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Celebrate AAPI Heritage Month With a Musician Who Goes F***ing Hard

Sasami (an Asian female musician) screams into a microphone on stage while playing electric guitar.

Part of the fun of having a media platform is getting to give shoutouts to creatives who I think merit more attention, and since this is AAPI Heritage Month (and I love my community), I’m gonna take that opportunity right now. The entertainment industry tends to run with certain “iconic” POC creatives while forgetting to give similar attention to others, and when it comes to Asian Americans in music, this is even more prevalent.

So let’s talk about Sasami Ashworth, who goes by Sasami as her stage name. Born to “a Caucasian Baby Boomer” father and a Zainichi mother, Sasami grew up in El Segundo, California. Like most Asian kids, she was forced to take piano lessons at a young age, but this ended up fostering a long-term interest in music. In middle school, she played the French Horn, before going on to attend a performing arts high school and study music in college. At 25, she joined the popular group Cherry Glazerr, which gifted us with such memorable bangers as this:

It wasn’t until after she joined the band that she started writing her own songs, eventually splitting amicably from them to pursue her own solo career. Her debut self-titled album was cathartic and almost painfully earnest in nature, hearkening to failed relationships, feelings of listlessness in the city, and the process of coming to terms with life’s ebbs and flows.

I’m particularly fond of this song (although the whole album is utterly gorgeous and worth listening to):

As can be seen in the video above, all of her schooling and experience has certainly gone a long way. Sasami is an incredibly skilled musician, and she seems to have a very natural, as well as expertly honed, talent for mixing sounds. Her songwriting skills are also seemingly effortless, not requiring frills to get her point across while also managing to avoid overt bluntness.

Her most recent release, “Squeeze,” goes down a much different path, straying from her indie roots and delving into metal. At once, she wanted her sound to be childishly silly and heavily dark. It was her attempt, following all the many heartbreaking frustrations that came from 2020, to “appropriate white, male music” and make her own space within it. This epiphany was guided by her experience attending a Hedgebrook songwriting residency, where she moshed to a metal band at a local dive bar and felt spiritually inspired.

“Squeeze” is intense, energetic, and all-encompassing, truly a unique album in all sorts of ways. I particularly love her aggressive spin on Daniel Johnson’s “Sorry Entertainer”:

(Starring my favorite person, Patti Harrison)

Now, Sasami has stated that she hates the idea of being lumped in “with a lot of other Asian women with no regard for our sonic differences.” So I want to take a second to explain why I wanted to write about her. I find that traditionally, popular feminine music tends to be a lot softer in general because that’s typically what sells, and while I support women in music in general, I often find myself wishing for more artists that had bite to them. Expressing rage is something that we shouldn’t be afraid of, and music is one of the best conduits for that.

So when I first saw Sasami live, at a concert where she was opening, I felt such heavy catharsis throughout her whole set, I couldn’t stop crying. Seeing someone who was also mixed-Asian on a stage doing whatever the fuck she wanted, singing however the fuck she wanted, made me feel as though a weight was being lifted off my chest. It was an incredible experience, and I’ve been a devoted fan ever since.

Maybe throughout the month, I’ll continue to share other artists who deserve equal recognition. But for now, I had to start here. It’s not every day that a screaming woman wearing massive heels makes you cry like a baby.

(featured image: Scott Legato/Getty Images)

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Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).