Add To Your Rotation: The Music of Japan-based R&B/Pop Musician Crystal Kay

 

Already a star in her native Japan, the super cool R&B/pop singer Crystal Kay, who is of Korean and African American descent, is mounting her international attack with a brand new video for her song “Dum Ditty Dumb.” Find out more about Kay and how she’s ready to bring a different side of Japanese pop culture to the world in our Fall 2014 issue, coming soon.
Here, check out her music while she tells us about the inspirations behind some of her recently released English-language songs (including a teaser video with her collaboration with Far East Movement!).

 

“Dum Ditty Dumb”
“That is a very fun and crazy song that was inspired by the dope track my producer Jon Jon made. The energy had all of us coming up with these mad ideas, like throwing in Japanese and tribal-like rhythms with Japanese shamisens in the background. The beat drop felt crazy but sexy at the same time, so I wanted to write and sing something that was aggressive but sexy in a confident way.
“[Music video director Tani Ikeda] got my concept of “Yokohama Ratchet Pop” and how I really wanted to introduce and rep my Yokohama culture. She was able to incorporate that in such a cool and playful way by mixing 2D and animation, which was something that hasn’t been done before.”

 

Check out the behind-the-scenes video, as well as the final result, below.

 

 

 

 

“Busy Doing Nothing”
“I wanted to turn it into a loser boyfriend anthem — something we can all relate to, in a fun and playful way. The melody is so catchy. People would be singing along to it after hearing it just once.”

 

 

“Rule Your World”
“I’ve never really done a very sexy and dominant song. I’m coming to that stage as an artist, exploring and experimenting with my new sound.”

 

 

Far East Movement “Where The Wild Things Are,” featuring Crystal Kay
“We are label mates in Japan in the Universal International label, and we wanted to see what would happen if we worked together. I was already a fan before I met them. After we met, we all just clicked! I love how we’re all Asian which made it feel even more like family.”

 

Check out the teaser video below.

 

 

Video of the Day: Tiny Toddler & Her Gentle Giant

 

If you’re looking for something to make you smile and warm your heart, then you’ve come to right place. We’ve just found the newest member to our list of Adorable Asian Babies, and she’s brought a friend!

The gentle giant’s name is Simba and he’s a 2-year-old Tibetan Mastiff. Because of the breed’s large size, Tibetan Mastiff’s have historically been used as guard dogs. This does not appear to be the case with Simba however, who seems to resemble a pillow or a soft playground more than anything else.

The tiny human playing with (or shall we say on top of) Simba is Weiwei. Undaunted by Simba’s large size, Weiwei seems perfectly comfortable lounging on top of and cuddling with the gentle giant.

After the initial adorable gibberish, Weiwei begins singing popular Taiwanese song 爱笑的眼睛, which roughly translates to “loving and smiling eyes.”

Despite the little one sitting on him and talking away, Simba doesn’t seem to mind the company of his best friend. Check out the video below which has already begun to go viral and has reminded many viewers of the characters in My Neighbor Totoro.

 

 

 

 

To check out more Adorable Asian Babies, click here!
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NEW STUDY: Instant Ramen Linked With Heart Disease Risk

 

A recent American study is targeting one beloved South Korean food as a factor in one’s cardiometabolic risk for diabetes, heart disease or stroke: instant ramen noodles.

The Associated Press reports that the study was based on South Korean surveys (the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey IV) that looked at the overall diet patterns of more than 10,000 men and women ages 19 to 64. Two major dietary patterns were identified: the “traditional dietary pattern” (TP) of rice, fish, veggie, and fruit, and the “meat and fast-food pattern” (MP), rich in meat, soda and processed foods.

Those who followed the MP diet, which includes instant noodles on its food chart, were associated with an increase in abdominal obesity, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels — all potential triggers for heart disease and diabetes.

 

Women, in particular, who ate instant noodles at least twice or more a week were associated with a higher prevalence of metabolic syndrome. This association was not found in men, and Dr. Frank B. Hu, a Harvard professor of nutrition and epidemiology as well as one of the researchers behind the U.S. study, says this might be because women keep a more accurate record of their diet or because postmenopausual women have higher sensitivity to carbohydrates, sodium and saturated fat, according to The New York Times.

Sodium is certainly one of the key ingredients in instant noodle packages and cups, and one serving of instant ramen exceeds South Korea’s recommended daily sodium intake by more than 90 percent, reports the Associated Press.

The results probably don’t come as a completely surprise to most instant ramen noodle-consuming folks. And it would take a superhuman amount of willpower to ban the comfort food from our diets completely.

