A comprehensive playlist of the music of Los Angeles would have to include film scores, cool jazz, surf bands, frat rock, folk-rock, Sunset Strip psychedelia, Chicano soul, country rock, hardcore punk, Paisley Underground, hair metal, gangsta rap, and G-funk. Lists of performers and bands associated with Los Angeles invariably include plenty rock groups, soul singers, and rappers — nearly all of whom are either black or white.
Even though Los Angeles is the world’s great Pan-Asian metropolis, where Asians comprise both the city’s largest and fastest-growing racial minority, they’re practically invisible from nearly every musically-related listicle generated by local bloggerss and weeklies. The result is that our colorful music history is effectively rendered in black and white. This being Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, however, I decided to do something about that.
I started by thinking about the Sooyoung Park‘s Ear of the Dragon — but for some of the nineteen Asian-American (and Canadian) bands on that seminal compilation, their entire recorded output seems to be limited to their inclusion on the album and in most cases they’re not from California. So this list is primarily drawn from my own admittedly knowledge with the addition to a few unfamiliar K-pop stars I found out about on Wikipedia.
I know there are loads more Asian-Angeleno musicians out there, because I’ve seen some of them performing at Jologs Fezt, the Lotus Festival, night markets, Songkran, and Tết; at Thai restaurants, on Paris By Night, on videos shot at La Lune, the annual Asian American Music Festival and elsewhere — and I’ve seen the stores selling instruments all over the San Gabriel Valley and North Orange County and think it’s fair to assume that they’re aren’t just for show. I know this can never be a comprehensive directory (I don’t even think that I’d want it to be — apologies to my fifteen year old neighbor who briefly took guitar lessons and learned that awful song by fun.) but of course additions and corrections are encouraged.
ANH DO (ANN DO) — THE TYDE
Anh Do (also known as Ann Do) formerly played keyboards in The Tyde, a band led by her then-husband, Darren Rademaker. The Westminster native and UCLA graduate joined the band in 1998 and remained until 2010. In 2004 and ’05, she also performed and toured with Gwen Stefani. She now co-owns IAMSOUND.
apl.de.ap — BLACK-EYED PEAS
apl.de.ap is the stage name of Allan Pineda Lindo, born in Angeles City, Pampanga, in 1974. He came to the US when he was fourteen and attended John Marshall High School in Los Feliz and apl.de.ap still gets his nails done nearby at Nails Station. He began rapping in 1988 in ATBAN Klann (ATBAN is an acronym for A Tribe Beyond a Nation) which evolved into the Black Eyed Peas, who themselves evolved from a backpack rap group into a mainstream pop act.
AMBER LIU — f(x)
Taiwanese-American vocalist Amber Josephine Liu was born 18 September 1992 in Los Angeles and went to highschool in Woodland Hills. Known professionally as Amber, she’s currently a member of Korean pop group f(x). She released her solo debut, the EP Beautiful, in 2015.
Anatalia Villaranda is a young vocalist who competed on the television series, The Voice and auditioned for American Idol. She’s from the Riverside Country town of Temecula.
BAO VO — MING & PING
Ming & Ping are an electronic pop duo, comprised of one person — Bao Vo. Vo began the project in San Francisco in 2002 before moving to Downtown Los Angeles. His debut, MingPing.com, was released in 2004.
Bei Bei He (荷蓓蓓) was born in Chengdu and began playing guzheng when she was seven. She studied guzheng performance in Central University of Nationalities in Beijing and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. After relocating to Los Angeles she continued to study at Azusa Pacific University, Citrus College, and Fullerton College. She released her debut, Quiet your mind and listen, in 2006. In 2008, she played guzheng on Richard Horowitz’s album, Heart of China. Bei Bei owns Hacienda Music in Hacienda Heights. In collaboration with muscian/producer Shawn Lee, she’s also released Into the wind (2010) and Year of the Funky (2017).
Charmaine Clamor is a Filipina jazz singer who interprets traditional Filipino songs. Clamor was born in Subic–Zambales, Philippines. She moved to the US when she was sixteen. She released her debut, Searching for the Soul, in 2005.
CHHOM NIMOL — DENGUE FEVER
Chhom Nimol was born in Cambodia and as a child lived in a refugee camp in Thailand. She won Cambodia’s Aspara Awards in 1997 and moved to the US in 2001. That year she joined Dengue Fever, a band who make pre-Khmer Rouge-style rock music, when members (including Dr. San) approached her after a solo performance in Cambodia Town.
Connie Han is a classical and jazz pianist born and raised in Los Angeles. She attended the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. She often performs locally with her own trio, the Connie Han Trio.
