words: Balraj Bains
Music videos often look to other cultures for cues on aesthetic, hence Orientalism and the use of Asian culture by non-Asian artists has become normalised in Western culture. With people being left out of their own culture however, it poses the question as to whether, at this time, it is acceptable for artists to use other cultures at all – even if they may respect and understand them.
A wealth of Asian talent has long existed, from both the West and East, and thankfully, it is easier today than ever before to amplify authentic talent without the spotlight of mainstream media. Moreover, as the largest demographic in the world, it is empowering for people with heritage of a continent and so vast and diverse see representations of these cultures from which they are from. Here are five female Asian musicians who are showing the world that we are here and challenging stereotypes:
Vava is Chinese rapper who participated in the competitive Chinese hip hop show, The Rap of China. With the genre itself being popular with China’s youth in a country changing at a fast pace, Vava has brought forward the image of an empowering female artist. She raps about her own difficulties and has become an icon in Chinese rap culture.
The Indian-American, Raveena Aurora uses soulful dreamy music and visuals merging Indian and western influences. Collaborating with models of Indian descent in her music video for Honey, she brings a new and refreshing angle to Indian culture and its representation within the media.
Rina Sawayama brings pop vocals and techno imagery that challenges the widespread sound of R&B music. Born in Japan and growing up in London, she merges her own experiences for a pop sound and lyrics which are relatable for the digital generation. She draws on influences from Japanese musicians and songwriters which challenges stereotypes of a very exoticised cullture.
South Korea’s music scene is rich with talent in music and the arts. Heize emerged from the popular TV show Unpretty Rapstar and has gone on to rap and sing with many Korean hip-hop artists. Her streetwear styling is representative of the strong streetwear culture that is popular amongst the creative youth of the country and challenges the ‘ideal cute’ aesthetic.
Being the latest member to be added to Asian music group 88Rising, NIKI joins Rich Brian, Higher Brothers and Joji in bringing Asian musicians to the mainstream media. The Indonesian singer started as a YouTube musician and we hope to see more artists emerge from a vaster array of countries.
This introductory list would not be complete without Natasha aka Yoonmirae, who is considered to be one of the best female rappers in South Korea. She is of African-American and Korean descent and co-founded the label Feel Ghood Music. She raps fearlessly and has also talked about her experience as growing up mixed race in Korea.
With access to digital resources and international communication improving, the future of Asian music from the East and West will hopefully continue to grow and we will be able to see an even more diverse representation of empowering female Asian artists from a variety of countries and backgrounds.