Over the least few years I have been asked one particular question by many people many times: “I have noticed that you work with many Asian people; “Why?” And yes, I have also heard some of the reasons from others as to why I do work with Asians, the most common being to meet Asian women. Regarding this “reason”, I have only one comment: I have a high regard for and attracted to all women, regardless of the shape of their eyes, the color of their skin or the straightness of their hair! And as no single race has a monopoly on maturity, social etiquette and intelligence, I place a high premium on those who are well developed in those characteristics, only!
Hence, I thought it to be appropriate to use this blog as the place where I can attempt to shed some light on the question which has been asked of me more than what kind of music do I like, why I “do” music in the first place or even quite simply, “How do I feel?”
The simplest answer to this question is . . . “Why not?” For example, two years ago a young lady’s escort made it a point to ask me why I worked with so many Asian people (including his company for the evening). I suppose it seemed an oddity to him that an African-American could be acquainted and work with those of his own race. And while I am sure that he, too thought I had an ulterior motive (i.e.: women), I took this opportunity to share with him an incident which occurred some years ago in the hopes that it would shed some light on this matter.
I once visited an old friend’s sister who at the time was living with her parents. She was the sister of a saxophone player with whom I had worked with in the past who also at one time had aspirations of being a singer. During this visit I had the opportunity to meet both my friend and his sister’s father for the first time. Upon learning that I was a musician, he happily told me that he was at one time a musician who had played with many jazz bands in his youth. When I asked him why he stopped playing, the smile in his face turned into a frown as he began to explain how both he and his band could not get consistent work because they were all of Asian decent. With a certain sense of pain, he told me that no one would hire his band because they did not think that a group comprised of Filipinos could “really” play jazz and the blues. He continued to explain how the booking managers would simply look at their faces and “pre-judge” (i.e.: “prejudice”) both their abilities and intent to play the music which they had come to sincerely love: American Jazz and Blues. Hence, to make a livelihood for themselves both my friend’s father and his band mates were forced to find other non-musical jobs to “keep food on the table and a roof over their heads”. He then began to smile as he proudly declared that although those incidents of the past had soured his outlook on the music business, he shared his love of music with his children – All of whom learned to play an instrument, sing or both. At the end of our conversation, he wished me good luck and quietly walked back into his house.
Although I have not seen my friend, his sister or their father for years, I never forgotten that afternoon. Why? Because he was not a Caucasian or African American, the people who could have made the difference (i.e.: booking managers, promoters, club owners, etc.) based their judgement on what they saw way before the first note of music could be sounded or the first song played. And because of their disbelieve that (in this case) Asians could play “play jazz or the blues” with conviction, the musical notes they were dying to play were never heard.
As an African American, I, too have heard stories through the years about how “others” felt that African-Americans could not, for example, fly an airplane (The Tuskegee Airmen; Whoops!), have the qualifications to hold the high elected positions in this country (President Barack Obama; Whoops!), think, reason and rationalize concepts of higher order and intelligence (Physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson; Whoops!), know the difference between right and wrong (Justice Thurgood Marshall; Once, again – Whoops!). And because of those same uneducated and ignorant perceptions, those of my race were also denied the opportunity to show the world otherwise . . . just like my friend’s father. I also thought to myself how many people whom I have met assumed that I, too, am a Rap or Hip Hop artist or how once a relative suggested that I should focus on Rap and Hip Hop instead of Jazz because “That’s where the money is!” And finally I thought about those who still believe that in the 21st century African Americans only excel at sports and music on the positive side and crime and laziness on the negative side.
Why do I work with “so many Asians”; Simply put 1) Because the people I work with share the same musical interests in Jazz, Bossa Nova and R&B, 2) They have shown an appreciation for the same music which I am afraid at times is taken for granted by the same people who originated the form in the first place, 3) they have all treated me with dignity, kindness and respect, 4) My first reply above is still quite appropriate: “Why not?”, 5) If I were to discriminate against others as those in my race have been, then I am no better those those who would discriminate against others of my race, thus also making me also a hypocrite in the process and 6), It gives me the opportunity to be better than those who discriminated against my friend’s father, my father and his father.
To sum it all up . . . It is simply about the music!