 

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South Korean pitcher for the L.A. Dodgers, Ryu Hyun-jin in a commercial for a popular South Korean ramen. (Photo Credit)

For many South Koreans and Korean Americans, instant ramen noodles are a mainstay in their diets, and for myself in particular, the food is a nostalgic reminder of home and childhood. I distinctly remember the joy I felt every time I watched my mother crack an egg over bubbling ramen soup, mesmerized as it disappeared inside the broth, only to resurface in delicious clouds of creamy goodness. My brother and I would take advantage of those 10-for-$1 deals, crushing the noodles inside the packages, and coating the pieces with the seasoning for a delicious, crunchy snack. And, now much older, my brother will never leave California back to the East Coast without packages of ramen tucked snugly inside his suitcase, my mother’s gift symbolizing love and affection.

Needless to say, it may take more than a study to convince ramen-noodle lovers to join the noodle boycott.

Feature photo courtesy of Maangchi.

This story was originally published on iamkoream.com 

2006 vs. 2014: Which is Your Favorite Vanessa Hudgens Look?

 

When you think of Vanessa Hudgens, the bright-eyed Gabriella Montez from Disney’s High School Musical probably comes to mind. After all, this is when Hudgens skyrocketed into her success. But the first High School Musical came out in the early 2000′s and Hudgens has long since left her Disney days behind her.

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Once the High School Musical franchise was officially over, Hudgens threw away her cutsie, innocent look (along with many articles of clothing) for her role in Spring Breakers. In the film, Hudgens plays Candy, a “dangerous” party girl who spends the bulk of the movie engaging in reckless behavior. Let’s just say, it’s not very Disney-appropriate.

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Despite the drastic difference between her character in HSM to her character in Spring Breakers, her (arguably) biggest change came with her role in Gimme Shelter. Hudgens plays Agnes “Apple” Bailey,  who is abused by her mother and abandoned by her Wall Street father. Pregnant and alone, Apple ultimately finds compassion in a stranger, who takes her in at a suburban shelter for homeless teenagers.

Hudgens was praised for her commitment to looking the part and was found nearly unrecognizable. She reportedly lived for weeks in pregnancy shelters, interacting with the young, homeless mothers who also appear in the movie, to prepare for her role.

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And now we reach present day. Recently, Hudgens was on the cover of Flaunt magazine showing off a very mature side of herself.  With short hair, enticing red lips, distressed jeans and a white crop top, Hudgens simply defines sophisticated sexy.

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Clearly, we must commend Hudgens on her incredible versatility and effortless ability to transition from look to look. So tell us. Which look is your favorite? 

Tokyo Street Style: Midi-skirts

 

For those of us more timid about trying some of this season’s miniskirt variations, take a cue from these stylish Japanese women and opt for mid-length or midi-skirts. It’s a fairly laid-back trend compared to some of the more highly stylized genres within Japan’s modern street fashion world, but easily accessible in U.S. stores for the upcoming fall. How can we work the midi-skirt into our closet staples? You can find everything from classic A-lines to figure flattering pencil styles with contemporary detailing to amp up your fall wardrobe. Try taking a more fearless stance with bold footwear, interesting color pairing, or unique tops like the following women, whose adventurous nature can be seen in their clothing choices. Though their outfits may not fall into any specific category within Japanese fashion subcultures, it’s personal preference that makes each stand out.

 

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Image Courtesy of happyfuntimeblog.tumblr.com

mskirt 2

Image Courtesy of Tokyofaces.com

 

Image Courtesy of happyfuntimeblog.tumblr.com

Image Courtesy of happyfuntimeblog.tumblr.com

 

Image Courtesy of Ridsnap.com

Image Courtesy of Ridsnap.com

 

 

Looking to add a midi-skirt into your style rotation? Check out these finds below!

ASOS Pleated Midi-Skirt With Mesh Inserts. Available at Asos.com for $77.

ASOS Pleated Midi-Skirt With Mesh Inserts.
Available at Asos.com for $77.

 

In Check Pencil Midi-Skirt Available at Nastygal.com for $58.

In Check Pencil Midi-Skirt
Available at Nastygal.com for $58.

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Helmut Lang “Max” Asymmetrical Midi-Skirt. Available at Nordstrom.com for $230.

 

MSGM Printed Satin Midi Skirt. Available at Net-a-porter.com for $575.

MSGM Printed Satin Midi Skirt.
Available at Net-a-porter.com for $575.

 

— STORY BY MIN A. LEE

 

Listen Up! Asian American Singer Z. Woods Talks Music And Identity

 

Take a cruise down an open street with your windows down, and turn up Z. Woods on your stereo. You’ll be slowly head-rocking to his smooth, silky vocals that float effortlessly over soulful beats and fluid piano riffs and melodies. You might even break a sweat listening to his passionate, sensual lyrics. And you’ll wonder which celestial planet sent such heavenly music to grace our earthly ears.

