Marié Digby’s Colorful Pop Music Helps Launch JANM’s New Summer Night Concerts

Irish-Japanese American singer-songwriter Marié Digby is just one of the artists featured in JANM’s new Summer Night Concerts series, launching on July 30. Digby is a Los Angeles native who vaulted to fame after her acoustic cover version of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” went viral on YouTube. We conducted this email interview to learn more about her music and her perspective as an Asian American musician.

Marié Digby
Marié Digby
JANM: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?

Marié Digby: I would say it’s like an apple! The skin is vibrant and colorful, the meat of the fruit is storytelling and emotions, and at the core is pop music.

JANM: Who or what are your biggest influences?

MD: I’m a kid of the nineties so most of my biggest influences are bands and artists from that era. I grew up on Björk, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Poe. So many amazing artists!

JANM: What inspired you to do your own acoustic version of “Umbrella”?

MD: I had just started uploading cover videos on YouTube. I was always on the lookout for new songs on the radio—preferably, heavily produced songs that I felt still had an amazing core structure, which I could then break down to just vocal and guitar/piano. When I heard “Umbrella” in my car for the first time, I knew it would probably sound great stripped down.

JANM: There’s a wonderful quote in your bio: “I love watching people, and songs come out of that. When I have an experience that moves me, I can’t sit still until I’ve written the song.” Can you give us an example of an experience that moved you to write a song?

MD: What’s funny is, when I have a really positive/happy experience, I rarely feel like the first thing I want to do is sit down with my guitar and write a song! It always seems to be the more tragic, heartbreaking, soul-shaking events. As an example, I once wrote a song about all of the different people I’ve seen and met who pass through Los Angeles, in the hopes of becoming a star. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking to see the transformations I often witness. This city from afar is full of hopes and dreams but when you’re actually in it, it can really eat you up alive.

JANM: Do you identify as an Asian American artist? Or, put another way, do you feel that your identity as an Asian American influences your artistic practice, and if so, how?

MD: I absolutely do! When I first started out, I never considered the fact that my ethnicity might play an important role in my being an artist. When I started posting videos, I noticed that the majority of the comments were coming from Asians, in all different parts of the world! I love being half Asian. I am so proud to represent not only my Japanese culture, but a quickly growing group of hapa kids in America.

JANM: Besides JANM’s Summer Night Concert, do you have any exciting plans or upcoming gigs you’d like to tell our readers about?

MD: The most exciting project on my calendar right now is a new album I’m creating with Tom Rothrock, who produced my first album, Unfold. We’ll be working on it later this fall. It will be my first full-length independent release, after making four other albums with the help of record labels. But I believe with the help of my amazing fans, it just might be my best album yet!

Marié Digby will perform as part of JANM’s first Summer Night Concert on July 30, along with Priska and headlining act Magnetic North and Taiyo Na. Kogi BBQ, Arroy Food Truck, and Frach’s Fried Ice Cream will be on site, along with a beer garden sponsored by JANM’s Young Professionals Network. Join us again on August 27 for an evening with Paul Dateh, Mike Gao, and Go Yama. All concerts are FREE.

Vote for your favorite Nikkei+ Articles by December 20th!

Tani Mitsui Brown talks about her mixed heritage as Japanese-American and African-American, in her article, "A Hapa Girl in Vietnam."
Tani Mitsui Brown talks about her mixed heritage as Japanese-American and African-American, in her article, “A Hapa Girl in Vietnam.”

Discover Nikkei explores the Nikkei experience theme by theme and story by story through the Nikkei Chronicle series.

For the second year of the Nikkei Chronicles: Nikkei+ ~Stories of Mixed Language, Traditions, Generations & Race~we solicited stories that explore how Nikkei around the world perceive and experience being multiracial, multinational, multilingual, and multigenerational.

People around the world were invited to submit personal stories and essays, memoirs, and academic papers, in hopes that by sharing the multitudes of experiences, we could enhance our ability to better understand who Nikkei are. There are stories about war brides, food, such as fusion restaurants, and Oshogatsu traditions, architecture, mixed family stories, and of course, Hapa identity related stories.

