Photo by Patrick Estebar, Styling by Jodinand Aguillon, hair/make-up by Charm Torres
This Sunday, Stern Grove Festival is presenting the U.S. debut of Filipina-Canadian artist, Han Han, who is opening for Anoushka Shankar, Land of Gold. We caught up with her to talk about her background, influences, and creative process as she prepares a new work commissioned by Stern Grove Festival for her performance on July 15, 2018.
How would you describe your music?
It is generally hip-hop but can also be considered world music (whatever world music means!). The words are written in two main Filipino languages, Tagalog and Cebuano, with a hint of English. The music itself is contemporary and urban with integration of traditional Filipino instrument sounds blending together smoothly. You can hear gongs, kubing and bamboo kulintang sounds if you keenly listen to the songs. The music is a reflection of our identity as Filipinos. We are “mixed-mixed”, in general, like a Halo-Halo Filipino dessert where you mix different fruits and other ingredients resulting in a sweet tasty blend that melts in your mouth.
How does being a Filipina-Canadian woman influence the music that you make?
Becoming an immigrant definitely influenced and encouraged me to start writing poetry which I later translated into music. My experiences as an immigrant, as a woman, and as a child of a single mother who was a Live-In-Caregiver in Canada and an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) were the inspirations to the songs in my first self-titled album, Han Han. Some songs were my social commentary to my culture and my culture’s mentality. Some are personal songs with words that I would like to tell myself.
Having experienced being deprofessionalized as a first generation immigrant, discriminated (even within my own community) and being a child of OFW parents, I became this poster child of young Filipino immigrants. I have accepted it. Writing in my own mother tongues is what I consider my own resistance against assimilation. Language and culture are intertwined. I certainly do not want to lose that connection between where I was born and where I am living right now. Lucky enough, Canada which prides itself on diversity, and living in Toronto, which is a very multicultural city, give me courage to do what I do. I am also lucky to have found a group of amazing, talented and creative individuals who are also seeking to connect with their roots through the arts. Most of them are second generation Filipino-Canadians. And perhaps, through my performances and music, I can show that when first- and second-generation immigrants unite, they can make magic. I was given the platform and opportunity so I took it with both hands and brought my community with me.
Photo by Yasmin Samray
What can people expect to see for this performance at Stern Grove Festival?
Magic! There is always this shock factor from people who see us for the first time. This is my official performance as Han Han in the United States. We have been rehearsing and honing our set to give them the best possible show we can give. I will be performing with members from my Toronto art family collaborators, DATU and HATAW. Aside from music, there will be a lot of dancing, choreographed mainly by Fly Lady Di. All I want the audience to take from our performance is respect for our culture and community as Filipinos, both in the diaspora and in the Philippines. I hope they will also feel empowered and inspired because those are really the goals of our shows. We are just proud echoes of our ancestors. Lastly, I hope they enjoy it!
Stern Grove Festival has asked you to commission a new song with local dancers. Tell us about the piece and your collaborators.
I wrote a new song called “Take A Muna” in collaboration with a female Filipina-American DJ and producer, Gingee, who happens to be from Los Angeles. I met her last year and it just seems fitting to feature local California artists in both the music and performance. Jae Teosico (Barangay Dance company) and Stephanie Herrera (Kariktan Dance Company), who are both Filipino folk dancers from San Francisco will be dancing with me and my Toronto crew for the piece. So it will be a Toronto x Los Angeles x San Francisco collaboration. I don’t think that has happened before so it will be a first for us and for our communities to unite in one performance piece.
Listen to a preview of “Take a Muna”:
California is home to the largest Filipino community outside of the Philippines. It is only right to feature local California artists. I’m glad they all agreed to this performance. I strongly believe in collaboration because it empowers communities. My hope is we can manifest that strength in our show.
The song is about remembering to take a break from all the chaos in life. Filipinos are one of the most hardworking and kindest people on earth. Some of them work double jobs just to make ends meet and because they feel responsible to do so. I have experienced it myself when I was new in Canada. I take pride in those Filipino virtues. But sometimes, Filipinos need to be reminded that they deserve to take a rest too and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Life is too short. The song is written both in Tagalog and Cebuano with a “Tag-Lish” play of words from the Filipino phrase “teka muna”, which means “wait a minute or in a while”. In addition, Jae and Stephanie will be dancing to my song SIGE in the first part of the show. I wanted to give them the spotlight in their own locality. I’m excited to see what they will do. I rarely perform this song and this will also be the first time that I am performing it with dancers.
