Tuesday, September 12, 2006

rock the minorities!!!

As my band gears up to record our upcoming album, tenatively titled "It's Not Worship Music, It's Worse Hip Music," I started to think about the lack of ethnic diversity in rock music. This notion was also identified in Base 001's interview with Thursday guitarist Steve Pedulla. Though comic in nature, writer Justin Beck (also of Glassjaw notoreity) did bring up an interesting statement:

"I’ve come to realize the reality of the situation and that [ethnic] guys like you, me and Eddie Reyes are just being pushed to the back of the metaphoric bus that is rock and roll."

In the full context, it's quite funny, and yet there's more than a grain of truth to this idea. Are we, ethnic rockers, really second place to our white American counterparts?

Having played music for quite sometime, I'm more than happy to report that my ethnicity has never been an issue. It's never been the sole reason of why I've been included or excluded from bands. In fact, it became more of an inside joke -- to overplay the fact that I've almost always been the lone person of color in a hardcore or punk band. But when you become passionate about something like music, you search for people that you can look up to and people you can identify with. No disrespect to Ben Gibbard, but while the guy can write amazing narrative tunes, it's hard to see yourself in those songs when you've spent a good chunk of your life being branded as "the other" (I've got some great stories of racism) and the primary songwriter happens to be a white guy from suburbia.

I interviewed John Tran from Home Grown a few years ago and we discussed the lack of Asian-Americans in rock music, particularly the punk scene. While there are a few people like Tran, Mike Park, Teppei Teranishi from Thrice and Bill Uechi of Save Ferris, the genre still remains largely white.

Even in today's iPod shuffle age, when it's not out-of-the-question for a kid to have both M.F. Doom and Fall Out Boy mp3s, the visibility of non-white rock musicians are still nil. Is it related to the idea that any non-white person has to immediately identify with hip-hop and R&B? It's as if listening to Mineral or Death Cab for Cutie automatically emasculates you and whatever machismo is branded in your heritage.

I guess it's something that I never put too much stock into until I realized that I'm fronting a band and that I have a chance to say something and represent for the guys who have been pushed to the back. And though the reality is that we may never get some of that Fall Out Boy money or opportunity, I'm left to wonder if people will identify with what I have to say or if it's really all in my head.

[Related Links]
Afro Punk
Whole Wheat Bread
Mike Park
Killswitch Engage
Red Panda
Bad Brains


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