In Chanda Ishisaka's article, "Diary of a Mad Hapa Judo Girl", Ishisaka recounts her experiences as a girl in judo, and her mixed heritage.
In Chanda Ishisaka’s article, “Diary of a Mad Hapa Judo Girl”, Ishisaka recounts her experiences as a girl in judo, and her mixed heritage.

All of the submissions are now published on Discover Nikkei, and there are just 11 days left to vote for your favorite Nikkei+ stories!

It will be a great opportunity to learn more about being Nikkei, and to support authors and their articles with your votes. The stories with the most Discover Nikkei “stars” will be translated into our site languages, and may even be published in our partnering publications in the US, Canada, and Latin America!

Asami Goto talks about Japanese American food culture - namely, Japanese food 's influence on the healthy-eating movement.
Asami Goto talks about Japanese American food culture – namely, Japanese food ‘s influence on the healthy-eating movement.

All you have to do is log in to Discover Nikkei and click on the “star” icon if you like a story. Vote for as many stories as you like. If you don’t have a Discover Nikkei account, it’s free & easy to sign up!

Get your votes in by December 20th, and we will announce the “favorites” before the end of the year!

Remember, every vote counts!

To access all of the Nikkei+ stories, please visit the Nikkei+ page.

Photos: courtesy of the authors 

1 week left to submit your NIKKEI+ story!

NIKKEI+ ~Stories of Mixed Language, Traditions, Generations & Race~

Deadline for submissions: September 30 @6pm (PST)

Do you use chopsticks and forks; mix Japanese words with English or Spanish; or celebrate the New Year’s Eve countdown with champagne and Oshogatsu with ozoni and other Japanese traditions?

There’s just 1 week left to submit stories about being Hapa, growing up in families with mixed generations, or mixing traditions.

All stories that meet the submission guidelines will be published on Discover Nikkei. Our online community’s most favorite stories will be translated into our site languages (English, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese) and may even ben published in our partnering Nikkei publications in the US, Canada, and Latin America!

Submission guidelines: http://5dn.org/nikkei-plus

* * * * *

Here are links to a few of the 12 stories published so far. After you’ve read them, “vote” for your favorites to help us select the stories to translate! Just log in to award your favorite stories a “star”.

Sushi & Salsa, Cactus & Bamboo by Dorothy Yumi Garcia
Documentary Explores Being “Hafu” in Japan by Susan Hamaker

 

 

 

 

Japanese and Jewish Food Come Home to Brooklyn by Tamio Spiegel
Ted Tokio Tanaka: Meeting Architectural Challenges with a Global Vision by Meher McArthur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read all of the stories published so far >>

Girl Scouts Return to JANM

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JANM School Programs Developer Lynn Yamasaki explains more about the treatment of Hapa children born in Japan after WWII.

 

We loved having local Girl Scouts come out again for our second annual Girl Scout Patch Program! This year’s program was all about identity, both on the individual and community level. We began the day with a tour of our exhibition Visible & Invisible: A Hapa Japanese American History (closing August 25th!). Lead by our School Programs Developer Lynn Yamasaki, the tour touched on the history of—and challenges faced by—mixed-race and mixed-roots Japanese Americans.

The tour was followed by a great discussion of some of the exhibition themes, like what it means to be Japanese in a rapidly evolving community. In the end, being Japanese  is about more than pure race, the scouts decided. Instead, Japanese American identity today  encompasses widespread cultural elements such as the ability to use chopsticks, a taste for sashimi (admittedly up for debate), and involvement in the community. On a more personal level, the girls discussed the many factors—from geography to heritage—that make up their backgrounds and shape their attitudes and behavior.

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Lynn leads a roundtable discussion with the scouts on what it means to be Japanese American today.

 

After the discussion, we moved on to expressing our identities in a more hands-on way—with the help of some paper doll templates and a vast array of supplies from the education closet! Each girl made a reflection of herself (and one mom joined in with a lovely family portrait), carefully selecting the portrait’s attributes and making each unique, from style of dress to life mottos.

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The scouts present their identity self-portraits…in paper doll form!

 

Photos by Richard Murakami

Nikkei+ ~ Stories of Mixed Language, Traditions, Generations & Race ~

logo-NIKKEI-PLUSBeing Nikkei today is all about diversity, from languages and traditions to generations and culture. This blend is part of what makes being Nikkei such a rich identity, not divided but instead enhanced by its many facets. So whether you mix Japanese and Spanish when speaking, or eat bacon wrapped hot dogs at obon, come share your story with us!

