common ground open mic series

common ground is organized by progressive Vietnamese American community members, artists, and activists committed to cultivating a positive and safe healing space for artistic growth and community empowerment. The common ground collective builds collaborations across communities and supports the work of social justice spaces.

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Posts tagged "music"
Singer-songwriter Kymistry is one of our September 6th show features. She took some time out to write about the upcoming show’s theme, “growth”: 
-How have you grown into your art?
I’ve never been able to hide from my music. My music knows when I’m sad or angry, hurt or confused, happy or overjoyed. My music catches me in my lies. My music knows when I have something to hide. But no matter how I treat my music, my music is always there for me. So when I think about how I’ve grown into my music, I think about how I’ve grown into myself.
Through EKH, a hip hop/R&B band, I first realized that making and performing my own music was actually possible. It also allowed me to experience the bonds that music creates between people on a deeper level. A few years later, I became a part of an all-girl punk experimental noise band, Machine Fang, where I became uninhibited and vulnerable in my music. Kymistry combines the contrasting sounds of R&B/soul and electronic which were influenced by my time with EKH and Machine Fang.
See Kymistry LIVE this Thursday, September 6! For more information about the event, check out the event page!

Singer/songwriter Jane Lee is one of our August 2nd WOMYN SHOW features. How does art empower her as a womyn?

ever since i was a little girl, singing was an emotional and spiritual outlet for me. no matter how beat down i was, when i was singing i felt free. as a child, when i was upset or frustrated, i remember going to my room, slamming my door shut, picking up my walkman, blasting wilson phillips and singing at the top of my lungs. over the years, i’ve come to recognize what a special gift music has been in my life. to this day, when i’m feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or burdened, i find somewhere i can be alone, pick up my guitar, strum a simple melody over and over again and just sing whatever is on my heart, no matter how incoherent or nonsensical it may sound. it’s one of the few spaces that i can feel completely unconstrained from the limitations and pressures society imposes on me as a womyn, as asian american, as a young person… songwriting provides a venue for me to vent, reflect, dream, process my thoughts and feelings, and just sing it out and release it. it’s been a huge part of my healing and growth process, and i hope to continue to grow as an artist who writes honest music that not only empowers myself, but inspires and empowers others.

The show is tomorrow. Come see Jane Lee and other amazing womyn share their art live on stage!

Singer/songwriter Jaclyn Rose's eclectic style fuses jazz, funk, soul, and Afrobeat. This August 2nd featured performer shares with us a few words on womynhood and art:
  • How I celebrate womynhood: I celebrate womynhood by embracing the beauty of my mind, body, and spirit.  I celebrate womynhood by starting everyday with gratitude. I celebrate womyhood by sharing love and joy to my fellow sisters.  I celebrate womynhood by giving support and compassion to my fellow brothers.  I celebrate womynhood by being a positive role model especially to the youth.  I celebrate womynhood by cultivating wisdom, love, and compassion. 
  • How my art empowers me as a womyn: I believe that music is one of the greatest teachers in the world.  My art, my music, empowers me because it gives me the opportunity to send a positive message to the world.  Music gives me the opportunity to share love and compassion.  I strive to create music that empowers others to believe in themselves and to love.  That is what “The Rose Movement” is all about.

Come on ‘round to common ground this Thursday, August 2nd, for a chance to see Jaclyn perform live! See you there!

Our July 5th “Perspectives” show is this Thursday! Singer/songwriter and lovely July feature, Yuki A., tells us about the perspectives from which she approaches her art:

Second generation Asian American (Japanese-American) - I was born and raised in the US, but I have lived in Japan for a few years, and I feel closely connected to my Japanese heritage. It affects the way I perceive the world and my interactions with others.  
Artist - Art is beautiful and an integral part of society! I love that art provides so much freedom. 
Woman - Men are from Mars, women are from Venus right? The songs I write probably would be different if I were a guy… 
Christian - Knowing God and knowing that I am never far from His heart means everything to me! 

For more information about Yuki A., visit her website. Otherwise, come on ‘round to our July 5th show!

Soulful singer and March 1st feature Pratiti Renee Mehta reflects on the importance that music has played in the communities she is a part of:

When I was seven years old, I convinced a music teacher from school to come home in order to explain to my unyielding mother how much I loved and needed music in my life. Little did he know…! Actually, little did my mother know I even had an interest in singing.

Two decades later, this is by far still my favorite memory. Why? Well, if it hadn’t been for this very moment, I would have never met my soul mate.

