Yellow Power, Yellow Soul
The Radical Art of Fred Ho
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Series: The Asian American Experience
Title Page, Series Page, Copyright
It is often said that music has the power to engage all senses. Its discourse has a sensory dimension that transcends well beyond hearing, to feelings, spiritual meditation, intellectual stimulation, even social action. Why then has it become an esoteric game? The work of Fred Ho helps to provide an answer to this timely question....
Fred Ho’s Demon Baritone Saxophoneand His Green Monst er Band Blowingthe Demons Down
Artist. Intellectual. Activist. Chinese. Chinese American. Asian American. American. Saxophonist. Composer. Arranger. Bandleader. Writer. Producer. Luddite. Revolutionary Marxist. Bolshevik. Matriarchal socialist. Communist. Farmer....
Part I: Revolution in Music
1. Enter the Voice of the Dragon
Fred Ho’s Journey beyond the West: The New Adventures of Monkey (1996) is an “Afro Asian score for ballet,” an eclectic brew of high and low culture, as well as Afrodiasporic and Asian American cultural elements. Journey beyond the West is a reinterpretation of popular Chinese Monkey King tales, a figure who protects the lowly and oppressed from evil spirits and the caprices of the ...
2. “Oh the Hilt,the Hilt Again Please”
I used to think jazz sounded expensive, until the day I met Fred Ho in 1997. He put on a recording of Journey beyond the West, and I remember the force of his music trembled a stained-glass fish lamp against the Park Slope sunshine in Brooklyn, streaked in darkness. Fred had asked my beloved mentor Aishah Rahman to recommend a radical writer who could “kick his ass.” I ...
3. Fred Ho’s Operatic Journey
In 2008, Fred Ho launched into creating a new work, Mr. Mystery: The Return of Sun Ra to Save Planet Earth! Ho calls it an Afrocentric science fiction opera, and it begins on a spaceship in the not-too-distant future. The legendary musician, Sun Ra, receives a message for help from a desperate planet on the verge of total annihilation as a result of catastrophes caused by the human...
Part II: The Aesthetics of Politics
4. “Return to the Source”
I met Fred Ho at four historic political events—all in 1998. In March, I heard him blowing his saxophone on stage at the Jericho march and rally for political prisoners in Washington, D.C. As I sat next to veteran activist Yuri Kochiyama, watching throngs of activists, young and old, primarily but not exclusively Black, greet her, and as I listened to Fred Ho, it became clear...
5. Red Dragon, Blue Warrior
I think of Fred Ho as a red dragon, signifying upon his Chinese ancestry and his commitment to socialism. Indeed, he has named his media company Big Red in part in honor to Mao Tse-tung. For Fred, “Red” also refers to his intellectual and cultural indebtedness to Malcolm X, known in his hustling days as Detroit Red—(light skinned blacks frequently being referred to as being “red [boned]”). I call him a blue warrior, because he has infused his...
6. In Fred Ho’s Body of Work
A live Fred Ho performance begins with the swagger of physical form in motion. Fred emerges from the wings of the stage clad in bright orange, or purple, or green textiles resplendent with African or Asian motifs. The clothes are designed, and handmade, by Fred. They feature brocade dragons breathing fire, mad geometric patterns, ornamental flourishes of flora, ...
Part III: A Life in Community
7. Machete and Chopsticks
As I look up the meaning of ibid., I am reminded to advise you that I am not an academic. This will be less of an essay and more of a glimpse into my personal diary that is riveted with anecdotes of Fred Ho. I could have chosen the word laced, but rivets, where Fred Ho is concerned, are much more to the point....
8. Somewhere between Ideology,Practice, and the Cellular War. . . the Dolphins Sing
I know that Fred loves dolphins. He doesn’t talk about this part of himself too much—the part that loves to swim in the ocean with the dolphins, in the ocean where he himself can become a dolphin. His love of the ocean and the life that it supports is something he experiences nonverbally, communicating this experience nonverbally, even nonmusically....
9. “That’s Why the WorkIs What It Is”
It had been some time since I had sat down and talked with Fred Ho. I conducted this interview one week after his first week of chemoradiation treatment. He was amazed at how much he had needed to sleep during this process: 10–16 hours a day after the treatments. This was the first day he said that he had enough energy to sit up for some time. He looked good: toned, wearing...
10. Go On, Shoot
In a few weeks—March 24, 2008—I’ll be 61. Even though I’ve appreciably less energy than even six years ago, and though I accept that I have less control of my increasingly unreliable body and its functions, still I don’t feel old. Sure, I’ve had to come to terms with how long it takes me to sit down on the floor to circle up and hold a conversation on the carpet with a group ...
I am one of those anomalous friends of Fred Ho. I am not artistic, though I am a fan of “jazz” (especially Fred’s music). Nor am I political. My lifestyle has been desultory, perhaps, in Fred’s words “flakey.” But since the time we met in the mid-1980s, during the days of my profligate life in New York City, and then from the early 1990s when I retired and moved to Bangkok (to admittedly...
...1985 Tomorrow Is Now!, Fred Houn and the Afro Asian Music Ensemble, Soul Note Records, Milan, Italy, recorded and mixed at Nola Studios, New York City, on April 5, 8, and 9, 1985, featuring Fred Houn (leader and baritone sax); Sam Furnace (alto sax); Al Givens (tenor and soprano saxes); Richard Clements (piano); Kiyoto Fujiwara (bass); Taru Alexander (drums); Carleen ...
Further Reading, Production Note, Back Cover