DemiVoix are a hard rock band comprised of Keith (vocals and keyboards), Karinne (guitar), Bon (drums), and Ronnel (bass guitar).
Dumbfoundead is the stage name of rapper Jonathan Park, born in Buenos Aires in 1986 and raised in Koreatown from the age of three. He attended John Marshall High School and released his first solo album, DFD, in 2011.
ELI KIM — U-KISS
Ellison “Eli” Kyong Jae Kim was born in Los Angeles in 1991 and is currently a member of K-pop band, U-KISS, where he performs the group’s raps.
EMILY’S SASSY LIME
Emily’s Sassy Lime was the first all Asian-American rock band, comprised of Wendy and Amy Yao, and Emily Ryan. They formed in 1993 and in 1995 they released their album Desperate, Scared But Not Social and appeared in the video for The PeeChees‘ “Mad Doctor.” They broke up in 1997 after which the Yao sisters continued making music and Emily Ryan starred in the film, Scumrock. Fliers for their shows were featured in the Orange County Museum of Art‘s Alien She exhibition in 2015. In 2016, a fanzine “focused on writings and artwork by and about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders” was launched, titled named Would Be Saboteurs Take Heed after one of Emily’s Sassy Lime’s songs.
Far★East Movement was formed in Los Angeles in 2003 by Kev Nish (Kevin Nishimura), Prohgress (James Roh), J-Splif (Jae Choung), and DJ Virman (Virman Coquia). They released their debut, Folk Music, in 2006. They had a number one hit with “Like a G6” in 2010, making them the first Asian-American group to top the charts.
FROM THE VALLEY
From the Valley are a Woodland Hills-based band comprised of Edizon Dia (guitar and vocals), Leonard Zipagan (guitars), Macky Domingo (bass), and Francis Nuega (drums).
Half Mute are an electronic duo comprised of Benjie Collantes (ex-Spiral Echo) and Deo Mendoza.
Hiroshima is an Asian-American Jazz group formed in Los Angeles in 1974 by Dan Kuramoto, (wind instruments and band leader), Peter Hata (guitar), June Kuramoto (koto), Johnny Mori (percussion and taiko), Dave Iwataki (keyboards), and Danny Yamamoto (drums). Their first vocalist was Nancy “Atomic Nancy” Sekizawa, later celebrated for her role in transforming Little Tokyo‘s Atomic Cafe into a popular punk and new waver hangout. All were born in Los Angeles except Kuramoto, who moved to Los Angeles at a young age from Saitama Prefecture. They released their self-titled debut in 1979. In the years since they’ve moved into smooth jazz and new age territory.
IAMMEDIC is a pop group formed in 2010 Enik Lin, formerly of Burning Tree Project. Lin soon added Danny Park, Andre Harris, and DJ Yup to the line-up.
IRITA PAI — L.A. WITCH
Irita Pai is the bassist and organist for the band, L.A. Witch, which formed in 2011. The band began with Pai on keyboards (she began piano lessons at the age of six) and bass (an instrument she picked up around 2009), Diana (drums and guitar), and Crystal (also on drums). Soon they found a vocalist with Sade Sanchez, who’d previously played in a two piece with current band drummer, Ellie English. They released their debut single, “Your Ways,” in 2012. Their debut, self-titled EP followed in 2013. Their self-titled debut, released by Suicide Squeeze, was released in 2017. The band also sell (and model) women’s clothing and accessories on their website, Kill My Baby Tonight.
JOHN LEE — aMINIATURE
Korean-American guitarist/vocalist John Lee formed aMiniature in San Diego by with bassist Colin Watson in 1990. The “a” in the band’s name is silent and was added to avoid confusion with a jazz combo named Minature. They disbanded in 1997.
Joanna Wang (王若琳) is a singer-songwriter and daughter of producer Wang Zhi-ping (王治平). She was born in Taiwan but raised in San Gabriel, where she attended Gabrielino High School. She released her debut, Start from Here, in 2008 – a double disc set including one disc of the songs sung in English and the other in Chinese. Although she began her career as a pleasant if fairly conventional jazz vocalist, she quickly evolved into a wonderful weirdo who seems to improbably draw upon early baroque, film scores, pico pop, and shibuya-kei in a way that manages to somehow evoke Jonathan Richman, Toog, and Wendy Carlos — all at the same time.
Joseph Vincent Encarnacion was born 1989 in Los Angeles. He began playing guitar when fifteen, covering the likes of mainstream pop singers Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz. He released his debut album, Blue Skies, in 2011.
Kin’s Betrayal are a heavy metal band from Buena Park. They formed in 2010 and are currently comprised of Alvin (vocals), Zadin (guitar), and CJ (bass guitar).
