Mixing It Up: [Identity and Music] Innovation
Visions and Voices
Crossing boundaries, taking risks, making music and redefining identity—“Mixing It Up” will showcase a broad range of talent from mixed-race artists in an exciting evening of cultural and artistic performances by popular YouTube artist Kina Grannis, Japanese-Canadian singer/songwriter Justin Nozuka and Gow, from the Japan-based group Genez.
Crossing boundaries, taking risks, making music and redefining identity—“Mixing It Up” will showcase a broad range of talent from mixed-race artists in an exciting evening of cultural and artistic performance. Musical performances from popular YouTube artist and USC alum Kina Grannis, Japanese-Canadian singer/songwriter Justin Nozuka and Gow, from the Japan-based group Genez, will be woven with interactive conversations and stories from the artists about their cultural roots and mixed identity, experimentation with innovative technology and music-making outlets and the risks and challenges they have faced in building their careers in inventive, groundbreaking ways.
Kina Grannis is a Japanese American guitarist and singer/songwriter from Orange County, California. Grannis independently released her first full-length album, Stairwells, in 2010. Her music is both sweet and melancholy, but always filled with hope. While attending college at USC, Grannis often retreated to the secluded stairwells around campus where she could write and sing without being heard. Protected by their quiet confines, she found a safe haven and a creative outlet for her music. Armed with a guitar and a cup of tea, Grannis wrote in every stairwell she came across. And it was within these stairwells that she developed her confidence as a songwriter and her poise as a performer. In 2007, Grannis joined YouTube, made a music video and entered herself into a contest. A few months later, her video for “Message from Your Heart” aired during the Super Bowl and she walked away with a record deal. Since then, Grannis has regularly posted her songs on YouTube, amassing many millions of views, and toured throughout North America. Her songs have been heard on television shows such as ABC’s General Hospital, MTV’s College Life and the CW’s Gossip Girl. (Official website)
Justin Nozuka is a singer/songwriter whose debut album, Holly, has been released in Europe, Canada, Japan and the United States. The maturity of Nozuka’s music, a soulful blend of R&B and pensive singer/songwriter folk that recalls both Nick Drake and Lauryn Hill, belies his tender years: Nozuka was only eighteen in 2007 when Holly was released. In 2008, he was nominated for a JUNO Award for New Artist of the Year, and he has since toured with Missy Higgins and Lenka. His song “Gone” was sampled by Wu-Tang Clan member RZA in a tribute to the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Nozuka has performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Good Morning America and the mtvU Woodie Awards. (Official website)
“Gow”—Maria Teresa Gow is a member of GeneZ, a group of three mixed-race artists based in Japan. Her mixed Filipina and Scottish identity is integrated into GeneZ’s “mixed hip-hop” music of rap, J-Pop, R&B and soul music, combining Japanese, English and even Spanish in their lyrics. Their music often speaks to their experience of living as hafus or “Hapas” in Japan, challenging the status quo of homogeneity. Gow is very upfront about her mixed-ness of race and language, and she places her identity very centrally in the message of her music. Her music is the vehicle with which she serves society, working together as a team to own and appreciate their diversity as individuals, and promoting a multicultural and tolerant Japan. GeneZ recently performed for the MixedRoots Japan Hip-Hop Charity event in August 2011, and the Liquid Room in Roppongi, one of the biggest music venues in Tokyo, for the debut of their hit single, “Dream.”
Organized by Duncan Williams (Religion and Center for Japanese Religions and Culture) and Velina Hasu Houston (Dramatic Arts). Co-sponsored by the USC Program Board Special Events Committee.Photo (Kina Grannis): J. Pangilinan
Photo (Justin Nozuka); Guillaume Laurent