This year’s Nikkei+ ~ Stories of Mixed Language, Traditions, Generations & Race ~ focuses on how Nikkei around the world perceive and experience being multiracial, multinational, multilingual, and multigenerational. We want a diverse range of entries, so submissions can be anything from personal stories to academic papers, and much more! The pieces should fall into the range of 600-1,200 words and may be in English, Japanese, Spanish, or Portugese.

All stories submitted that meet the project guidelines & criteria will be published in the discover Nikkei journal section as part of the Nikkei+ series. Multiple entries per author will be accepted. In addition, each piece submitted to the Nikkei+ anthology will be eligible for selection as our readers’ favorites. The top favorites will be translated into all four site languages and published on Discover Nikkei, as well as possibly shared through participating Nikkei medias.

If you need inspiration, we’ve just started publishing a few of our submissions. Read Edward Moreno’s memories of his wife’s talent for multicultural cooking and then check out Gil Asakawa’s review of Japanese salsa.

The deadline to submit stories is September 30, 2013 at 6pm PDT.

For submission guides, more information, and even some questions to get you started, visit our website.

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Edward Moreno’s wife, Reiko, tasting items at a February 2011 luncheon. (Photo from Discover Nikkei – Edward Moreno)

Hapa Hoops: Hapas Can Jump Too

Hello there! My name is Kelly Gates and I am working in the Watase Media Arts Center here at the Japanese American Nation Museum as one of the 2013 Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Interns. I recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz majoring in Film and Digital Media. I have moved back home  for just the summer (hopefully). Now that I have been thrown into what people call the “real world” as I try to figure out what I want to do with my life. On to the real reason you’re reading this article…

 

“It was funny they were talking about nicknames and mine was ‘haole’ and mine was ‘big eyes’.” —Rex Walters

This past Saturday (June 22, 2013) the museum held the event “Hapa Hoops: Japanese American Basketball and Community with Rex Walters”. The event screened JANM’s own film Crossover (2000) followed by a conversation with former JA league player turned NBA player turned coach, Rex Walters and co-curator for the Visible & Invisible: A Hapa Japanese American History exhibition, Dr. Lily Anne Yumi Welty. Crossover is a short documentary on the ever growing and changing of the Japanese-American basketball community and leagues. The film was directed by a previous JANM employee and director of the four most recent The Fast & The Furious films, Justin Lin. The film address the history of the JA leagues by looking at how and why they started and goes all the way to the present day (well, 2000) structure of the leagues.

“When she [mom] got really mad at me or really mad about something she would call me a banana, ‘Oh you’re yellow on the outside but you’re white on the inside. You’re not really Japanese.” But it was all in good fun.” —Rex Walters

When it came time to have the conversation with Rex Walters and Dr. Lily Anne Welty, I could not help but feel like we were all in group huddle during halftime of a game. I played basketball on my high school team and he made me flash back to those memories. It was funny how Mr. Walters mentioned a past coach always giving motivational speeches and now here he was doing the exact same thing. I personally found Mr. Walters to be quite inspirational. He enjoyed playing for the San Jose Zebras and mentioned he liked the JA basketball league experience better than his high school basketball experience. Mr. Walters even admitted he was not the best player on the team and spent some time warming the bench, but look at how far he got. He played in the NBA and helped his team get into the Final Four and now he is the head coach at the University of San Francisco. Listening to his story, I regretted not playing basketball my senior year in high school and not trying to play in college. It was especially nice to see a fellow hapa person there, talking about his experience and his (what I would still call) a successful career.

“Basketball is just like anything else. It’s a way of bonding and teams just naturally bond. Whether you’re really good, really bad you kind of have to stick together, you have to come together.”

Visible & Invisible: A Hapa Japanese American History is on view through August 25, 2013. For more info about the exhibition >>

“kip fulbeck: part asian, 100% hapa” travels to Houston, TX

Our kip fulbeck: part asian, 100% hapa exhibition is now on view at the Asia Society Texas Center in Houston, TX through April 14, 2013.

