The Asian and Asian American Arts and Culture Program

Welcome to our 2023-2024 season, celebrating 30 years of the nation’s longest running series dedicated to Asian and Asian American performing arts and culture, and one of our largest and most exciting lineups in years! Every season, we look to themes that reflect the complicated world we live in: the beauty, struggle, mystery, and small triumphs of everyday life across the Asian, Pacific Islander, and Asian American communities. Many artists last year reflected the idea of diaspora, such as Indonesian pop star NIKI singing about her immigrant experiences for 1,800 Asian American students on our main stage, or Ananya Dance Theatre’s masterful expression of womxn- and BIPOC-identified communities across the US through South Asian choreographer Ananya Chatterjea’s feminism, or Korean-born artists Texu Kim and Hyeyung Sol Yoon interweaving original compositions with Johann Sebastian Bach to embody and express “fugue” as a metaphor for Asian diasporic identity in Western classical music. Now this year, we present further reflections of physical and cultural displacement or, in other words, a state of being between worlds.  

We begin with Sakamoto Blue Sky, a free online series of world premiere music and dance works in tribute to celebrated Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, who passed away last March at age 71 after living in the US for much of his adult life. We then present the romantic spirit of Indonesian pop singer Stephanie Poetri, one of the stars of 88rising, the leading Asian American record label that brings artists and audiences together across Asia, the Pacific, and the West. Multimodal Thai-Swedish artist, singer-songwriter, and environmental activist Sirintip, who grew up in and fully embraces her Asian and European identities, follows as the featured resident in UMass’s annual Art Sustainability Activism series, with an artist-scientist-writer panel and free outdoor carbon-neutral concert. February sees the return to our main stage of Drum Tao, one of Japan’s most spectacular taiko ensembles who has played for millions worldwide. In March, we look to the Middle East with Heart of Afghanistan performed by the Fanoos Ensemble, one of Afghanistan’s leading musical families and currently in exile from the Taliban regime. We then host acclaimed Iranian singers and cultural and social justice activists Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat for a free artist talk and concert co-presented with Smith College. And our season culminates with Korean-born guitar virtuoso JIJI, one of the brightest new artists in classical and contemporary music, and whose program will include a world premiere by renowned composer David Lang

We are so proud to be able to bring you these amazing artists from around the globe and here at home as we honor not only three decades of one of the country’s most unique university performing arts series of its kind, but also recognize the numerous ongoing crises facing all communities of Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander descent in the US. As always, we are committed to creating safe spaces, asking deep questions, and imagining a better world.