Growing up Asian in North Carolina was not easy. This was prior to the integration of PC multiculturalism in popular culture and I was still seen as somewhat of a freak. The television appearance of anyone seemingly Asian generated my most heartfelt excitement, as if this sighting symbolized a slight progression in my acceptance as a “normal” person. Contrary to popular opinion, we weren’t all nerds hunched over our bedroom desks, frantically calculating math equations late into the night. And we certainly weren’t all shy, quiet girls with an affinity for Hello Kitty, waiting for our Caucasian knights to rescue us from the plight of Asian men. Before Lucy Liu and ZiYi Zhang showed Middle America that we could encompass the qualities of the cool kids in high school, I felt an urgent need to dispel these myths.
One day on the bus home from school, my friend Rebecca pressed a cassette tape into my palm and said: “Listen to this. You are going to love it.” In her boxy, stereotypical Asian-girl-handwriting, I saw, “Cibo Matto.” What did it mean?
I unlocked the front door and raced to pop the tape in. Instantaneously, I was immersed in a provocative, unique aural soundscape and they immediately became my heroes. In case you’re not familiar with them, Japanese-born duo Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori comprise Cibo Matto, a New York-based, avant-garde band that braid elements of jazz, hip hop, spoken word and pop into surreal dreamscapes.
This was my initial exposure to Asian women who weren’t doctors or lawyers or entrenched in some snoozy financial desk job; jobs whose security greatly appealed to my parents. They made a living playing badass music and I wanted in. I longed to use my brains and creativity every day, and Cibo Matto was the beginning of my realization that all things were possible — even for the daughter of two immigrants living in the South.
I caught up with Yuka Honda and she revealed the fascinating contents of her bag. Check Honda’s necessities below:
2. Peachy geek mag — Scientific American Magazine
4. My BlackBerry. Never leave home without it. I dropped it once and incurred serious cosmetic damage.
5. 2 Lipsticks. One for the daytime, One for the night time. Not exactly meant to be worn at the right time.
6. New style of Rubik’s Cube. It’s really difficult but looks so beautiful!
7. USB memory stick. This tiny thing holds Old Cibo Matto jams, including a recording that we (Miho and I) made on the first night we met Sean and Timo.
8. Light windbreaker that I carry (it folds up to a tiny fist size) to protect me from breezy nights and arctic AC. (Click here for a similar windbreaker)
9. Chisato Tsumori wallet. It was a gift from my dearest friends Jenny and Steve, I think of them every time I use it.
10. Glasses cleaner made out of microfiber. Are you into microfibers as much as I am? Ecological, effective, efficient. I love it! (Them??)
Some of my favorite Cibo Matto tracks:
Cibo Matto – Know Your Chicken
Cibo Matto – Sugar Water
Cibo Matto – Sci-Fi Wasabi
Cibo Matto – Moonchild
One of the greatest music videos of all-time, directed by the brilliant Michel Gondry: