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Yellow Power, Yellow Soul

Yellow Power, Yellow Soul: The Radical Art of Fred Ho

Roger N. Buckley
Tamara Roberts
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Yellow Power, Yellow Soul
    Book Description:

    This dynamic collection explores the life, work, and persona of saxophonist Fred Ho, an unabashedly revolutionary artist whose illuminating and daring work redefines the relationship between art and politics. Scholars, artists, and friends give their unique takes on Ho's career, articulating his artistic contributions, their joint projects, and personal stories. Exploring his musical and theatrical work, his political theory and activism, and his personal life as it relates to politics, Yellow Power, Yellow Soul offers an intimate appreciation of Fred Ho's irrepressible and truly original creative spirit. Contributors are Roger N. Buckley, Peggy Myo-Young Choy, Jayne Cortez, Kevin Fellezs, Diane C. Fujino, Magdalena Gomez, Richard Hamasaki, Esther Iverem, Robert Kocik, Genny Lim, Ruth Margraff, Bill V. Mullen, Tamara Roberts, Arthur J. Sabatini, Kalamu ya Salaam, Miyoshi Smith, Arthur Song, and Salim Washington.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09470-5
    Subjects: Music, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Roger N. Buckley

    It is often said that music has the power to engage all senses. Its discourse has a sensory dimension that transcends well beyond hearing, to feelings, spiritual meditation, intellectual stimulation, even social action. Why then has it become an esoteric game? The work of Fred Ho helps to provide an answer to this timely question.

    Fred Ho is an artist, an unashamedly revolutionary Asian American artist, who offers up music—broadly defined—that is illuminating, daring, informative, scholarly, ambitious, brashly confident and vigorous, meticulous, extravagant, and emotionally sweeping. It is also rightfully polemical and angry—without being bitter. So utterly...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Richard Hamasaki
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-30)

    Artist. Intellectual. Activist. Chinese. Chinese American. Asian American. American. Saxophonist. Composer. Arranger. Bandleader. Writer. Producer. Luddite. Revolutionary Marxist. Bolshevik. Matriarchal socialist. Communist. Farmer.

    Fred Ho has a penchant for labeling himself and his work, brandishing these monikers as emblems of his political, cultural, and aesthetic fabric. He wears these epithets on his sleeve, making a loud and proud call of who he is and what he believes to all who will listen—and even those who will not. Words are important to Ho. In “What Makes ‘Jazz’ the Revolutionary Music of the Twentieth Century, and Will It Be Revolutionary for...


      (pp. 32-34)
      Esther Iverem
    • 1 Enter the Voice of the Dragon: Fred Ho, Bruce Lee, and the Popular Avant-Garde
      (pp. 35-53)

      Fred Ho’s Journey beyond the West: The New Adventures of Monkey (1996) is an “Afro Asian score for ballet,” an eclectic brew of high and low culture, as well as Afrodiasporic and Asian American cultural elements. Journey beyond the West is a reinterpretation of popular Chinese Monkey King tales, a figure who protects the lowly and oppressed from evil spirits and the caprices of the gods. As Susan Asai notes, “Within the socialist framework of Ho’s politics, The Monkey King can be thought of as the equivalent of a working-class hero defying the capitalist, bourgeois forces that oppress the masses.”¹...

    • 2 ʺOh the Hilt, the Hilt Again Pleaseʺ: A Glimpse Inside the Making of Operas with Fred Ho
      (pp. 54-62)

      I used to think jazz sounded expensive, until the day I met Fred Ho in 1997. He put on a recording of Journey beyond the West, and I remember the force of his music trembled a stained-glass fish lamp against the Park Slope sunshine in Brooklyn, streaked in darkness. Fred had asked my beloved mentor Aishah Rahman to recommend a radical writer who could “kick his ass.” I had studied playwriting with Aishah at Brown University, and Fred played music for her Lady Day Billie Holiday musical back in 1972. Fred says that at first Aishah told him there was...

    • 3 Fred Hoʹs Operatic Journey
      (pp. 63-94)

      In 2008, Fred Ho launched into creating a new work, Mr. Mystery: The Return of Sun Ra to Save Planet Earth! Ho calls it an Afrocentric science fiction opera, and it begins on a spaceship in the not-too-distant future. The legendary musician, Sun Ra, receives a message for help from a desperate planet on the verge of total annihilation as a result of catastrophes caused by the human race. Written with poet-author Quincy Troupe, the libretto spins with complications that are typical in Ho’s productions. Sun Ra considers the plea from Earth and argues about his options with his crew....


      (pp. 96-96)
      Genny Lim
    • 4 ʺReturn to the Sourceʺ: Fred Hoʹs Music and Politics in the Asian American Movement and Beyond
      (pp. 97-119)

      I met Fred Ho at four historic political events—all in 1998. In March, I heard him blowing his saxophone on stage at the Jericho march and rally for political prisoners in Washington, D.C. As I sat next to veteran activist Yuri Kochiyama, watching throngs of activists, young and old, primarily but not exclusively Black, greet her, and as I listened to Fred Ho, it became clear that Afro-Asian solidarity was being practiced that day.¹ I had first heard Fred perform, but did not meet him, eight years earlier at the Association of Asian American Studies conference, held at the...

    • 5 Red Dragon, Blue Warrior: Fred Hoʹs Ethical Aesthetic
      (pp. 120-146)

      I think of Fred Ho as a red dragon, signifying upon his Chinese ancestry and his commitment to socialism. Indeed, he has named his media company Big Red in part in honor to Mao Tse-tung. For Fred, “Red” also refers to his intellectual and cultural indebtedness to Malcolm X, known in his hustling days as Detroit Red—(light skinned blacks frequently being referred to as being “red [boned]”). I call him a blue warrior, because he has infused his work with the African American blues-jazz aesthetic, and has been a steadfast warrior against capitalism and national and gender oppression. Fred...

    • 6 In Fred Hoʹs Body of Work
      (pp. 147-160)

      A live Fred Ho performance begins with the swagger of physical form in motion. Fred emerges from the wings of the stage clad in bright orange, or purple, or green textiles resplendent with African or Asian motifs. The clothes are designed, and handmade, by Fred. They feature brocade dragons breathing fire, mad geometric patterns, ornamental flourishes of flora, fauna, and telltale beauty from the physical world. His suits are broad and loose-fitting, hence ungendered: the body within might take any form. The colors run outside the palette of commercial convention, bending toward a tableau rather found in nature. Fred’s signature...


    • THIS EVENING (For Fred Ho)
      (pp. 162-162)
      Jayne Cortez
    • 7 Machete and Chopsticks
      (pp. 163-177)

      As I look up the meaning of ibid., I am reminded to advise you that I am not an academic. This will be less of an essay and more of a glimpse into my personal diary that is riveted with anecdotes of Fred Ho. I could have chosen the word laced, but rivets, where Fred Ho is concerned, are much more to the point.

      On December 19, 2002, the New York air was still acrid with the horrors of the previous year. Suspicion, paranoia, uncertainty, fears shuttled across the faces of the masses as a face here and there unconsciously...

    • 8 Somewhere between Ideology, Practice, and the Cellular War … the Dolphins Sing: An Improv on the Fake Book of a Revolutionary Artist
      (pp. 178-190)

      I know that Fred loves dolphins. He doesn’t talk about this part of himself too much—the part that loves to swim in the ocean with the dolphins, in the ocean where he himself can become a dolphin. His love of the ocean and the life that it supports is something he experiences nonverbally, communicating this experience nonverbally, even nonmusically.

      These observations contrast markedly with my many interactions with Fred over the past 16 years that I have known him. We have often dropped into intense conversations ranging from the state of Asian American studies vis-à-vis radical politics, to how...

    • 9 ʺThatʹs Why the Work Is What It Isʺ: An Interview with Fred Ho
      (pp. 191-213)
      MIYOSHI SMITH and Fred Ho

      It had been some time since I had sat down and talked with Fred Ho. I conducted this interview one week after his first week of chemoradiation treatment. He was amazed at how much he had needed to sleep during this process: 10–16 hours a day after the treatments. This was the first day he said that he had enough energy to sit up for some time. He looked good: toned, wearing his confidence, and rather peaceful despite the week of intense dosing.

      MIYOSHI: What are your first memories about yourself as a child, as it relates to music?...

    • 10 Go On, Shoot
      (pp. 214-224)

      In a few weeks—March 24, 2008—I’ll be 61. Even though I’ve appreciably less energy than even six years ago, and though I accept that I have less control of my increasingly unreliable body and its functions, still I don’t feel old. Sure, I’ve had to come to terms with how long it takes me to sit down on the floor to circle up and hold a conversation on the carpet with a group of youngsters, not to mention the slow roll to one knee and reaching out for something to steady myself on the long push up after...

    (pp. 225-226)
    Robert Kocik
  11. Afterword
    (pp. 227-230)

    I am one of those anomalous friends of Fred Ho. I am not artistic, though I am a fan of “jazz” (especially Fred’s music). Nor am I political. My lifestyle has been desultory, perhaps, in Fred’s words “flakey.” But since the time we met in the mid-1980s, during the days of my profligate life in New York City, and then from the early 1990s when I retired and moved to Bangkok (to admittedly continue my profligate and hedonist ways!), Fred and I have stayed in touch.

    I suspect there are reasons on both sides for our ongoing friendship even though...

  12. Appendixes

  13. Contributors
    (pp. 255-262)
  14. Index
    (pp. 263-271)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 272-275)