The man behind the music holds an air of mystery, too. Only known as Z. Woods, the singer (who identifies as Asian American) was born and raised in the city of Malmo, Sweden, and later made the move to Los Angeles by himself, leaving behind his life, family and friends to pursue music. Since then, the singer has collaborated with MC Jin, Paul Kim and David So, with Swedish Grammy award-winning hip-hop artist Stor and has worked with Korean Jungle Entertainment’s hip-hop group, M.I.B.

Woods just released his first original EP, “Songs About You“, on Aug. 19, and the impressive debut features five soulful tunes written, mixed and produced by the singer himself. Audrey got the chance to ask Woods a few questions about his background, his biggest influences, and his vision for music in the Asian American community.

 

ZW10244

 

Q: What was it like growing up in Malmo, Sweden?
A: Growing up in a small country like Sweden was challenging at times as there were frequent occasions where I didn’t feel like I’d quite fit in. The Asian population in Sweden is extremely small compared to other nationalities/ethnicities, and so I had to always find a balancing point to navigate between the various cultures that I’d be exposed to. Life wasn’t necessarily difficult, but figuring out who you are as an individual proved to be much harder that I thought it was, looking back at it now retroactively.

 

Q: When and what was your first exposure to music?
A: I was essentially spoon-fed music from the day I was born. Although musical talent is not a common trait in my family, my sister was always a big fan of music and since she had to take care of me for the majority of the time, I would have to listen to whatever she forced me to listen to. That ranged everything from the latest Madonna and Michael Jackson records of the day to traditional Asian music or Asian pop music. I remember my sister constantly trying to record my attempts at singing along on her cassette player.

The quality and general spirit of musicality [in Sweden] has definitely influenced me, but also the situation of balancing cultures above made me seek comfort in music. Music, specifically R&B/Soul music, made me feel as if I was a part of something, as if I could relate to some of the stories I would hear. … My interest for music eventually became passion, passion became love and now my love for it has become an extension of my existence.

Q: What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
A: I listened to a lot of urban music. Anything hip-hop and R&B was (and still is) dominating my playlists. Some of my biggest influences from an artistic standpoint include Brandy, Musiq Soulchild, Marvin Gaye, Craig David, Joe and Donell Jones. As a producer/writer, some of my biggest influences are The Underdogs (a production team), Darkchild, Ryan Leslie and Kanye West.

 

ZW10243

 

Q: Did you face any challenges in your experience as an Asian American singer?
A: The biggest challenges have been to get people to look beyond their stereotypes and not make any preconceived notions about the quality of my art prior to giving it a chance. I find that our — the Asian American community’s — output often gets quickly dismissed as irrelevant and uninfluential. More emphasis is put on our “weirdness” than our ability to excel and influence. We are and have been easily marginalized, but a change is coming and I intend to be a part of that change.

Q: Where do you draw inspiration from for your songs?
A: Inspiration comes to me from circumstances. It could either be personal situations or me drawing elements from situations that my friends/family share with me. Regardless of what it is, I emphasize on capturing the emotion behind it all. I believe at the foundation of every story, feeling, situation, etc. lies emotion. And being creatively involved in the entire creation of a song enables me to do just that. The words, melodies and music are all just elements to this vessel that seeks to speak to your spirit, the center of your emotions and to make you feel.

 

 

Q: What kind of message, through your music, do you want to give to your listeners and fans?
A: I want my audience to be able to find comfort in my music. I want it to be a soundtrack to their lives. If they need a mental break from whatever they might be dealing with, or if they seek to know that they are not alone in how they feel, etc., whatever it may be, I want my music to serve them and help them either get through what they’re going through or enhance any joyful moment. In short, I want my music to emotionally engage with people.

Q: What are your goals for the future?
A: I want to change the world! (Big statement, I know.) I want to make the world know that we, as an Asian American minority group, are MORE than capable and able to create art that is relevant, pertinent and does not cater to a certain demographic. I want the world to know that we are not weird, but that we are the same in that we have feelings and emotions too. I want the focus to be taken off “who” I am and instead be put on “what” it is I am doing. I want to be a part of that movement that will change this global perspective and allow more creative people (from all ethnic backgrounds) to have a voice.

 

Amen, brother. Now, play and repeat.

 

 

Heroic 9-Year-Old Girl Helps Father Escape From Burning House

 

I’ll be the first to admit that if I were to wake up to my house on fire, panic would probably be the very first emotion to take over. That was not the case however, for 9-year-old Galaxy Kong of Hayward, Calif., who woke up last Thursday morning to a house filled with smoke.

