Breaking the Sound Barrier

Paul Kim May 18, 2011 Comments Off on Breaking the Sound Barrier

Lion’s Ambition
Formed in 2006, Lion’s Ambition has been rocking the Seattle music scene with its melodic, high-energy sound and eclectic fusion of rock and hip-hop. Listening to Lion’s Ambition is like walking through a wind tunnel lined with 20-inch subwoofers – not only will your ears be ringing from the density of the sound but you’re also likely to have a smile plastered on your face.

The group initially formed out of a circle of close friends before merging with Richard Magow Austria, vocalist, and David Beukema, drums. Regarding their beginnings, Frankie Yaptinchay, vocalist, says, “A lot of us grew up together. Some of us went to the same high school. We shared a lot of musical interests. Magow had his own band, and I had my own band, and we met David and finished the group. It took three years for Lion’s Ambition to form.”

Part of what makes Lion’s Ambition’s sound so unique is the diverse blend of appealing lyrics and live instrumentation. In their song “Sorry to Say”, a catchy guitar loop energizes the vocals to create a rich, pounding melody that is instantly recognizable. Yaptinchay describes their music as “high energy, soulful music. Our message is about defying obstacles and overcoming struggles.”

Indeed, the group has had to rise above its own share of obstacles to get where they are. Besides trying to gain a fan-base and establishing themselves musically, the everyday tasks of managing a group also weighed heavily on the band. “It was tough to schedule with six people. It’s also expensive. Finding the right group specifically, the right six, was also hard.”

The band was able to overcome these obstacles with some determination and a commitment to making it work. Marlon Turner, emcee, jokes, “It took a lot of alcohol. A lot of trial and error.”

It also took some tinkering in a real studio to establish the band’s sound. Ken Jose, guitarist, says: “The best part of us forming our proper sound was going into a real studio and working with true producers. Our producer Joe Larosee at Jupiter studios provided an unbiased opinion and settled the discussion we had amongst ourselves.”

All that tinkering seems to have paid off. In addition to opening for Ludacris for Spring Fest at Beasley Coliseum, the band just released its album “The Application”, which features a fresh set of songs to listen to.

Ultimately, it’s the fans that push the band forward. “Though we’re not from a place with major acts or big hip hop artists, we have great fans.” Having overcome formidable obstacles along the way, a loyal fan base is more than enough to keep them going. Let’s hope this band grows into a phenomenon that can be embraced not only in Seattle but also the world.

Check out IE’s exclusive video interview with Lion’s Ambition below:

You can find out more about the band here:

Freddy Ji
If you’ve ever been to Pike Place Market or Pacific Place, you may have heard the tunes of Freddy Ji, 54, the Chinese American erhu player who performs music in downtown Seattle. But have you ever stopped to think about his story, how he got here, and how much he makes in a day, anyway? The IE had an opportunity to interview Ji and delve into his background and way of life as a local street musician.

Upon arriving in the United States in 1994 from the Shanxi Province, China, Ji first found employment in a Chinese restaurant doing odd jobs. But after hurting his back in an accident, Ji found solace in playing his erhu in a park near where he lived.

“One day,” Ji recalls, “while I was practicing, I noticed people were listening to me – so I decided to play for my own enjoyment and for others.”

When Ji found that he could make a decent living playing the erhu for people, he decided to make it a full-time job.

Ji remembers his fascination with the erhu from an early age.

“I learned how to play erhu by myself. I didn’t go to a teacher. I’ve always liked the sound of erhu ever since I was young. I’ve been playing for ten years now.”

Ji gravitates more towards playing traditional Chinese songs rather than popular tunes. Most listeners will find Ji’s music to be plaintive and wistful, evoking a time when music was meant to be contemplated rather than merely heard.

Ji explains his penchant for ancient Chinese tunes, “I like to play songs that professional erhu players perform, not general erhu songs. So you have to know about the music in order to fully appreciate it. I like songs with a longer history such as traditional erhu songs since ancient times.”

But Ji wasn’t always an erhu player. Like most Chinese immigrants’ lives, Ji’s life was marked by the reforms that swept through China during the Mao era.

Ji reflects, “I stopped playing for about ten years because of the political movement during the time of Mao Tse Tung in the 1970s.”

Luckily, for the listeners frequenting Pike Place and Pacific Place, Ji picked up the instrument again after he immigrated to America. He welcomes people to stop by and say ‘hello’, as he’s eager to share stories with anyone who takes the time to ask.

Check out IE’s exclusive video interview with Freddy Ji below:

At a time when the hip hop scene is widening its musical scope beyond the confines of gangsta rap, Korean American rapper Gowe (Gifted on West East), from Beacon Hill, stands out as a luminary whose inspiring lyricism challenges listeners to make a positive impact in the world.

Gowe attributes his positive message to God’s influence in his life. Gowe dedicated himself to Christianity and learned as much as he could about the faith. Since then, Gowe has tried to incorporate God into his music without alienating non-Christian listeners.

“My faith is the only reason I do this. I never wanted to classify myself as a Christian rapper because I had heard a lot of Christian rap and realized it wasn’t the best,” said Gowe. “I didn’t want to be associated with that. Also, I didn’t want to turn people off with a direct declaration of being Christian.”

A close listen to Gowe’s music, however, will reveal that Gowe is indeed an artist who cares deeply about reflecting the Christian influence in his music. “I don’t curse. I don’t have sexual innuendos. If you study the music, you can tell I’m Christian.”

Gowe’s music is also deeply personal. Having grown up to Chinese parents, Gowe lived most of his life thinking he was Chinese American. At age eighteen, however, his parents revealed to him that he was, in fact, adopted — and Korean. In the song “I Wonder”, Gowe not only raps about his biological mother but also the identity crisis that occurred soon after Gowe discovered he was Korean.

“Ever since I found out that I was Korean, I’ve always wanted to write a song that would capture all of my thoughts, emotions and feelings toward my situation,” said Gowe. “But more importantly, I’ve always wanted to write a song dedicated to my biological mother expressing my love for her.”

Regarding his musical influences, Gowe says he leans more toward East Coast hip hop. Indeed, his precise vocal delivery, laid over a minimalist, repetitive beat, is reminiscent of such skilled lyricists as Nas and Notorious B.I.G. (minus the profanity). Gowe also cites influences such as Thelonius Monk and the Goo Goo Dolls frontman John Reznick as his musical inspirations.

For aspiring musicians, Gowe offers the following words of advice: “Encourage anyone to follow your passions, even if it seems you’re the odd man out. Pursue your dreams and make an impact while you are here.”

Check out IE’s exclusive video interview with Gowe below:

To learn more about Gowe, visit him at:

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