Article By: Lisa Occhino
Photos Contributed By: Aries Deng
On October 24th, the Asian Club at Berklee put on the first-ever Asian Culture and Music Festival. The event was held at the BPC, and showcased both traditional and contemporary Asian music while celebrating the cultural diversity at Berklee.
Aries Deng, a second semester student at Berklee and president of the Asian Club, organized the festival because she felt there was a void that needed to be filled: “I’ve attended a lot of cultural festivals about Latin music, Caribbean music, African-African music, etc., but I couldn’t find anything related to Asian music,” Deng explains. “Also, I want to show Berklee people, or even people in Boston, how amazing Asian music is, and break the stereotypical image of Asian music – Japanese Koto and Chinese Erhu. Fortunately, everyone wanted to help make it happen, so I decided to put on the festival.”
As Deng had hoped, the show totally defied my expectations — I had thought all of the performances were going to be traditional Asian pieces. They did a great job of fusing Eastern and Western music and culture, and presented it in a way that was both visually and aurally appealing for all members of the mixed-nationality audience.
Throughout the festival, I couldn’t help but think how representative it was of this new, 21st century melting pot generation fueled by globalization. “Most of [the Asian students at Berklee] grew up learning Western music in an Eastern background – it’s a very interesting combination. I was one of them,” says Deng. “I feel like for Asian musicians, Eastern music is inside of us; it’s nature. But with many years of study, western music becomes our strength. I think using the strength that we already have with a good understanding of Eastern music, we can deliver the best to people.”
I loved that I could get a taste of different parts of the world without even having to cross borders. The traditional pieces that were performed sounded completely authentic, and the J-pop tunes provided an upbeat, contemporary contrast.
However, as with coordinating any type of event, making the Asian Culture and Music Festival a success did not come without its share of challenges. “The most difficult part was the final rehearsal,” Deng admits. She ideally wanted to have one final rehearsal with all acts in attendance so everyone could get an idea of how the show was going to run, but with over 80 participants in the festival, it was nearly impossible to coordinate everyone’s schedules. “Getting this many people together at once was not easy, so we had two rehearsals,” Deng explains. “The first rehearsal gave us a whole picture of the show, and we were able to go back and fix the little things. We timed the second rehearsal to make sure it didn’t run over. It was definitely beneficial for the show.”
Deng hopes to continue to celebrate diversity at Berklee by making the Asian Culture and Music Festival an annual event. “Although it was a lot of work and stress, we made it happen,” she says. “It was definitely meaningful. I am so honored that I could produce a show like this. Hopefully we can hear more Asian music on the Berklee campus in the near future!”