With a marked increase in anti-Asian violence amid the coronavirus pandemic and #StopAsianHate rallies and protests making international headlines earlier this year, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month has taken on a heightened significance in 2021. Music companies have taken note, with many announcing a range of initiatives to observe the annual month-long celebration that honors the contributions of the AAPI community in America and around the world.
Below, Billboard has compiled a running list of AAPI-focused initiatives announced by record labels, streaming services and more to commemorate the month.
The Asian-led music company will host AAPI-focused programming on its SiriusXM channel, 88rising Radio (ch. 305), throughout the month of May. This includes “AAPI A-Z,” a twice-hourly, alphabet-themed spotlight of AAPI artists by 88rising Radio hosts; “88rising Speakers,” an ongoing series of conversations exploring the Asian-American experience with AAPI leaders across industries; weekly takeovers of 88rising shows House of Jade and There There by guest DJs from the AAPI community; and a May 25 conversation between Steve Aoki and 88rising Radio host DJ Sosuperam on Sosupersounds.
The streaming service is partnering with AEG, Gold House, Pacific Bridge Arts Foundation (PBA) and Transparent Arts on this year’s “Identity 2021″ benefit livestream. Slated to take place on May 15 via Amazon Music’s Twitch channel, the event will feature live performances, panels, PSAs and more with members of the AAPI community, including Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, James Reid, Guapdad 4000, ATEEZ, Kalani Peʻa and Steve Aoki. The livestream will raise money for PBA’s scholarship programs as well as the AAPI Community Fund.
Amazon Music has also announced plans to release a weekly series of Amazon Originals for in May that will celebrate AAPI artists across a number of genres. Episodes are slated to debut every Friday on its Mixtape Asia playlist, with the first being “Rent Free,” a new Amazon Original track from Dumbfoundead featuring Filipino-American singer, songwriter and record producer Jeff Bernat.
The service will additionally launch several new playlists in commemoration of AAPI Heritage Month including Made in Hawaii (spotlighting Hawaiian musicians), The Collective (new hip-hop from AAPI artists) and [RE]DISCOVER, which will center on the Asian-led collective and record label 88rising. A number of existing playlists showcasing regional scenes across Asia, including Bollywood Tadka and K-Pop Now, will also be highlighted on the platform.
Finally, Amazon Music will release a new short film celebrating API women artists “who break norms and defy stereotypes to redefine culture,” with featured artists to include Audrey Nuna, Deb Never, Joyce Wrice, and Maliibu Miitch. On May 7, the service will also begin debuting new weekly episodes of Amazon Music’s Twitch show Group Thread: IYKYK featuring AAPI artists and creatives.
The streaming service has put together an AAPI Heritage Month hub featuring a variety of content, including celebrity playlists from AAPI artists, producers, DJs and advocates such as Steve Aoki, UMI, Guapdad 4000, H.E.R., Hailee Steinfeld and Common Kings; the playlist Celebrating Asian American Voices, featuring some of the most influential Asian American artists working today; the short film “Unapologetically Asian” directed by Amber Park; and Apple Music radio episodes featuring interviews with artists such as Rina Sawayama, Sophia Chang, UMI and more.
The Grammy Museum at L.A. Live in Los Angeles – which is slated to reopen on May 21 – will celebrate AAPI Heritage Month with “archived programs and exhibits featuring AAPI talent.” The programs will highlight Grammy winners and nominees including Daniel Ho, Tak Matsumoto, Anoushka Shankar and Henry Kapono, among others.
These archived public programs will additionally be available on Collection: live, the Grammy Museum’s online streaming service (available for $2.99/month or $29.99/year).
In tandem with other Sony companies in the U.S. this past March, Sony Music made monetary donations to Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF).
Going forward, SMG will host a series of AAPI-themed virtual events throughout the month of May via HUE, an employee network group “dedicated to uplifting people of color.” These include mental wellness workshop “Stop AAPI Hate: Compassionate and Radical Healing”; a virtual potluck spotlighting AAPI food, culture and history; an executive roundtable discussing AAPI representation in the media and entertainment industry; a panel discussion with politicians and activists on fostering inter-community solidarity across POC groups; and a series of bystander and intervention and de-escalation sessions presented by AAJC and the anti-harassment organization Hollaback!
To commemorate the month, Spotify has created the AAPI content hub, a dedicated space that will house “leading AAPI voices alongside fresh new releases from creatives across the audio landscape.” The streaming service is additionally refreshing several playlists highlighting AAPI and mixed-race artists — including Dope AF, .ORG, Desi Hits and AAPI Pride — with new music. It has also partnered with Audrey Nuna to cover G-Dragon’s “That XX,” a song that pays homage to Nuna’s AAPI heritage.
On the podcasting front, Spotify has unveiled a “dedicated podcast shelf” featuring episodes that address racism and xenophobia. These include new episodes of Asian Enough, featuring U.S. vice president Kamala Harris discussing the rise in anti-Asian violence and how government leaders should address racism in America; Asia In-Depth, where hosts Leesa Lin and Charlie Woo discuss the rise in attacks against Asians during the pandemic; and Dear Asian Girl, whose hosts will discuss their personal experiences with Asian fetishization, the model minority myth and the lack of Asian representation in media.
Elsewhere, Spotify has partnered with illustrator Jocelyn Tsaih to create a special mural in New York City’s Chinatown highlighting the strength of the neighborhood’s residents. It will also launch “Proud to Be AAPI,” a social campaign encouraging AAPI artists, podcasters, influencers and AAPI-identifying Spotify employees to share stories about why they’re proud of their heritage.
Universal Music Group
Throughout the month, UMG and its AAPI employee resource group UTOPIAA ERG will celebrate AAPI Heritage Month with content and virtual programming to “educate, celebrate, and activate” its employees. This includes a special performance by Filipina rapper Ruby Ibarra on May 6; a “fireside chat” with UMG India & South Asia managing director and CEO Devraj Sanyal about the Indian music industry; a screening of the Eddie Huang-directed movie “Boogie” followed by a Q&A with Huang; and a performance by a to-be-named UMG-signed AAPI artist on May 26.
Universal Music has additionally curated the Spotify playlist Inclusion Is Universal, which features AAPI artists signed to the UMG roster.
YouTube Music has launched a flagship playlist entitled “Celebrating APAHM” that will feature both emerging and established Asian-American artists including cover star Audrey Nuna, Eric Nam, Raja Kumari and keshi. Other playlists showcasing Asian artists will follow throughout the month.
Over on the YouTube Spotlight channel, the service will showcase AAPI artists and others including Anna Akana, Steve Aoki, Hasan Minhaj and Amanda Lee. The participants will discuss what it was like growing up and living in North America while “juggling multiple cultures, languages and customs” and how those experiences shaped who they became. Additionally, upcoming episodes of the behind-the-scenes video series Released will feature special AAPI programming.