I have a passing interest in diasporas... the global spread of peoples away from their homelands.
Did you know there are more than 8 million Arabs in Brazil? And a couple million Filipinos in Saudi Arabia?
The Chinese diaspora has been massive, as you can imagine. An estimated 90 million people of Chinese ancestry now live outside of China. These folks are sometimes referred to as “overseas Chinese.”
There are 3.4 million of them in the United States. And about 1.3 million in Peru, for some reason. (Peruvian-Chinese cuisine is a thing.)
Here’s some music representing the far-flung impact of the overseas Chinese. Click the song titles to stream the sounds on my Vox blog.
1. “Lively Up Yourself” – Byron Lee
Jamaica has an estimated 70,000 people of Chinese descent. That’s 2.6 percent of the population.
Naomi Campbell, Sean Paul, Tyson Beckford and supposedly even Grace Jones have some Chinese blood.
Chinese Jamaicans have influenced reggae music from its formative days. Record producer Leslie Kong cut the first singles by Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley. Thomas Wong – a.k.a. Tom the Great Sebastien – ran one of the first Jamaican “sound systems” in the 1950s. Guitarist Mikey Chung has worked with Peter Tosh, Lee “Scratch” Perry and Sly & Robbie.
Then there’s Byron Lee (pictured), a bass player and bandleader who toured internationally with his Dragonaires back when it was all about ska. (They appeared in the first James Bond movie, “Dr. No.”)
Lee eventually owned Dynamic Sounds, a state-of-the-art recording studio in Kingston. Bob Marley & the Wailers recorded their breakthrough LP, “Catch a Fire,” at Dynamic Sounds.
Byron Lee’s cover of Marley’s “Lively Up Yourself” appeared on a 1994 album called “Tribute to Bob Marley, Vol. 1.”
2. “Ven A Ver Llover” – Ana Gabriel
Ana Gabriel has been a well-known Mexican pop singer for 20 years. Born in Sinaloa, she has Chinese ancestry on her mother’s side.
(There are only 23,000 ethnic Chinese in Mexico.)
This track is extra cross-cultural; it’s a Spanish-language cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” from Ms. Gabriel’s 2007 album “Arpeggios de Amor.”
3. “Monkey Meets the Dragon King and Gets a New Weapon” – Fred Ho and the Monkey Orchestra
Brooklyn-based Fred Ho – born and raised in America – is a baritone sax player, an avant-garde jazz composer and a left-wing radical.
Influenced by Ellington, Mingus and Coltrane, Ho in 1982 formed the Afro Asian Music Ensemble.
His Monkey Orchestra added traditional Chinese music to the mix. The audio I’m streaming is from Ho’s 1996 album “Monkey: Part One.”
Fred Ho’s MySpace page has other cool stuff streaming, including “All Power to the People,” a piece from his “Black Panther Suite” (which he calls a “martial arts ballet”).
4. “Berlin Sunrise (Die Dämmerung)” – Daniel Wang
Born in California and raised in Taiwan – with a return to the United States for high school, college and beyond – DJ Daniel Wang now lives in Berlin. He’s big in the disco scene.
Wang has spun records in Brazil, Portugal, Italy, the Netherlands and Lithuania.
This 2004 track is available as a FREE MP3. Just follow this link to RCRDLBL.
5. “Henry’s Dance” – The Wiggles
And now for something completely different. Jeff Fatt was born in Australia 55 years ago, the son of Chinese merchants.
As a keyboard player, Fatt achieved moderate success in the 1980s as part of a rock band called the Cockroaches. But in 1991, Fatt joined ex-Cockroach Tony Field in a new group, the Wiggles, which played children’s music.
The Wiggles became (and still are) a gigantic hit. They’ve sold millions upon millions of DVDs and CDs, and they tour throughout the English-speaking world.
Matter fact, the Wiggles are rocking the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island as we speak.
In “Henry’s Dance,” Jeff Fatt sings the part of Henry the Octopus.