Having spent half my life in India and half in the US, I often find myself wondering where my identity truly lies. English replaces Hindi as my day-to-day language, dresses replace saris on (most) special occasions and humongous family Sunday get-togethers are limited to occasional Skype sessions. As the rest of my Indian life slowly says its goodbyes, the music in my soul refuses to leave.

Indian classical music, in particular, has done wonders for my identity pangs. It has provided a platform for generations of Indians, like and unlike myself, to carry on the voice of our people no matter how “Indianized” or “Americanized” we may be or feel.  I am an individual, carrying the voice of millions. If this isn’t community, then I don’t know what is.

This is a voice of my ancestors, of my origin and it reminds me that while the world I live in is nothing like theirs, our “common ground” is the music they have buried so deeply in my soul.

Did you miss her and Andre perform last February? Catch the video of the flooring performance here, or better yet— see her on stage for our March 1st “MERGING MICS” collaboration show! It’s only a week away. How can you stand it?!

Photo credit: Kristina Aquino

Singer-songwriter and February feature Giana Nguyen explains that sometimes we just can’t choose the ways in which we express ourselves— they choose us:

Hmmm…“How do you express yourself?” Such a simple question, yet so many ways to answer! I express myself through the notes I write, the hugs I give, the cookies I bake, the laughs I share…but my most public expression is through the songs I sing. I’ve loved music since I was a kid. My [biased] parents tell me I was singing full, adult love songs at 4 years old; and I’ve been playing piano since 7, and never missed an opportunity to join school choirs. 

Music is not just an enjoyment, but a necessity in my life.
I tried to put it on the back burner for a different, more stable career path. But I slowly realized as the years went by, regardless of my accomplishments in that career, that I wasn’t completely happy…I wasn’t completely me. Your work plays a big part in defining who you are as a person, and at the time, my work wasn’t aligned with who I am. And from the moment I decided to face my fears (of failure, judgment, exposure, ridicule) and DO SOMETHING with music, I’ve never felt more free or more in tune with my identity. Since the transition into my new career, I’ve released original music, collaborated with other artists, started teaching piano again, and am volunteering for an arts organization called the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association. The things I do now on a daily basis surround me with my lifeblood, music, and it’s a wonderful feeling.
Thanks, Giana. Can’t wait to see you express yourself this THURSDAY, FEB 2!

Vivacious and versatile February feature (say that 10 times fast!) Quincy Surasmith shares a few words on the next show’s theme, “Multitudes of Expression”:

I think of myself as a jack-of-all-trades artist because I feel that no one medium of expression can quite capture the wonder and range of our thoughts, emotions, intentions, and experiences as individuals and as a community.

In the case of songwriting, the interplay (and sometimes contrast) of music and lyrics are such wonderful ways to allude to a wide depth of meaning. There’s a magic that comes with what you can express in something in the music that is heard but unsaid, or metaphors that are said but unexplained; there are cues that often give away deeper meanings and hidden intentions behind the words—just like in life!

As an actor, there is the potential to connect with an audience and convey truths both large and small, from the immediacy of raw emotions to engaging in the vividness of storytelling to the ability to get an audience to think about an idea in a new way, and maybe continue to carry that with them once they leave that space. Acting can do all this with but a group of people (or even a single person) simply being a conduit for and performing text and truth.

Finally, with cooking: this is the only way in which one gets to express something that appeals to the sense of taste, while also getting to also play with scents and textures. Though it’s a much less precise medium, there’s a particular experience of care, memory, and comfort that is not just conveyed, but elicited through food that is unmatched by any other form of expression. Ratatouille (one of my favorite movies) demonstrates this wonderfully!

These qualities aren’t necessarily exclusive to each form, nor do they have to be done one at a time. I think for me, it just boils down to being able to share and connect with words, actions, music, and food in a variety of ways—artistic versions of how I like to spend my time in the company of loved ones.

Catch more of Quincy via his Facebook page or through Romance of the Three Kitchens, a cooking and storytelling series. Better yet, see him in action at [common ground] this THURSDAY, FEB 2!

Tuesday Night Cafe 10/04/11 Quincy Surasmith (by TuesNightProject)

Albert Chiang performing at our January show.

Submitted by Kristina A.

Happy Holidays common ground friends and family! We are so grateful for the gift of a beautiful January 5th show line up:

Our theme for the evening is history/hystory. Come by Jan 5th and make some with us! Doors open at 6:30pm. Show starts at 7. $5 suggested donation at the door. 

Follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for more updates!

Photo of Andrew Figueroa Chiang submitted by Alix N.

If you took photos or footage from the Dec 1st show, submit them, too! commongroundoc [at] gmail.