When I began writing this, I was made all too aware of the seeming lack of Asian artists that are working in mainstream media right now. Because of my Asian heritage, I have always been more exposed to Asian art than most others, whether it’s Asian-Americans who are finally making it onto the charts or more local artists who are still striving to make it in their respective industries.
There are many artists of Asian descent out there right now, doing what they do best. Despite my Asian upbringing, my exposure to them has still been quite limited. Still, here are a few of my favourite Asian artists that are producing work right now:
Some people might remember Korean-American singer Dia Frampton as the runner up of The Voice US’ first season. But even before The Voice, Frampton had a large discography of musical work behind her. Her band Meg & Dia released 5 LPs, and many more B-sides and EPs, each as wonderful as the next.
However, after her time in the voice, the band went their separate ways and Dia produced her first solo album, RED. Ever since, she has started a brand new musical project with the composer Joseph Trapanese, going by the name of ARCHIS. Their self-titled EP was a wonderfully unique record that combined pop with a symphonic sound.
There’s a variety of things that has always made Dia Frampton stand out to me. For one, her voice is incredibly powerful, versatile and unique. Her music, too, is dynamic and experimental. Though most of it falls into the pop-rock or pop genre, Dia isn’t afraid to try new things, to collaborate with different people, and create new and unique sounds. Dia is also one of the best lyricists that I have ever come across and her songwriting has only grown with each new musical endeavour. Her lyrics are poignant and powerful.
There’s a promise that ARCHIS will be releasing a new LP sometime in the future. Dia, however, has recently released a new track off of her brand new EP. She’s also working on a new LP entitled Bruises, with a release date in March.
As a long-time fan of Dia Frampton, I’m delighted at the prospect of new music from her, whether it’s as part of ARCHIS or her own solo work.
Promotesh Das is a Bangladeshi artist who has received international acclaim for his work. When I first stumbled upon his pieces of work, what struck me about it was the way that it explores the tensions of the world today, not simply that of Bangladesh.
Of course, Bangladesh has had a rough history. The country only recently gained its independence in 1971, from Pakistan. The war crime tribunals were only set up in 2009 to investigate the extent of war crimes during our War of Independence.
In this climate, Promotesh Das explores a reality that is a paradox. His work combines natural elements with combat equipment to showcase the duality of this reality. His work has been exhibited both in Bangladesh and internationally, and I’m excited to see what Das brings to the table next.
If you know anything about music in India, you’ll know that Indian playback singers are huge. Playback singers are those who record music that can be then mimed in movies by actors. Indian playback singers were the first kind of singers that I was ever exposed to as a kid. Though at the time, I held onto some notion that Shahrukh Khan and Kajol really could sing like that, the award shows always informed me otherwise.
Shreya Ghoshal is probably the biggest singer currently working in India. From the start of her career, she has worked in hundreds of films. She’s one of the top celebrities of India at the moment. You only have to turn to any recently produced Bollywood movie, to find one of Ghoshal’s songs. She also performs in a number of other languages spoken in India, including Bengali, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Punjabi.
Being a playback singer requires incredible versatility, as you have to sing and work in numerous genres, tempos, etc. Ghoshal’s discography is only a proof of her versatility and her brilliant voice. Though she’s been a top player in Bollywood for a while, she’s definitely not going anywhere anytime soon. And with good reason, too.
Rahul Amin Kajol (better known as RA Kajol) is a Bangladeshi “traffic artist.” Traffic art is another form of street art that often appears on the streets themselves instead of the walls of buildings. His traffic art has mostly been exhibited in the streets of European countries, such as Sweden and Denmark. His art was even included in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1996 for the longest piece of traffic art in the world.
Perhaps the best thing about RA Kajol’s work is that it is reminiscent of Bangladeshi culture with its colours and motifs, whilst entirely modern and experimental in its presentation.
Kat Zhang is the author of The Hybrid Chronicles, a YA trilogy which follows the story of Addie and Eva, living in a world where two souls inhabit the same body until the body grows older and the recessive soul fades away. However, there are “hybrids” in this world; people who still possess two souls in one body, long after the recessive soul is supposed to fade away.
There are a lot of YA trilogy these days that explore similar themes as The Hybrid Chronicles, but none that do it so well, in my opinion. All three books explore themes of repression, bodily autonomy, and prejudice. Zhang writes these themes with careful attention to detail and nuance that is often not afforded these topics. Zhang’s strength also lies is in both her character and world building. The protagonists, Addie and Eva are wholly relatable, especially as sisters who struggle with the sharing of a body.
Though The Hybrid Chronicles are Zhang’s only published works at the moment, she’s due to be publishing two more novels in the coming years, both of which I’m excited to read.
Preema Nazia Andaleeb
Preema Nazia Andaleeb, also known as simply Preema, is another Bangladeshi artist. She has been prominent in the Bangladeshi art scene since the early 2000s and has participated in international exhibitions both in other Asian and European countries, along with America.
It’s difficult to put her work into words. She often depicts abstract works of art that depict ideas of femininity and womanhood, particularly exploring how these ideas exist in our modern world today. She’s definitely one to watch out for.
I discovered Gunesekera when I was still in my undergrad, in a class entitled Literature, Modernity, and the Sea. So it’s safe to say that you’re a fan of the sea and modernity, you’ll probably like Gunesekera’s work.
A Sri Lankan writer, Gunesekera’s work delves into Sri Lankan landscape and history. Before reading Gunesekera my range of knowledge about political tensions in the country was little to none, despite the fact that my birthplace is almost neighbouring with the place. Yet, Gunesekera’s exploration of it not only gave me some understanding of these tensions but also inspired me to learn more about the country’s past.
I can’t quite describe Gunesekera’s writing. It’s so rich with beautiful imagery that it’s the kind of thing that you have to read to understand. More than that, the way Gunesekera can explore deep-set trauma in his work is poignant.
Gunesekara has written multiple books since his debut novel in 1992, Monkfish Moon. His subsequent novel Reef was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize.