AAPI Heritage Month

Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

President Jimmy Carter signed a join resolution in 1978, establishing the first week of May as Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed a bill extending the celebration to a month. Then, in 2009, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation establishing May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

That heritage includes classical music you'll hear throughout the year on KBACH. Here, you can learn about some of the composers we feature.

Queen Lydia Lili'uokalani (1838 - 1917) 
Lili'uokalani was the last sovereign monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii. She was also Hawaii's first and only female monarch. A music lover, Lili'uokalani wrote over 165 songs and chants, including the popular, "Aloha 'Oe", making her one of Hawaii's most accomplished musicians. Seek out her song, "Ke Aloha O Ka Haku" ("The Queen's Prayer"). She wrote it while under house arrest following the overthrow of her kingdom. The haunting, melancholic work highlights the pain, but also the faith, of Lili'uokalani.

 Wencheng (1898 - 1981) 
A Chinese composer and opera singer, 
Lü is best known today for the short piece, Autumn Moon Over a Calm Lake.

Xian Xinghai (1905 - 1945) 
Known in China as "the people's composer," Xian wrote two symphonies, a violin concerto, an opera, four large-scale choral works, and almost 300 songs. His most famous work in America is the Yellow River Concerto for piano and orchestra. 

Ma Sicong (1912 - 1987) 
Known in China as "The King of Violinists," Ma Sicong wrote one of the 20th century's best Chinese classical works, the Inner Mongolia Suite. He evaded the Red Guards of the 1960s Cultural Revolution after falling out of favor with the Chinese government, escaping to Hong Kong and then the United States.

Chen Gang (1935 - )
Gang is a Chinese composer best known for writing the Butterfly Lovers Concerto in 1959 with He Zhanhao when they were both still students at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. You'll also hear his beautiful Miao Mountain Morning and Singing the Night among Fishing-Boats on KBACH.

Ryuichi Sakamoto (1952 - 2023)
While he's best known for his Oscar-winning score from The Last Emperor, Ryuichi Sakamoto also won a BAFTA award for Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. In addition to his work as a film composer, Sakamoto was a songwriter, singer, and actor. He even appears in Madonna's "Rain" video from 1993.

Takashi Yoshimatsu (1953 - ) 
Disenchanted with the 20th century's penchant for atonal classical composition, Yoshimatsu began writing in a neo-Romantic style, with jazz and rock influences. His 1991 work, White Landscapes is not just for colder climes. Put this one on in the middle of an Arizona summer, crank the AC, and close your eyes. You'll be transported to wintry Japan.

Bright Sheng (1955 - )
Born in Shanghai, Sheng left China for the U.S. in 1982. Since then, he has twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. You can hear his Moonlight Shadows on KBACH.

Xiaogang Ye (1955 - ) 
Ye is one of China's best, and best known, comtemporary composers, having helped open the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing with his work, Starry Sky. In 2022, pianist Noriko Ogawa and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra recorded his Concerto for Life, based on the score for a film by the same title.

Tan Dun (1957 - ) 
He's best known for his GRAMMY- and Oscar-winning score to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but Tan Dun also writes for the concert hall. The Chinese-born American composer is responsible for Symphony 1997 (Heaven, Earth, Mankind). Check out the "Song of Peace" from the longer work.

Michiru Ōshima (1961 - ) 
Ōshima is a Japanese composer and arranger. In addition to works for the concert hall, 
Ōshima writes for film, television, and video games. On KBACH, you'll hear a work called Memories that violinist Hilary Hahn commissioned.

Nilo Alcala (1978 - ) 
If choral music is your thing, make sure you check out
 Filipino-American composer Nilo Alcala's 2016 setting of Agnus Dei. You'll find it and a collection of his choral works on the recording 
Onomatopoeia, featuring the Philippine Madrigal Singers.