Lemona is a Los Angeles-based rock band comprised of Jazzie, Reden, and Leonard Zipagan; Jan Bersamira; and Dave Janiola.
Singer Lena Park was born Park Junghyun on 23 March 1976, in Downey. She’s currently based in South Korea. She began singing with her brothers Brian and Uriah in church and also learned saxophone and piano. Her debut album, Piece, was released in 1998.
LINDA TAN — MAYBE VULTURES
Maybe Vultures was an indie electronic band which formed around 2012 and was led by vocalist and keyboardist Linda Tan. The rest of the band was comprised of guitarist and drum machine programer Scott Crawford, drummer Mikey Rodriguez, and bassist Bryan Yassi. Their stated mission was “to dance and destroy.” They released a demo of three songs, including “Hollow,” “Never-do-Wells,” and “The Midnight Hour.” They also performed a couple of shows at Silverlake Lounge in 2012 but seem to have gone on hiatus shortly afterward.
Liu Qichao (刘起超) is a Los Angeles-based, Chinese born multi-instrumentalist associated with the Asian-American Jazz scene. He graduated from Shanghai Conservatory of Music. He’s collaborated with the Kronos Quartet, Jon Jang and the Pan Asian Arkestra, and the African Chinese Sextet. He also leads his own ensemble, Chi Music. He was married to guzheng player Zhang Yan (张燕), who died in 1996.
LYNDA TRANG DAI
Lynda Trang Đài was born Lê Quang Quý Trang Đài in 1968 in Vietnam and came to Orange County‘s then-emerging Little Saigon community in 1979. She was a popular singer in the Vietnamese-American community, where she was often described as the “Vietnamese Madonna,” making her recording debut with 1989’s “Crazy Love.” She was also a staple of the popular Vietnamese variety program, Paris By Night. She currently operates Lynda Sandwich, a Westminster bánh mì cafe.
Jazz vocalist Miki Saito moved from Tokyo to San Francisco in 1968, on a one year contract as a jazz singer. Shortly after, she moved to Los Angeles, where she regularly performed at Horikawa, the Biltmore and elsewhere. In 1987 she took over Akasaka, in Temple-Beaudry, and re-opened it as Dinner House M (the name a reference to her surname and that of her sister, Maya Yamate). Miki remained a regular presence at the bar, rarely but occasionally singing with a live band. We now live in an age where “izakaya” is used to describe every new, Japanese establishment but the legendary, otherworldly, Dinner House M actually deserved the description (although I never ate the food there). Sadly, the club closed in 2011, and the occasion was marked by a couple of live performances led by Miki.
MIMI STAR — MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT
Mimi Star is a rock bassist, currently performing with Chicago‘s long-running industrial dance act, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, which is led by the band’s co-founder, Julien Legay, whom she married in 2011. Star was born Mami Sato in Kurume, Japan and after finishing high school there moved to Los Angeles where she attended East Los Angeles Community College in Monterey Park. From 2000-2006 she played bass with Rayon, which was followed by a 2006-2010 stint with The Mere Mortals, and from 2009-2010, another with The Warlocks.
MARIQUEEN MAANDIG — HOW TO DESTROY ANGELS
Mariqueen Maandig was born in 1981 and became the singer of West Indian Girl in 2004. She left that band in 2009 after her engagement to Trent Reznor. In 2010, Maandig and Reznor formed How to Destroy Angels.
MARK YI-EN TUAN — GOT7
Taiwanese singer Mark Yi-en Tuan (段宜恩) is a member of Korean boy band Got7. Born in 1993 in Arcadia, he was scouted by an agent from JYP Entertainment and moved to Korea where he appeared on the television program, WIN: Who Is Next in 2013, before joining the boy band.
Saxophonist Michael Paulo began playing his chosen instrument at the age of fifteen and soon began playing around Hawaii, including in the band Kalapana. Paulo moved to Los Angeles in 1981 and played in the R&B group Rufus. In 1988 he released his solo album, One Passion.
MIKE SHINODA — LINKIN PARK
Michael Kenji Shinoda was born in 1977 in Agoura Hills, where he co-founded Linkin Park in 1996. In 2003 he formed Fort Minor. He’s also produced tracks for several rap artists and co-founded the music label Machine Shop Recordings. Additionally, several pieces of his art have been featured in the Japanese American National Museum.
Mr. Capone-E is a Pakistani-American sureño rapper, born Fahd Azam in West Covina. He began his recording career in 2000 and later founded Hi Power Entertainment, one time home to former Bone Thugs-N-Harmony members Bizzy Bone and Layzie Bone, as well as Chicano rappers including Mr. Criminal, Lil Tweety, and others.
