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November 2009

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Oriental Music and Oriental People

I posted a version of this blog on The Slants' Myspace page this morning, but thought I'd share some more personal thoughts here.

Last night, we were at Lost Studios recording vocals again. We laid down Aron's vocals for "Astoria" and "The Pageantry," which we used to refer as "Har Gow," one of our favorite Dim Sum dishes. Aron's vocals came out great, you can tell how much he has grown as a singer and these songs in particular really showcase the depth and range of his voice.

While we still haven't decided on a name for the album yet, we've been tossing around a few ideas. The working title right now is "How the Wicked Live" (which is also the name of one of our songs). Aron recently thought "Oriental Music" would be funny, especially since a lot of people still use the term despite its negative connotations (sort of like how we decided to take on the term "Slant").

The reason why "Oriental" is often taken negatively is because it collectively refers to a group of cultural and national groupings of people who don't identify themselves as associated, which often leads to inaccurate assumptions of similiarity. "Asian" does something similiar, though Asians tend to accept this more because it refers to a land mass rather than just anything that is "Eastern." In other words, its more politically correct. Is there more to the story?

Sometimes, words change over time and gain or lose particular meanings and associations. For example, the term "Negro" essentially means the same thing as "African American" but is politically incorrect these days. Not only does the term "Orient" blanket several billion people (with over a hundred different distinct cultures, languages, and traditions), but it serves to forever alienate Asians as foreigners. Why? It's only from the East if you're from somewhere else.

Recently, some states made it illegal to use the term "Oriental" when reffering to anyone of Asian descent in legislation or state documents. New York pass this law in September and it goes into effect in 2010:
http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/09/law-bans-use-of-oriental-in-state-documents/

Like the world "Negro", "Oriental" isn't necessarily negative. But the two are similiar in that it refers to a time where Asians had a subordinate status. Note Asian American studies author Frank Wu says that it "conjures up an era." As our publicist Alex likes to say "Oriental is a rug, not a person."

What do you think about this? Are people becoming to obsessed with being politically correct or is this an important victory for the Asian American population that signifies our legitimacy for being in the United States?

Anyway, back to the recording note on the album title
After recording last night, I thought that "The Pageantry" could be a contender for an album name. It's defined as a "rich and spectacular ceremony" and the album artwork could reflect some of that, in a Slanted kind of way. I have a feeling that "Oriental Music" could spark up some more conversation, both good and bad (maybe being banned from more Asian events sponsored by the state). But at least it would bring more Asian American issues to the forefront again for people to think about.

Any other suggestions?

Finally, if you want to catch some live footage of our new material, we've got great videos from when we played at the Crystal Ballroom last Saturday. Wow, what an amazing show!!!
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