Today I went to the Chinatown Music Festival. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am a huge fan of outdoor music performances. When I saw the ad for this event, I just knew I had to attend. This is a picture taken while Jest Jammin’ performed. They played Motown music and everybody danced!
The festival was organized so that Jon Jang could debut the new piece of music he wrote called “Central Subway”. This piece was a tribute to the railroad workers of the 1800’s and a celebration of the new subway line that will connect Chinatown to Market St. He said that the railroads brought people together and he hopes that the new subway will bring neighborhoods together. There were several music groups that performed today, but the main event was Jon Jang and his quartet.
The piece was commissioned by the Chinatown Cultural Center and paid for by a grant from the SF Arts Foundation. It was the official opening of a yearlong temporary art project by CCC entitled Journey to Chinatown. The crowd seemed really excited about this new subway line, and really got into the music. I was a little uncomfortable when part of the music included a verbal assalt on America. Jon said that the Chinese built the railroads, but never got credit or recognition for it. I don’t know enough about the history of the railroad (and frankly, I didn’t feel like looking it up) to know if this is true. But I thought it made the afternoon a little weird.
The festival took place in Portsmouth Square, two blocks west of the main Chinatown drag. This neighborhood is normally overrun with tourists, but this park was far enough away that there were no tourists. And I only saw one white person while I was there: me. There were also food vendors, crafts, tea tastings, and many pieces of Chinese art on display. More info at c-c-c.org.
Here’s a selection for “Central Subway”, performed by the Jon Jang Quartet. The guy in red danced to the whole piece. Try to ignore him.