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May 23 2020


07:00 PM - 09:00 PM


Tatsu Aoki presents Friends of Asian Improv Arts Midwest:
Chicago’s Asian American Cultural Diaspora

Second installment of AIRMW programming on HotHouse Global will feature artists from Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Japan, and Taiwan. Stream on 5/23 7PM CST at twitch.tv/hothouseglobal

Artist Line-Up:


Tom Lee is Chicago based puppet artist, designer and director. Raised in Hawai’i, he received an NEA/TCG Fellowship to study in Japan where he first met and studied with Koryu Nishikawa V, fifth generation headmaster of Hachioji Kuruma Ningyō, a 160 year old traditional puppet theater company. Kuruma Ningyō, or cart puppetry, was developed at the end of the Edo period to allow a single puppeteer seated on a small rolling cart to operate a remarkably dynamic and lifelike figure. It is related to the sanninzukai (three person manipulation form) which forms the basis of the Bunraku tradition. Tom and Fujima Yoshinojo worked together to create the project that culminated in Beyond the Box III: Suji, Lines of Tradition with live musicians.


Natsuki was born in Kyowa-Chou, Hokkaido and started learning calligraphy at age 7 from Master calligrapher Zuihou Sato. She created her original writing method that combines letters and illustrations and then started to collaborate and perform with artists and creators of various industry genres such as sound, clothing designers, lighting, and food.


Few musicians are as accomplished as Francis Wong, considered one of “the great saxophonists of his generation” by the late jazz critic Phil Elwood. A prolific recording artist, Wong is featured on more than forty titles as a leader and sideman. Wong’s imaginative career straddles roles as varied as performing artist, youth mentor, composer, artistic director, community activist, non-profit organization manager, consultant, music producer, and academic lecturer. Key vehicles for his work are Asian Improv aRts, the company he co-founded with Jon Jang and as a Senior Fellow at the Wildflowers Institute. ”I choose for my work to build community and to seek out how I, as an artist can meet the challenges that our community faces. In the Asian American community, the biggest challenge is continuity of culture and the impact of assimilation. Through music, I envision a way to create continuity through the integration of tradition and innovation.


Guggenheim Fellow, USA Fellow, Doris Duke Artist, multilingual vocalist-composer-multi-instrumentalist-dancer JEN SHYU is “one of the most creative vocalists in contemporary improvised music” (The Nation). Based in Queens, NY, but born in Peoria, Illinois, to Taiwanese and East Timorese immigrants and the first female and vocalist bandleader on Pi Recordings, she’s produced seven albums, performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and is a Fulbright scholar speaking 10 languages. Her Song of Silver Geese was among New York Times’ “Best Albums of 2017” and was named Downbeat Magazine’s 2017 Rising Star Female Vocalist.


Born and lives in Taipei, Jia-Ling Hsu is an artist working with moving image and performance. In her work, Hsu explores the notion of “freedom” and “repression” within oneself that deals with the relationships regarding family, religious belief and romance. Embedded with memory and dream, Hsu’s work is an emotional response to her life circumstances. Her work is collage on the timeline that assembles multiple mediums such as action, object, written/spoken word and the site, which are composed into a fractured narrative.Hsu is the recipient of “Artist in Residence Grants” from Ministry of Culture of Taiwan in cultural exchange with Hangar.org, Barcelona.


For over a decade, Da Wei Wang has been a veteran guitar hawk of the Chicago avant-rock scene. He is best known for his work in the legendary punk band, Ono. He is also an improviser in Street Tentacle and the defunct Suckling Pigs. His fractured, atonal guitar style spans from dada funk to existential doom to ambient raga. His solo guitar work is like a storm cloud whose gaseous firmament is carpeted with hoary sprouts and dust geysers.


Yoko Noge (piano, vocals) is the Blues woman from Osaka, migrated to Chicago in the 1980’s. She paid her blues dues performing with many bands in Chicago’s westside blues bars, and studied piano with boogie and blues master Erwin Helfer. Yoko was for many years a Monday night staple with her band the Jazz Me Blues at Chicago’s famous HotHouse.


Chicago multi-instrumentalist/composer Jeff Chan is dedicated to advancing the understanding of the Asian American experience through music. He has worked with many of the leaders of the Asian American creative music movement, including saxophonist Francis Wong and bassist Tatsu Aoki as well as some of the top figures in the Chicago music scene. With a discography of more than 10 recordings as a leader, sideman and producer, Chan has performed extensively in the Chicago area, across the nation and in Europe. Critics have said that Chan is “… a voice to be reckoned with… (Brian Gilmore, JazzTimes)” and that his work is “music of uncommon majesty, spirituality and emotional depth (Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune).”


Melody Takata is the founder of GenRyu Arts a taiko and odori school, and Festival Director of Japan Week, a summer cultural festival in San Francisco Japantown.

She is a multi-faceted artist trained in Japanese Classical Dance, Taiko and Shamisen. Takata grew up in the Japanese American community of Los Angeles with a rich experience in traditional arts under the tutelage of Madame Fujima Kansuma receiving her Natori (dance degree). Takata received her shamisen degree with the Kineya School when she was 13 years old. She was a member of Los Angeles Matsuri Taiko Aiko Kai and at 20 traveled to Tokyo, Japan to study and perform with Seido Kobayashi’s group, O Edo Sukeroku Taiko, one of Japan’s most highly renowned taiko ensembles. Besides being known as a Japanese traditional artist, Takata has pursued interdisciplinary work collaborating with jazz artists, poets, contemporary dance, and film for the last 19 years. Sensei Takata has been a professional performing artist for over 35 years in Japan and U.S.A.

Mari Fujihira is a dancer and choreographer based in Tokyo. She graduated from The Australian Conservatoire of Ballet and joined Yurie Shimomura Ballet Company in Tokyo. After leaving the company , she started to work as a freelance dancer. She has worked with many musicians such as: F.I.B JORNAL, PRIMITIVE ART ORCHESTRA, and 2 Drums.

She also danced in one of the biggest kimono events ”Kimono Salone” at Nihonbashi in 2017. She has toured in Europe (Berlin, Brussels, Paris, Marseille, Venice, Lausanne, Bergen) and Oceania, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand in 2019-2020. She currently serves as the director and choreographer for her own dance company, ‘Dancénsemble’ established in 2017. She prioritizes the diversity of people in this company and welcomes any dancers regardless of their age and background.

Awards include the SAI DANCE FESTIVAL COMPETITION 2018 1st prize of solo section and Seibu Railway Dance Movie Competition Unique movie award (with Dancénsemble).