Tell us a bit about your creative process.
My creative process is not linear at all. Sometimes it starts with words then music, sometimes it is the beat that moves me to write. My inspiration is mostly drawn from my own experiences. For the most part, it’s all catharsis and introspection. I also like criticizing my own culture, sometimes with humor and sarcasm. Literature is also a source of inspiration for me. For example, the lyrics to World Gong Crazy has a lot of references to Jose Rizal’s and Lualhati Bautista’s novels. I wrote the song KaNaDyan in Balagtasan format to symbolize the tension between the dual identities of being Filipino immigrant to a foreign land (Balagtasan is a Filipino debate in poetic verses). So it all really depends on what I want to write about. The hardest part about creating something new is deciding if it is good enough to be heard by people or not. It’s scary. I’m a little insecure about my writing so I have to have a second or third ear to listen to it first as reassurance. I’m blessed to have Alexander Junior, my mentor and producer, be that ear. I trust his judgment.
What are you looking forward to for this performance?
It is one of our biggest shows yet, let alone outside the comfort of home in Toronto, Canada. I’m excited to see what San Francisco audiences are like. Also, I would like to see Filipinos in the crowd in as much as I want to see a very diverse audience. I think it is through music and the arts, in general, that we can bridge differences between cultures. The future is intersectional so I’m looking forward to the intersection of colors.
Han Han opens the concert on July 15 at 2 p.m. with Anoushka Shankar Land of Gold at Stern Grove Festival.
Cindy has been teaching for many years throughout the Bay Area. Learn more about Cindy and what you can expect on Sunday below:
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you start teaching yoga?
I started teaching yoga because I wanted to help others experience this wonderful practice. I pretty much started from zero (I couldn’t touch my toes for most of my life and have never been an athletic person) and found strength, flexibility, and a confidence in my body that I had no idea was there. Giving my students the tools to find their inner strength and feel comfortable in their own bodies brings me immeasurable joy.
2) What can Stern Grove Yogis expect from your class on Sunday?
Be prepared to have fun and move in creative ways! I incorporate unique transitions between poses into my yoga classes so that students can explore new movements and ranges of motion. It’s not all serious—I like to make my classes easy-going, fun, and maybe a little bit silly.
3) What do you love about teaching Office Yoga?
I love Office Yoga because it’s an opportunity to teach and reach students who really need functional movement—office workers! Sitting all day wreaks havoc on your body, and taking a break to move your body and calm your mind makes you feel soooo good—inside and out.
4) What’s your most memorable teaching moment?
I taught a class for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy at Land’s End—it was early morning, we were right on the ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge was in the background, the sea was full of boats and whales and seals, and my students were just in the zone. It was such an amazing moment—practicing in the great outdoors with great people just reminds you that we are all connected and everything is beautiful.
5) What pose do you love most right now and why?
The humble forward fold. Forward fold while standing. While sitting. While laying on my back. It’s about so much more than just your hamstrings—you can find length in your spine, stretch your shoulders, your hips. Give it a try. Stand up, fold in half, and hang out for a bit. Take your hands behind your head, or grab opposite elbows, or bring your palms under your feet. See where you can find length and ease. Ahhhhhh….
6) What can people find you doing when you’re not teaching yoga?
By day I work as a graphic and web designer—I have wonderful clients all over the Bay Area and the US. When I’m not yoga-ing I love to hike, read and cook, and I am a connoisseur of craft beer.
Classes are kid friendly and all levels. Spare mats provided by Office Yoga and Lululemon. See you in the West Meadow, Stern Grove Yogis!
Every Sunday this summer, Stern Grove Festival presents a free yoga class in the West Meadow, thanks to our friends at Office Yoga. This Sunday’s class will be led by instructor Michelle McManus, from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. before the concert with Ziggy Marley & Jennifer Johns. Get to know Michelle and what you can expect from the class this week.
Sessions are beginner and kid friendly. Spare mats available at a first come, first serve basis.
How did you start teaching yoga?
I went through an awful break-up, and at the time, the only thing I knew that I loved to do was practice yoga. I ended up in Stephanie Snyder’s class at Urban Flow serendipitously and by the end of class I knew I had to sign up for her teacher training. After which everything just clicked!