Immediately, all the fire safety skills she picked up from school kicked into action. She ran to her father, who was still deep asleep despite the raging fire. After waking him, she scoped the scene and noticed there was too much smoke blocking the way out.

She then instructed her father to open the window while she closed the door and placed towels under the door to prevent the smoke from entering the room. Firefighters say that this small but important trick that she learned during fire safety training at school is what helped save their lives.

 

 

With towels blocking the smoke, Galaxy had enough time to guide her father out the window before the smoke overpowered them. A nearby construction crew helped assist them out of the second story window and both left the scene uninjured.

The fire, which allegedly began in the kitchen, was extinguished within about 20 minutes after it was reported at about 7 a.m.

Although Galaxy looks small and cute as she’s wrapped in a blanket following the events of the fire, I think it’s safe to say we have a hero in our midst.

 


Dog And Owner “Wear Each Other’s Hair” … Because It’s Art

 

Most pet owners know there’s a thin line between loving your pet and loving your pet. Well Japanese artist Aki Inomata dangerously walks that line with her new project “I Wear the Dog’s Hair, and the Dog Wears My Hair.” Yes, the title is quite self-explanatory.

Inomata collected bundles of her own hair and wove it into a small coat for her dog. She then collected heaps of hair from her dog and created a trendy, tan coat for herself. Yes, they literally wear each other’s hair.

Although this merely seems like an extreme pet love, Inomata swears that her art project aims to show a conflicted owner’s feelings over “owning” another living creature.

“The concept of my works is to get people to perceive the modes of life of various living creatures by experiencing a kind of empathy towards them.” she said in a statement to DesignBoom.

If you’re interested in checking out this peculiar piece of art, the exhibit is currently running at the Hagisa Gallery in Tokyo.

 

 

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Photos courtesy of Huffington Post. 

Family Who Found Daughter 10 Years After Tsunami Also Finds Son

 

Earlier this month, we brought you the heartwarming story of Raudhatul Jannah, who was reunited with her family 10 years after a gigantic tsunami hit her Indonesian province. Now, it appears the family has yet another reason to rejoice. Soon after their reunion with Jannah, the family was able to locate Jannah’s missing older brother, Arif Pratama Rangkuti.

The Indian Ocean Tsunami, which occurred on December 26, 2004, killed an estimated total of 250,000 people and left 1.7 million residents homeless. The tsunami caused Jannah (who was only 4 years old at the time) and Arif (who was 7) to separate from their parents. After months of searching, the children were presumed dead.

Ten years later, Jannah’s uncle spotted a girl walking along the street and could not ignore the resemblance to his lost niece. After many questions, Jannah was confirmed as the missing daughter believed to be dead by her family. Best of all, she brought news that her brother may still be alive since they were briefly stranded on an island together.

 

 

News of this reunion gained much attention and the family hoped this would be enough to find their missing son as well. They were right. According to The Guardian, a couple contacted the family after seeing a picture of young Arif. Apparently, a homeless teenager had a strong resemblance to the child in the photo and when they showed the young man a picture of the family, he exclaimed, “That’s mother!”

After confirming his identity, the family picked him up earlier this week. Call it a miracle, but after 10 years of being apart, this family is finally complete again.

 

A Mother’s Creative Bento Boxes Teach Japan’s Geography And Look Adorable

 

We’ve seen everything from adorable Hello Kitty bento boxes to intricate panda bento boxes. And just when we thought we’ve seen it all, another creative food artist comes along and impresses us even more.

Bentos are home-packed meals common in Japanese cuisine. Traditionally, these boxes hold rice, fish or meat, and pickled or cooked vegetables. More recently, “kyaraben” (which translates to “character bento”) has picked up in popularity. Kyaraben are elaborately decorated bento boxes inspired by characters from anime, comics books, video games, animals, shows, etc. It is not uncommon to come across Japanese children comparing bento boxes at lunchtime to see who has the most impressive looking meal.

But one mother, who goes by the Twitter handle Sasariri, decided that she wanted her bento boxes to not only be cute but help educate her child as well. To do this, she very skillfully incorporated Japan’s prefectures as the theme for each bento box.

For each bento box, she used food items such as seaweed, egg and rice to accurately show the shape of one of Japan’s 47 prefectures, including Hokkaido, Kyoto and Tokyo. She even added the name of of each prefecture written in the roman alphabet to help her child learn even more.

Creative, yummy, cute and educational? Yes, please.

 

 

 

 

 

CHECK OUT MORE OF HER CREATIONS HERE.