ASIAN CREATIVES: VOL. 004: Chow Mane

We had the pleasure of getting the historic side of Chow Mane's upbringing this week. He's a thoughtful and creative artist who encourages us to find the uniqueness in our own story. Read on for more inspiration.

What's your story about your cultural roots? Did it have an effect on your music career/the way people viewed you in the music industry?

My dad's side of the family is Chinese-Vietnamese, originally from Fuzhou but fled to Vietnam during WW2. They came to the US as refugees during the Vietnam War. My mom immigrated here from Shanghai in the 80s. The Chinese culture was always strong in my family. We would follow all the holiday rituals, superstitions, filial obligations, etc. that came with being Chinese.
When I started making music in my high school years, I didn't ever touch on my culture or roots - I made music emulating my heroes back then: Wayne, Kanye, Andre 3k. At that point in my life I was still really figuring out my voice, how to write and construct songs, and what not. Not until about 3 years ago did I start to realize that my own experience rooted in my culture was a unique story on its own, and something that a lot of people would be able to relate to. I released by debut EP "Mooncakes" following the theme of my identity and perspective as a Chinese American. With a few of the songs, like the title track "Mooncakes," "Da Da Da!!" or "ABG," a lot of people began reaching out to me and telling me that my music was shockingly relevant to their own experiences. At the same time, I began to realize that not everybody could relate to what I was saying on this project. The music/entertainment industry has been historically pretty closed-off to Asian stars, but I think that's starting to change with ease of access to info and media. Numbers don't lie
 

What's your opinion on the way asianness / masculinity is perceived in America?

Though we're making progress, I think we still have a long way to go. For most of America, Asians represent a kind of static stereotype. Even when we're in big films or TV, it's not often that we're represented as a fully complex, human character. With the internet, we now have lower barriers to entry in creating and consuming media, but I think a problem still remains. We have YouTubers, musicians, political speakers, and a lot of other AAPI figures making big moves on the internet, but unfortunately for many of these people, their fans/followers are predominantly Asian. To really change public perception on the diversity and complexity of Asian Americans, we need to find ways to reach everyone with our content. Personally, I'm starting to work on new music that I think everyone will be able to relate to - not just Asian Americans.
 

Do you have any personal anecdotes about your experiences as an Asian person navigating western spaces?

While my family was pretty Chinese, I grew up pretty American. My parents split up when I was 5 - my mom stayed in Salinas and my dad moved to San Jose. In Salinas, there weren't that many other Asian kids, so I felt like an outsider. When I got to middle school and high school, the stereotypes and racist jokes started coming, but I embraced them because I knew none of them were true. I think I was able to see multiple experiences, because while Salinas wasn't very Asian, I stayed in San Jose most weekends, where the Asian American community was huge. 
 

What advice would you give young asian creatives who face these similar challenges?

It's okay to be an outsider and to feel a little lost sometimes. I think those feelings help shape your worldview and give you a different perspective from everyone else. I think they also help with creativity - they let you access emotions that others can't get to as easily. Use those experiences to tell your story.
 

What life experiences have shaped your personal identity, can you tell us about a specific time or experience? 

When I was 19 or 20, I became curious about my family history, and started asking my aunts and uncles, grandparents, and extended family members about their experiences. My family never talked too much about the past, so when I started learning of their struggles in growing up and getting to America in the first place, I felt awed and blessed. We have history in Japan's invasion of China in WW2 and especially in the Vietnam War, both of which were very brutal. My family dealt with the persecution of Chinese-Vietnamese by the Northern govt, Malaysian pirates raping and pillaging refugee boats, horrible conditions on refugee camp islands, and all sorts of messed up stuff. Really makes a lot of the struggles I face myself seem trivial in comparison, and it humbles me. I wouldn't be anywhere if it wasn't for the sacrifices they made
 

What's something surprising about you that not a lot of people know about?

I really like birds yall. Ducks, caiques, cockatiels, lovebirds, all those lil guys. I'm also very passionate about saving the environment so if you're reading this please don't litter, recycle, drive less, consume less meat & dairy, and turn off your lights and stuff when you're not using them. Thank you

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