Memories and Media Myths of Iran & North Korea

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This multimedia, multicultural collaboration of Korean-American and Iranian-American artists explores identity and conveys cultural heritage. The performance includes excerpts from autobiographies by Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi and former North Korean spy Kim Hyun Hee.

Memories & Media Myths of Iran & North Korea
Friday, November 16, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 17, 2:00 and 7:30 p.m.
Walker Community Church, 3104 16th Avenue South, Minneapolis
Tickets: $12 in advance & $15 at the door

The headliners are Karen HeaChung Lyu and Maryam Yusefzadeh with music by Global Jazz and Robayat. Karen Lyu has established a strong track record, emerging as a profound presence in Twin Cities music. She’s performed with the Karen Lyu Quartet, Via Brasil, Bomba and as a solo vocalist since 1993. Her music has been featured on, among other broadcasts, NPR’s “All Things Considered”, MPR’s “Morning Show”, Democracy Now, documentary film, regional television, radio and cable. Lyu has also performed at Fitzgerald Theater, Cedar Cultural Center, and Patrick’s Cabaret.

Two Asian cultures are explored by two American artists, focusing on their similarities and differences. The event offers artistic, spiritual, political, personal, family and cultural histories, which contrast with simplistic media depictions of North Korea and Iran as irresponsibly ticking, nuclear time-bombs. Offering an all too readily overlooked idea of Korean and Iranian humanity, their artistry starkly contends with the U.S. sense of entitlement and world-dominating hubris.

Dwight Hobbes interviewed Karen Lyu for the TC Daily Planet.

DWIGHT HOBBES: What’s your training?
KAREN LYU: I’ve taken voice lessons with a number of respected voice teachers including Roberta Davis (Berklee School of Music) and Mira Kehoe (Guthrie), and got a Jazz Studies degree from Cornell College which included independent studies with professional jazz musicians in Iowa. I also had several years of piano lessons growing up, have explored a number of songwriting, dancing, acting, improv and voiceover classes over the years, and developed my writing with “Unbound Asian Women Write!”

DH: The first time I saw you perform it was doing gospel in Elliot Park with members of Bethesda Baptist Church. I was trying to figure out what an Asian woman was doing leading a gospel choir. And rocking the proverbial house while she was at it. Anything you want to say about that?
LYU: That was at Days in the Park. I was singing a gospel solo as a last minute fill-in. I [sang] gospel for a while with Robert Robinson’s Minneapolis Community College Gospel Choir, with Joe Carter at Fitzgerald Theater for Minnesota Public Radio and other venues, with Thom West as a piano-voice gospel duo, with Soli Hughes, guitarist of Sounds of Blackness. Also with Bruce Henry recently for his Gospel Jazz Celebration at St. Peter’s A.M.E.

DH: Been awhile since your album Karen Lyu & Global Jazz “Live.” How do you feel you’ve grown since then, evolved as an artist? Composer?
LYU: I’m glad to say I’ve been able to take more time to develop and get more experience as a singer and as a composer since the “Live” CD and it feels good, especially in the past year of being a full-time independent performing and teaching musician, and writing new songs for the “Memories & Media Myths of Iran & North Korea” show.

DH: Anything new in the works?
LYU: I’m excited to get some new music out for a new global Jazz CD planned for 2008. Next year will be my 10th year of teaching voice lessons and I plan to publish my own unique voice instruction workbook & CD within a couple years or so. I just joined an improvisational anti-racist theater group called RiversEdge Playback Theater for daytime private and organizational performances. I’d also like to do more with songwriting for musical theater, and exploring all the different amazing arts in every way I can.

DH: How did you come to be involved in “Memories & Media Myths”?
LYU: Maryam Yusefzadeh and I met at an artists of color event last September and came up with the initial idea within the first five minutes of meeting each other. We had heard of each other for years – having both had the amazing percussionist Tim O’Keefe play in our bands, Global Jazz and Robayat, but it was the first time we met.

DH: How has the experience gone?
LYU: It’s been amazing and exciting to have such creative freedom to create the show. It’s been powerful and healing to look into our family histories — my mom and her family, and also my dad’s family are originally from regions that are now in North Korea. It’s been fascinating to look at the lives of Iranians and Koreans throughout history. And, it’s been overwhelming to be producing, creating and performing in the biggest creative project I’ve ever done in my life. It will be a relief when everything is complete.