Copyright ©2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

BLOCK: "Rabbit Days and Dumplings" is the title of a new album billed as all ages folk and children's music from East Asia. Traditional songs mostly from China, Tibet, Taiwan, Japan and Korea.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

BLOCK: The album is the creation of Elena Moon Park. She spent six years playing family music with Dan Zanes, who has a fanatically devoted following among the smaller set. And for this project, she brought in dozens of other musicians from around New York City. Elena Moon Park joins me from our New York studio. Elena, welcome.

ELENA MOON PARK: Thank you, Melissa.

BLOCK: You've played lots and lots of world music with Dan Zanes over the years. How did you decide to focus for this project, on this music of East Asia?

PARK: Well, I mean, I'm a Korean-American. I was born and raised in East Tennessee, but my parents are both immigrants from South Korea. And, you know, it was kind of a mutual idea that Dan and I had, just looking around and seeing a lack of music from this part of the world in the family music scene.

And it was kind of - it became a personal project because when asked by Dan, you know, if I knew any great Korean songs that we could play at our shows, I actually didn't really know any. And so it was a way for me to start exploring this music and to start wanting to share it with the broader audience.

BLOCK: So you didn't know Korean songs. When you were growing up, there wasn't - there weren't songs that your parents would have sung to you in Korean as a kid?

PARK: You know, there wasn't that many - there were not a lot of Asian families in the town that I grew up in. And I think, you know, like any immigrant families, my parents had to make, you know, some difficult choices about if I should learn the language, if I should just totally be immersed in the kind of the southern culture that I was in. And there were a couple of songs that I did know.

One song on this album called "San Toki" is a Korean children song. It was definitely a song that I knew growing up and a song that I think anybody associated with Korea, at all, knows.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAN TOKI")

PARK: It's a very simple concept. It's about a bunny who's hopping along the mountainside and nobody knows where he's going.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAN TOKI")

BLOCK: There's a great train song on the album. I think it's one of my favorites. This one's from Taiwan. What's it called?

PARK: "Diu Diu Deng."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DIU DIU DENG")

BLOCK: There's that diu diu. What is that?

PARK: That's the sound of the water that drops on the train as it goes through the tunnel. The lyrics of the song are basically describing a train as it enters a tunnel and water drops on the top of the train, makes that sound, diu diu, which sounds like a coin that's flipping onto a surface. And that's the entirety of the lyrics.

BLOCK: That's it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BLOCK: And what's that instrument there, Elena?

PARK: That is the pipa, which is a Chinese plucked string instrument. And that pipa player is Wu Man, who is perhaps one of the best known and most amazing pipa players in the country.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

BLOCK: When you went back to your parents and started, you know, excavating a little family history about songs in Korea, what did you find out? What did they have to tell you?

PARK: I think they were surprised at first that I was interested in these songs and exploring these traditions. But then it turned out to be something that really drew me closer to my family and to my culture in a way that I wasn't expecting. And we kind of excavated them together, you know? They looked back and they asked around and did some research and helped me find songs.

We were able to interact in a way that we hadn't before in this common purpose of looking deeper into these musical traditions. So I mean, I think they really enjoyed it in the end. And it became something very special to them.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

BLOCK: You funded the album, at least in part, through Kickstarter. And I wonder what you heard from the people who were giving you money to bring the album about, why they were funding this, what they saw in it.

PARK: I think a lot of people were excited by the fact that this was exploring musical traditions that people didn't really know anything about, and a lot of my Kickstarter supporters do come to it from a very personal place also. There are a lot of Asian-American families involved, and there are a lot of families with adopted Asian children that have reached out to me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PARK: I had a, you know, a really nice letter from a parent in, I think, in Kansas, who has Asian-American daughter, who I think, much like me, is in a town with not very many Asians. And I think she's maybe 7 or 8 years old and kind of going through a mini identity crisis about being Asian and about being one of the only Asian kids in her class. And I think that she was really excited to see this, and that this was kind of something that helped her, which is a beautiful thing to hear.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

BLOCK: Well, Elena Moon Park, thank you so much.

PARK: Thank you.

BLOCK: The album from Elena Moon Park and friends is "Rabbit Days and Dumplings."

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.