Organized by the Museum with award-winning filmmaker and artist Kip Fulbeck, the exhibition features portraits of part Asian individuals taken by Kip, along with their handwritten statements in response to the frequently asked question, “What are you?”

The popular exhibition was on display here at JANM from June 8 through October 29, 2006 and has since traveled to New York, NY (2008); Chapel Hill, NC (2009); Chicago, IL (2010); and Portland, OR (2011).

For more information about the Houston presentation, visit Asia Society Texas’ website >>

We’re very excited that it’s going to Houston where it will be on display paired with the Smithsonian’s Portraiture Now: Asian American Portraits of Encounter exhibition which will be coming to JANM in May.

The Miracle Twins

In our overhyped, marketing-saturated modern world, calling two sisters “The Miracle Twins” probably brings out more cynicism than wonder out of most people today. But, if you want to hear a story that will truly amaze you and gladden your heart, then you need to learn about Isabel and Anabel Stenzel.

Born in Los Angeles to Hatsuko Arima and Renner Stenzel, two immigrants who met at a Rotary International meeting and eventually married, the sisters were quickly diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) after birth. CF attacks the lungs, filling them with mucous. The doctors told the Stenzels that the girls would be lucky to live for 10 years.

Remarkably (miraculously?), both made it to their 40th birthdays. Bright and determined, Ana and Isa endured difficult therapies, long hospital stays, family squabbles, and sibling rivalry while just trying to grow up like other young girls. Their father, a physicist, figured the odds of identical twins who were half-Japanese (CF is very rare in Japan) being born with CF was 1.8 billion to one.

Yet, the sisters both made it through high school and got into Stanford. One of them even played taiko. The girls, who were close to their obachan, who would make long visits from Japan to help care for them, invoke cultural values like gaman to handle the challenges of their lives. They are acutely aware that their condition could spell their end at any time.

On Saturday, June 30, both sisters will be on hand for a screening of a documentary, The Power of Two, set for the Tateuchi Democracy Forum at the Japanese American National Museum beginning at 1 p.m. It’s free. To RSVP for this event, please call: 213.625.0414 ex. 2218.

I encourage anyone who wants to share a truly amazing story of two sisters overcoming the odds to come to this program. Anabel and Isabel have a lot to share. Check out the web site for the film at http://www.thepoweroftwomovie.com/

 

Hapa exhibition closes Dec 31 in Portland, OR

There’s just 5 days left to go check out the traveling version of our popular kip fulbeck: part asian, 100% hapa exhibition at the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center in Portland, OR before it closes on Saturday, December 31!

The exhibition was originally on display at JANM in 2006 and has since traveled to New York; Chapel Hill, NC; and Chicago before its current stop in Portland.

Exhibit hours at the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center are Tuesday – Saturday 11 am to 3 pm, Sundays noon to 3 pm. Suggested donation for admission is $3 (free for Friends of Oregon Nikkei Endowment).

Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center
121 NW 2nd Avenue
Portland, OR 97209 Directions

Phone: 503.224.1458
Email: info@oregonnikkei.org

For more information about the exhibition, visit janm.org/exhibits/kipfulbeck.

The book on which the exhibition is based, plus other related items are available from the Museum Store.

Part Asian, 100% Hapa by Kip Fulbeck >>

Amy & Penelope Hill

Amy Hill’s “LOST AND FOUND, Life as I (K)NEW It” at JANM this weekend!

Amy Hill will be at the museum this weekend for 3 performances of her show, “LOST AND FOUND, Life as I (K)NEW It.”

Amy & Penelope HillOctober 1 @ 7 pm
October 2 @ 2 pm & 7 pm

Amy Hill explores how her life has evolved since her daughter became a part of her family. She talks about adoption, single motherhood, multiracial/transracial identity mash-ups and her continuing struggles to figure it all out in a humorous and honest way. Far from her days of flying solo, she has moved into a not so solo world: her daughter may or may not make an appearance.

Read our interview with Amy about the show:

Lost and Found: Amy Hill on Adoption and Identity
By Mia Nakaji Monnier

Watch a teaser of the show:

 

Purchase tickets >>

$15 Members, Students, Groups (10+), Seniors
$20 non-members

*Special: $5 families who have adopted. For discount rates, email Koji Steven Sakai at ksakai@janm.org for password!