As Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is coming to an end, we wanted to spotlight a few AAPI musicians who are killin’ it.
Mitski is a Japanese-American singer-songwriter who has been making waves in the indie rock community since 2012.
Mitski attended Purchase College’s Conservatory of Music where she studied studio compositions. She self-released her first album, Lush, in 2012.
She released her first studio album, Bury Me at Makeout Creek, in 2014. The album represented a sonic departure from Mitski’s classical piano background, exchanging it for raw, impulsive guitar. The album was well received, with Pitchfork calling it “inventive and resourceful.”
Her fourth album, Puberty 2, was released in 2016 to widespread acclaim from critics. The lead single, Your Best American Girl, was named the13th best song of the 2010s by Rolling Stone.
In 2018, she released her fifth album (she’s prolific!) called Be the Cowboy.
Since 2018, Mitski has collaborated with the experimental band Xiu Xiu on the song “Between the Breaths.”
She also began incorporating choreography into her live performances inspired by Butoh, a form of dance theater developed in post-war Japan.
Here are a few of her biggest hits:
Yo-Yo Ma is an American cellist who has received international acclaim.
Ma was born in Paris to Chinese parents. He moved to New York City as a child and was quickly recognized as a prodigy, performing at the age of four and a half. He performed for presidents Eisenhower & JFK at seven years old (!!!).
Ma attended both Juillard School and Harvard University. He gained fame and performed with many of the world’s major orchestras.
Over the course of his nearly 60 year career, Ma has been featured on soundtracks for movies such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and many more.
He has over 90 albums, 18 of which received Grammy Awards.
Yo-Yo Ma was named Peace Ambassador by the UN, was a founding member of the influential Chinese-American Committee of 100, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.
Ma is known for his eclectic style, pulling inspiration from Baroque, American bluegrass, traditional Chinese melodies, and more.
He’s collaborated with artists such as Carlos Santana, James Taylor, and Bobby McFerrin.
Here are a few of his most influential performances:
Japanese Breakfast is the solo musical project of American musician Michelle Zauner.
Zauner was born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in Oregon. She attended Bryn Mawr College where she fronted the indie pop band Post Post. Later, she started the Philly-based emo band Little Big League.
She began her solo career in 2014, recording samples of music as a meditative exercise after the loss of a family member.
In 2016, Zauner released her first album as Japanese Breakfast called Psychopomp. Her second album, Soft Sounds from Another Planet, was released in 2017 to widespread acclaim. A.V. Club said of the album: “There’s a confidence and crispness to Soft Sounds that shows just how fully realized Zauner’s formerly homemade experiments have become.”
Zauner released the single “Be Sweet” this past March.
Jubilee, her third Japanese Breakfast album, was released on June 4th, 2021.
Zauner’s artistry has been recognized by many. Pitchfork has said that “her voice shines over melancholic arrangements, evoking Pacific Northwest indie rock as much as shoegaze.”
Zauner has said that she hopes her work can influence other Asian-Americans to be involved in music.
Here are a few of her biggest hits: