The Sounds of Struggle: The Music of Jon Jang and Francis Wong
The Sounds of Struggle: The Music of Jon Jang and Francis Wong
Hear an intimate discussion with Chinese American jazz musicians Jon Jang and Francis Wong, who have spent their careers forming innovative cross-cultural ensembles and composing works that promote anti-racism and social justice.
Asia Society online
May 25, 2021 | 7:00 pm
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Asia Society
New York, NY

About The Speakers

Jon Jang

Jon Jang became the first American born Chinese to compose a symphonic work that honors Chinese American history. For nearly four decades, a body of his works represents a chronology of Chinese American history in San Francisco. Commissioned by the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra and Oakland East Bay Symphony, Jang composed The Chinese American Symphony which pays tribute to the Chinese immigrant laborers who built the first transcontinental railroad in United States. Jang’s other works include: Can’t Stop Cryin’ for America: Black Lives Matter! When Sorrow Turns to Joy – Songlines: The Spiritual Tributary of Paul Robeson and Mei Lanfang, Tiananmen!, Reparations Now! and Island: The Immigrant Suite No. 2 for the Kronos Quartet.

Pianist Jon Jang has performed and recorded with Max Roach, James Newton and David Murray. His ensembles have toured at major concert halls in Europe, China, Canada, United States and South Africa, four months after the election to end apartheid. Jang’s latest CD recording, The Pledge of Black Asian Allegiance, pays tribute to Malcolm X and Yuri Kochiyama.

As a scholar, Jang has taught at Stanford University, University of California at Berkeley and UC Irvine. Jang has given presentations such as The Sounds of Struggle: Music from the Black Liberation Movement of the 1960s to the Asian American Movement of the 1980s, One Day American, One Day Alien: Black and Brown Artists Who Made the National Anthem Their Own and Traditions and Transformation at Columbia University and other universities.

Francis Wong

Few musicians are as accomplished as Francis Wong, considered one of “the great saxophonists of his generation” by the late jazz critic Phil Elwood. A prolific recording artist, Wong is featured on more than forty titles as a leader and sideman. For over two decades he has performed his innovative brand of jazz and creative music for audiences in North America, Asia, and Europe with such luminaries as Jon Jang, Tatsu Aoki, Genny Lim,William Roper, Bobby Bradford, James Newton, and the late Glenn Horiuchi, Fred Anderson, and John Tchicai.

But to simply call the Bay Area native a musician would be to ignore his pioneering leadership in communities throughout Northern California. Wong’s imaginative career straddles roles as varied as performing artist, youth mentor, composer, artistic director, community activist, non-profit organization manager, consultant, music producer, and academic lecturer. A key vehicle for his work is Asian Improv aRts, the company he co-founded with Jon Jang. Wong was a California Arts Council Artist in Residence from 1992 through 1998, and a Meet The Composer New Resident in 2000-2003. In 2000-2001 he was a Rockefeller Next Generation Leadership Fellow. He has also been a guest member of the faculty at San Francisco State University (1996-98) and at University of California at Santa Cruz (1996-2001).

”I choose for my work to build community and to seek out how I, as an artist can meet the challenges that our community faces. In the Asian American community, the biggest challenge is continuity of culture and the impact of assimilation. Through music, I envision a way to create continuity through the integration of tradition and innovation.

Cat Zhang is a writer and cultural critic. She’s the assistant editor at the music website Pitchfork, and has also written for publications like the New Yorker, NPR, and Slate.

Image: Jon Jang / photo by Bob Hsieng, and Francis Wong / photo by Leon Sun