Sean Miyashiro of the Asian music collective 88Rising can handle a canceled festival. Racism was another story.
Our [Head in the Clouds Jakarta] festival was supposed to be on March 7. A week prior, we were all packed, getting ready to get on a plane the next day for Indonesia. At the time, there were no known cases in Indonesia, but we were scared. We took a bunch of precautionary measures; I really wanted to make sure that people were going to be as safe as possible. But then that night we saw a news article about the first case of coronavirus in Indonesia and we were like, “Nah, it’s over.”
The festival was already built, all the people were onsite making the stage, so certainly financially — because we’re doing it in Indonesia, there’s no insurance — we lost a lot. That was hard. We’re a small company, so something like that happening to us is quite drastic. You’re talking millions of dollars. This is still ongoing — we have another date, but nobody knows what the climate will be every single day. I’m of the mind that, unfortunately, this thing might not happen.
But some of the things we’re seeing as Asians, we’ve gotten quite emotional and upset about. Because, look, I grew up here, I was born here, I’m Asian-American. I’ve never felt this way personally [before], and it’s a shared feeling with all of our employees and artists, too. Not to get political, but it was already bad [before President Trump called it the “Chinese virus”]. Going to Target, or getting in an elevator, and feeling like I don’t want to cough. I try so hard to not make other people uncomfortable. I was standing in line and this girl was so annoyed that I was behind her. I was just like, damn. It’s a crazy feeling for us to experience this, in 2020. Some gnarly things have happened to our employees and artists in a restaurant, in a parking lot — things that can escalate real quick if cooler heads don’t prevail. It enhances the danger so much more when you have the leader of the country — regardless of the origins of the virus — [saying something that] puts people in danger. It’s irresponsible. And that’s what we’re dealing with.
It has been a reminder, or a reinforcement, of who we are and what we represent generally to the world, but especially within music. At the same time, it’s confusing. We’re just kind of moving through it. But if anything, it’s an important time to be safe and tolerant and together. This is an unprecedented global pandemic, and hopefully the world can be more careful in a crisis and not single out a whole continent of people for this. Even though this is horrific, I think that Asian people in non-Asian countries, there’s a cloud over us right now. And hopefully we can get through all that.