Every May in the United States, Asian American and Pacific Islander Month recognizes the achievements and impact Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have contributed to culture and society. In celebration, The Orchard has highlighted a few Asian/Pacific American musical artists who have contributed a great deal to the world of music and art.
Kiana Valenciano (Tarsier Records)
Born in Manila and currently residing in Los Angeles, Kiana Valenciano creates smooth R&B bangers. At the age of seven, Kiana won her first pair of Awit Awards – The Philippines’ equivalent of the US GRAMMYs – for “Best Child Recording Artist” and “Best Christmas Song.” Since then, Valenciano has continued releasing and producing music, and in 2015 received the award for “Best New Female Recording Artist” at the 2015 Awit Awards. Her 2017 hit single “Does She Know,” garnered over 8 million streams on Spotify and the track peaked at number one on the Philippine Top 50 Indie Singles list and the Top 10 Pop Songs in the Philippines. Since the beginning of this year, Kiana has released three singles: “No Rush,” “Ambrosia,” and “Corners.” Kiana will only continue to cross into the global R&B scene.
Heems (Greedhead/Megaforce Records)
Himanshu Kumar Suri, also known by his artist name Heems, is a Punjabi-American rapper, artist, record label owner, and social activist from New York City. Growing up in Queens, Suri is active and involved in community organizations that advocate for South Asian and West Indian Queens residents. Heems first became known on the music scene in 2008 through his group Das Racist. The group became popular in the underground rap scene, even landing several times on Pitchfork’s “Best New Music” list. Heems has performed solo for a number of years, releasing music on his own label Greedhead.
Meg & Dia (Pure Noise)
Since the early 2000’s, sisters and musical duo Meg & Dia made a name for themselves in the Indie and Alternative Rock scene. Growing up, the sisters were exposed to an array of music and surrounded by an extensive record collection, as their father was a DJ in South Korea. From 2004-2012, Meg & Dia released five full-length albums and toured across the world – joining the famous Vans Warped Tour for three summers. The sisters broke up in 2012, thinking their music career together had reached its end. In 2019 however, they began re-releasing music independently via Pure Noise Records. Their 2019 album Happysad was an album neither of them thought they’d ever make, but it’s one that not only finds their friendship rekindled, but their creative spark reignited and their musical horizons expanded.
Connie Han (Mack Avenue Records)
23 year old Los Angeles native Connie Han is a jazz pianist and composer making a huge splash in the jazz sphere. In 2015, Han released her solo debut album The Richard Rodgers Songbook. Since then, she has signed to jazz record label Mack Avenue Records, released her sophomore album Crime Zone, was named a Steinway Artist, and featured as a ‘Jazz Artist To Watch in 2019’ by JAZZIZ Magazine, Paste Magazine, and music critic Bill Milkowski.
Gabe Lee (Torrez Music Group)
Gabe Lee was born and raised in Music City, where country music flourishes. With a mother who worked as a professional classically trained pianist, Gabe’s fatuation with music started at a very young age. The Nashville native and country artist released his sophmore album Honkey Tonk Hell in March 2020. Billboard called the album “heaven for fans of the stylistic diversity that can be found under the country music umbrella.” For Gabe Lee, Honkey Tonk Hell explores what it meant to grow up in Nashville and what it means to still be a songwriter there, how it feels to be settling into adulthood and the monotony and occasional heartbreak it can contain, as well as the pieces of a younger time that didn’t quite work out as expected.
Thank you to every Asian American and Pacific Islander individual who has contributed to culture and society not only in music and art, but all acts of being.