For decades, Jon Jang has developed a musical language based upon a concept he calls paper son, paper songs. As a result of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Chinese created the “paper son” slot system, in which Chinese could claim U.S. citizenship to remain in the country by purchasing false birth certificate papers from a Chinese father who had U.S. citizenship. The surname of Jon’s grandfather was Woo, who became a “paper son” by purchasing the legal citizenship documents from a father named Jang. Inspired by this Chinese clever method, paper songs embrace Jon Jang’s concept of Americanising Chinese folk music. The melodies look Chinese on paper (music notation), but sound “American.” Jon Jang gives a musical voice to a history which has been silent. Most of his work represent a chronology of Chinese American history in San Francisco. Commissioned by the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra and the Oakland East Bay Symphony, Jang composed the “Chinese American Symphon,” a work that pays tribute to the Chinese who built the first transcontinental railroad in the USA. The work premiered in Sacramento CA in 2007 and in Oakland in 2008. Other work include “Unbound Chinatown,” “Paper Son, Paper Songs,” “Island: The Emigrant Suite No. 2 for the Kronos Quartet,” and Cantonese Opera singer, inspired by Chinese emigrants who were detained at Angel Island Emigration Station in San Francisco, the score for the dramatic adaptation Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, and When Sorrow Turns to Joy – A Musical Tribute to Paul Robeson, inspired by Robeson’s collaboration with a Chinese choir in 1941. Jang has recorded with Max Roach, James Newton and David Murray. His ensembles have toured major concert halls in China, South Africa, Europe, Canada and the USA. Recipient of numerous awards and honours, including the San Francisco Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts Composition Fellowship, and a mid-career visionary artist award from the Ford Foundation, Jon Jang, strong advocate for community, contribution, cohesivemess, cooperation and creativity, performing at this year’s 4th Annual Chinese Music Festival at Portsmouth Square in San Francisco on Saturday the 17th August. For more information about this free community event, contact the Chinese Cultural Centre at 415.986.1822.
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