the songs that are not by Asian artists, but have become anthems for Asian American communities nonetheless?)

Over the years, I’ve come to wonder how Asian American perspectives might be better articulated holistically—especially considering that Asian instruments and musical styles have long been absorbed into Western music—and whether it’s possible to excavate a meaningful Asian American musical history at all.

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