A diverse crowd of students gathered Friday in Kendall Hall to witness the finale of Experience Asia Month and to enjoy performaces by the Johnny Hi-Fi band, Def Poetry Jam artist Asia and comedian Mark Saldana.
The audience was full of enthusiasm as Johnny Hi-Fi took to the stage first at the event sponsored by the Asian American Association (AAA). Eric Hsu, lead singer of Johhny Hi-Fi, in recognition of the crowd’s excitement, expressed his appreciation by saying, “Wow, you guys are awesome! Is this because it’s the last event of the semester? Well, it’s our last show of 2007!”
Labeled under the genre “Asian-Britpop” by critics, the music of the band is primarily positive and upbeat. Smiling fans swayed from side to side as Hsu sang lyrics like, “Wanna do your best before you end up wasting another day.”
With the exception of a few slower-paced songs, the majority of the music played by Johnny Hi-Fi was light-hearted and energizing. After jokingly encouraging the audience to participate in singing the lyrics to “Do-Re-Mi,” Hsu said, “Now I don’t even want to do a sad song anymore.”
“They came here two years ago,” said AAA member James Huyuh. “They’re still good as ever.”
After Johnny Hi-Fi, a tough act to beat, came Asia, a poet previously featured on BET’s “Def Poetry Jam.” Asia immediately captured the audience’s attention when, before even introducing himself, he recited the fast-paced verses of his poem “Breathe,” which stressed that “anything worth happening happens between the inhale and exhale of breath.”
After his first poem, Asia introduced himself in a rather informal fashion. He made sure to get across to his audience that his poems don’t exactly resemble those of Robert Frost. “If I see you doing this (makes motion of snapping fingers), I’m going to throw rocks at you,” Asia said. “This is not Barnes and Noble.”
Before continuing with his poetry, he said, “Not everything I say is going to be pretty.” Asia continued, “But I promise it’s going to be beautiful. Sometimes the ugliest things in life are the most beautiful.”
Such inspiring words led Asia to mention his experience with battling testicular cancer. He said having something to live for made him want to fight for the right to live, which caused him to turn to poetry as a way to express himself.
Asia’s dramatic and inspirational poetry seemed to instantly captivate and uplift the spirit of the audience. “His words were very strong and moving,” Elizabeth Teng, a member of AAA, said. “(He made me realize that if) I could choose to be remade, I would choose the way I am now.”
Once Asia left the stage, comedian Mark Saldana opened his act by saying, “I’ve got to tell you man, this town is fucking boring.”
He then proceeded to joke about the name “The College of New Jersey” by saying, “Was that named by the most unimaginative man ever? What kind of shoutout can you give to that?”
The LA Times labeled Saldana as “The best Indian … if not Asian comic in the country.”
“I couldn’t stop laughing . not even for a second,” Alex Bachert, freshman English major, said.
The majority of Saldana’s jokes focused on race and ethnicity and how “it’s tough to be Indian.”
“I don’t like being Indian,” he said. “I’d rather be white or black – or maybe not white.”
Despite the relatively small crowd, the audience was lively and demonstrated a great appreciation for the cultural entertainment presented to them.