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The Chinkees Are Back!

In Music
STRAIGHT OUTTA MONTE SERENO: Ska with a politically incorrect name is back.

STRAIGHT OUTTA MONTE SERENO: Ska with a politically incorrect name is back.

Last Friday, The Chinkees, Mike Park’s all-Asian ska-punk band, unexpectedly put out their first new set of songs in 18 years. K.A. Music, the blazing four-song EP, was released by Park’s Monte Sereno-based Asian Man Records and quickly sold out of its initial vinyl pressing.

The sudden new album emerged out of songs guitarist/keyboardist Steve Choi (RX Bandits, The Sound of Animals Fighting) had been writing on the side from his other projects.

“He reached out, said he was writing these ska-punk songs, and asked if I wanted to collaborate,” Park says. “We weren’t even sure we were going to call it the Chinkees … but then it started to sound like the Chinkees.”

The EP opens with the thrashy “Trace the Morning Time,” a ska song whose multiple melodies weave subtly in and out of each other in the verse, and then stack on top of each other in the chorus. As with many of Park’s best songs in the past, “Morning Time” makes a timely request for people to look in their hearts.

“Be a better man,” it begins, “You can find it in your heart / Be a better friend / Take some time to find control.”

The timing couldn’t be more appropriate. K.A. Music arrives on the heels of President Trump’s repeated racist overtures to a “Chinese Virus” when referring to Covid-19. In May, Human Rights Watch noted that there has been a worldwide uptick in acts of anti-Asian racism in response to Covid-19.

As a band, the Chinkees have long confronted this kind of racism head on. Like NWA before them, their name is an inversion of a racist epithet, taking ownership of it away from those who would wield it against them. In fact, the name was originally suggested by a surprising source: comedian Margaret Cho.

“She was doing the sitcom All American Girl, the first network TV show featuring an all Asian cast, and the names they were coming up with for the show all played on racist Asian stereotypes. Eventually she said to me, ‘We should just call the show The Chinkees!’”

Though K.A. Music’s vinyl run is already sold out, all digital sales will be donated to anti-fascist organizations “till the end of time,” according to the album’s announcement on Instragram. 

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