By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
From Sept. 5–7, thousands of people flocked to Seattle Center for Bumbershoot—Seattle’s annual music and arts festival. The three-day event showcases the latest in music, visual arts, dance, film, comedy, and more. Despite the bouts of rain, this year’s festival included a spectacular turnout from Asian American artists from all kinds of creative professions.
On the first day of the festival, R&B sensation Jhené Aiko took to the main stage after the crowds braved an unexpected thunderstorm mid-afternoon. Aiko, who is of Japanese descent, brought some color to the dreary afternoon in her rainbow crop top and billowy purple pants, thanking her fans for braving the poor weather. Her unique brand of R&B projected a cool and very hip vibe—lulling fans with her sultry voice and songs of love, relationship, and life.
Local theater personality and comedienne Sara Porkalob wowed guests in her dramedy act titled “Dragon Lady: A One Woman Show”. In a grandiose story that seems too impossible to be true, Porkalob portrays six different female characters across three generations, creating a show that was full of spirited humor, suspense, and love while exploring a 60-year-old Filipina’s gangster past. Yes, you read that correctly.
Porkalob’s Chinese, Filipino, and Hawaiian background and family history served as inspiration for this fantastic one-woman show. Of all the things I did during Bumbershoot, this comedy act was one of my favorite events from the entire three days. I look forward to catching Porkalob in her future shows around town.
On Sunday night, R&B singer and songwriter Kehlani took to the Starbucks-sponsored stage, which lies under the Space Needle’s shadow and may be one of the most scenic music stages of the entire festival. The Oakland-based artist, who is of Hawaiian descent, quickly charmed audiences with her rhythmic and soulful beats and booty-shaking dance moves.
Kehlani also did a great job of engaging with the audience by sharing personal snippets about her life and talking conversationally with fans in between songs. I had not heard of Kehlani before Bumbershoot and she was one of my favorite discoveries from the weekend. Watch out for Kehlani. This will not be the last you hear of her.
Monday was the sunniest day of the entire festival. World music group Nahko and Medicine for the People took to the stage on the Fisher Green lawn, playing their lively and infectious tunes to happy ears. The talented music group, which is comprised of five members and led by frontman Nahko Bear, is a fusion of various cultural musical influences and utilizes a range of instruments to achieve its international sound. Bear is of mixed Filipino heritage.
If I had to choose one band to sum up the “summer music festival experience,” it would be Nahko and Medicine for the People. From unique covers of iconic songs, such as covering Blackstreet’s “No Diggity,” to their own flavor of world music, this group is the quintessential summer music festival group—the kind of band that makes you want to dance outside in the sunshine with a beer in hand.
The hilarious and divisive comedian Hari Kondabulu took to an indoor stage to perform stand-up. Kondabulu, who once called Seattle home, discussed everything from his life in the entertainment business to his family, making the audience laugh with the concept of the Indian Illuminati—where the likes of actor-comedians Kal Penn and Aziz Ansari hobnob—to his blunt yet caring Indian parents.
Notably, Kondabulu wasted no time in skewering Republican candidate nominee Bobby Jindal (R-La.), and gleefully took credit for creating #BobbyJindalIsSoWhite on Twitter—a hashtag used to highlight the various ways Jindal has openly rejected his Indian roots in hopes of appealing to a mainstream white media. If Kondabulu is ever in town, it’s worth seeing him for this bit alone. Hilarious.
Rain or shine, Bumbershoot is a beloved local event for many. As a festivalgoer dating back to 2003, I’m pleased to see the increase of Asian American acts on Bumbershoot’s billing over the years. Here’s to hoping for more next year!
Vivian Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. (end)