NEW DAY IN AUGUST
New Day in August are comprised of Richie Del Rosario (vocals and guitars), Mike Abad (drums), Rx Aglibot (guitars and vocals), Badooo Morales (bass guitar), and Tolitz Rosel (keyboards). They made their live debut in 2006 in Filipinotown‘s Tribal Cafe as The Binary Project.
NICHKHUN HORVEJKUL — 2PM
Nichkhun Buck Horvejkul was born in Rancho Cucamonga in 1988. After completing high school he briefly coached the Rosemead High School badminton team. He joined K-pop band 2PM in 2008.
NICOLE JUNG — KARA
Nicole Yongju Jung was born in 1991 in Los Angeles and went to school in Glendale. She later moved to Korea and became a member of K-pop group, Kara, in 2007. In 2014 she embarked on a solo career, releasing her debut, First Romance, in 2014.
PAULINE MU — ALPINE DECLINE
Alpine Decline is a Beijing-based duo founded in Echo Park in 2010. Both members, Jonathan Zeitlin (vocals and guitar) and Pauline Mu (drums) were previously in the quartet, Mezzanine Owls. The band relocated to China in 2011.
Projec7 are a blues rock-reggae group founded in 2011 and comprised of Lee (bass guitar), Fin (guitar), EJ (saxophone) and Mason (drums).
RUN RIVER NORTH
Run River North formed as Monsters Calling Home in 2011. The line-up is comprised of Daniel Chae (violin, guitar), John Chong (drums), Joe Chun (bass), Alex Hwang (lead vocals), Sally Kang (keyboards), and Jennifer Rim (violin). They released their debut album, Run River North, in 2014.
SANDRA VU — SISU
Sandra “Sandy Beaches” Vu was born in Orange County. She played flute on Giant Drag‘s “Hearts and Unicorns” in 2005. She joined Midnight Movies and appeared on their second and final album, Lion The Girl. She began recording as Sisu and released the single, “Sharp Teeth” in 2010. She was the drummer for Dum Dum Girls from 2011-2015 but is now focused on Sisu.
SASAMI ASHWORTH — CHERRY GLAZERR
Cherry Glazzer are a Los Angeles band, the name of which is inspired by local public radio host, Cherry Glaser. The band are currently comprised of Sasami Ashworth (keyboards), Clementine Creevy (guitar and vocals), and Tabor Allen (percussion), the latter of whom previously played with Ashworth in Dirt Dress. Multi-instrumentalist Ashworth studied at the Eastman School of Music and in addition to her duties with Cherry Glazzer, has composed music for films and other projects.
The Squaaares are a trio comprised of Judy (vocals and bass guitar), Makris de Leon (drums), and Carloww (guitar).
STEVEN CHEN — AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT
Steven Chen joined rock band Airborne Toxic Event in 2006. They released their self-titled debut in 2008.
STEVE LEE — MANGCHI
SUE JIN KIM
Sue Jin Kim is an “acoustic soul” singer who has been performing live since at least 2006. She has often performed at Tuesday Night Project, in Little Tokyo, where she’s an associate artist. In 2008, she released her album, Worth the Tears. It was followed by I AM WORTHY, which was released in installments.
SUKI SAN — SECOND STILL
Second Still sound very much like early Cocteau Twins. As Garlands is my favorite record by the latter, I don’t hold that against the former. Guitarist Ryan Walker and bassist Alex Hartman met in Los Angeles in 2007 and in 2011 relocated to New York City (Brooklyn, more precisely). There they met vocalist Suki San, and formed Second Still in 2014. They relocated to Los Angeles in 2015 and the following year made their debut, with a cassette EP (naturally) in 2016.
SYNTH Heart are an electronic pop group founded in 2016 with the duo of Sharon Gagne and Elmo Ruiz.
TIFFANY HWANG — GIRLS’ GENERATION-TTS
Stephanie Young Hwang was born in 1989 in San Francisco and raised in Diamond Bar, here she attended Diamond Bar High School. In 2004 she joined K-pop bands Girls’ Generation-TTS and is currently based in Korea. She released her solo debut EP, I Just Wanna Dance, in 2016.
More biographical information needed for Acid Rain, Beyond Beowulf, Chhim Sreyneang, Choeun Oudom, Chhom Chhorvin, Colleen Deekan, Darany, Dariya, Echoes for Eons, Gabriela’s Karma, Hem Vannak, Jennifer Hwang of Meho Plaza, Jolida, Kavee Thongprecha, King Soriya, Lake Effects, Lim Molyna, Meas Somaly, Moose, Pedro Gil, Pillowcase 203, The Project B, Ram Roeun, Rithy, Riv3r, Romaly, Seventh Circle, Something Came Up, Sothy Eng, and Sok Srey Lalin.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, Boom: A Journal of California, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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