Why yoga? Why not Zumba? Or TRX?
I practice both yoga and TRX! They are excellent parallels and really support each discipline. Yoga is my first love, though, for the sake of the sacred texts. The sacred texts are the guiding factors to the physical practice of yoga, and they have improved my life beyond description. For a type-A rule follower, they provide just the right amount of guidance, and freedom, in my life.
What do you LOVE MOST about teaching yoga?
I love the a-ha moments. As soon as a student locks into a pose, or takes a huge sigh, or just softens a little bit more… You can see they’ve found refuge. It’s such a magical moment!
What do you LOVE MOST about teaching Office Yoga?
Office Yogis are the BEST. They’re always smiling and excited to practice.
What can Stern Grove Festival Yogis expect from your class?
Movement, breath work, and most importantly, fun times. I’m a high energy teacher—I’ll be sure to perk you up before Ziggy Marley, that’s for sure!
Join us at the Impulse Department at Macy’s Union Square on Thursday, June 21 for a shopping party and check out the latest in festival fashion with local blogger Mandana Ansari of Girl and the Bay. Enjoy sips and sweets plus great gift-with-purchase treats!
While you’re there, enter for a chance to win* reserved picnic table seats and parking for you and five of your friends at Stern Grove Festival’s July 1st concert featuring M. Ward and Thao and the Get Down Stay Down.
Yoga at the Grove
Every Sunday at Stern Grove Festival
This summer, Stern Grove Festival is excited to announce a new series of free on-site yoga classes, provided by local business Office Yoga.
Building off the Festival’s belief that the arts help strengthen our community, Office Yoga will provide a fun, active opportunity for people to connect with each other, nature, and themselves. Yoga classes in the natural beauty of the Grove are a perfect way to strengthen minds, bodies, and our community. And, as with all of the Festival’s programs, the classes are completely admission-free to the public.
Initially, Festival Executive Director Bob Fiedler approached Office Yoga to develop a plan for Festival staff to help ease stress in the whirlwind of activity leading up to the season. When Maryam Sharifzadeh, CEO of Office Yoga, met with Bob to develop a plan for the staff, they also saw an opportunity to provide free yoga classes for Stern Grove Festival attendees.
Maryam says, “I believe in Stern Grove Festival’s mission of providing affordable events for residents and visitors of San Francisco while also maintaining the cultural reputation of this city. I’m humbled to be collaborating with such a historic event and enhancing the on-site experience through yoga.”
Festival staff have benefited already from Maryam’s stress-relieving classes in our office. We’re excited to collaborate with Maryam and the entire Office Yoga team to share yoga with Festival audiences this summer.
ABOUT YOGA AT STERN GROVE FESTIVAL
When are the classes?
Yoga classes will be held from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. before each Sunday concert, June 17 – August 19, 2018.
Where are the classes?
The West Meadow at Stern Grove Festival.
Who teaches the classes?
Classes will be taught by certified Office Yoga Instructors and other reputable teachers in the Bay Area:
June 17: Brandi Zorzy
June 24: Michelle McManus
July 1: Raquel Seeley
July 8: Cindy Raspillar
July 15: Neil Wadhawan
July 22: Chelseah Healey & Ege Sanli
July 29: Martin Scott & Ege Sanli
August 5: Betsy Peterson
August 12: Charlotte Birkett
August 19: Maryam Sharifzadeh
Who can participate?
Anyone! No prior experience is necessary and all levels and ages are welcome.
What do I need to bring?
Please bring your own yoga mat if you can. A limited number of yoga mats will be provided.
During my recent travels, I made a stop at this year’s WOMEX conference in Budapest. Every year, WOMEX brings artists, agents, artist managers, and arts presenters from all over the world together; this year, WOMEX hosted over 2,500 delegates from 90 countries over five days of workshops, networking, and band showcases. There are always new and exciting bands to discover (and re-discover) at the conference. Here is a playlist and videos of some of my favorites from this year’s conference.
Hip-hop artist Talib Kweli gave a pre-concert Artist Talk at Stern Grove Festival on August 16, 2015. Led by KPFA radio host Davey D, the interview explores Kweli’s activism and involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement, his collaboration with legendary MC Rakim, and the challenges of making music as an independent artist. Listen to the interview below.