Who Are the Vintage Voices Behind Crazy Rich Asians’ Soundtrack?

(Photo: Business Wire)

WaterTower Music announced that on December 7th, 2018, they are releasing two very stylish vinyl versions of the Crazy Rich Asians Soundtrack: one in appropriate gold and one in emerald green. Noting that a majority of the soundtrack are revivals of classics, from Elvis Presley to Madonna, vinyl sounds like the perfect match.

We all know about the letter to Coldplay and Awkwafina’s rise to stardom. (If you don’t, please take a Google break.) But who are the voices behind the crooning covers of the vintage classics? We’ll take you through some of these stars who are the core inspiration for immortalizing the Crazy Rich Asians Soundtrack in vinyl.

1. Grace Chang – “Wo Yao Ni De Ai” and “Wo Yao Fei Shang Qing Tian”

Grace Chang, (a.k.a. Ge Lan) was born in 1934 during the Shanghai Golden Age of Jazz. Moving from her hometown in Nanjing, Grace grew up in Shanghai where the colonial-imported-music was all the rage. Soon after, she moved to Hong Kong with her family to pursue music as a career. She arrived on its shores as a teen excited to explore the bustling metropolis. It was 1948. Back in Shanghai, China was starting its crackdown on Western culture, and in a few more years, jazz would also be on the chopping block.

Once in Hong Kong, Grace quickly rose to fame. The starlet shone on the HK silver screen for a decade, her apple cheeks and fiery Jazz performances lighting up every scene. She worked consistently in film and music, from 1954 to 1964, when she took an early retirement for marriage and family. During her short-lived career she recorded in multiple languages, including Thai, in a Hong Kong-Thailand joint venture.

Probably the most popping and additive song on the soundtrack, Grace Chang’s “Wo Yao Ni De Ai” is a rendition of Louis Jordan’s “I Want You To Be My Baby”. It’s hard to shake after just one listen. Even the most elementary of Mandarin speakers (myself included) can shout out the lyrics with gusto.

“Wo Yao Fei Shang Qing Tian” was released on her 1961 Album, “Hong Kong’s Grace Chang”. Composed by Min Yao and Yi Wen, the song doesn’t appear to be a cover – unusual for a movement that relied heavily on Western influences.

2. Yao Lee – “Ren Sheng Jiu Shi Xi”

Yao Lee (a.k.a Yao Li) was born in China in 1922 and raised in Shanghai. Similar to Grace Chang, Yao Lee came of age during a spectacle time for jazz in Shanghai. At 13, Lee found herself on the radio and, a year later, recorded her first single. She was the voice behind the hit, “Rose, Rose, I Love You”, composed by Chen Gexin. The song was later covered by American Frankie Laine in 1951. Yes! That’s right! Yao Lee had it first! And it remains the only major pop music chart hit in the United States written by a Chinese composer. Lee’s Mandarin-version was even released in the US in the 50s. She was credited as “Miss Hue Lee”.

The silky voice of Yao Lee can transition from the sweet and high octaves in “Rose, Rose, I Love You” to low and sultry, like in “Ren Sheng Jiu Shi Xi”. She often teamed up with her famous brother, Yao Min, recording duets. Her work came to a halt when she married in 1947. But Shanghai’s golden age was on a timer. Like many of her colleagues, Lee fled China for Hong Kong in 1950.

Lee was able to restore her career in her new home, both on stage and on the silver screen. She stopped singing in 1967 when her brother passed away. She continued to support others in their pursuit of music by working with EMI Music Hong Kong.

3. Lilan Chen – “Ni Dong Bu Dong”

Lilan Chen was assuredly the most difficult of singers to track down on this list. Her wiki page is sparse and I had to get it translated by a co-worker. Born in Taiwan in 1951, Lilan gained the nickname “Queen of Blinking” because of her signature fluttering eyes. She was entering singing competitions while still in high school. In the late 60s, she also made her debut on TV shows and participated in the Taiwanese television program called Happy Birthday.

Lilan married in 1979, immigrated to the United States after marriage, and faded out of the entertainment industry.

“Ni Dong Bu Dong”, with its hip-shaking Cuban-inspired cha-cha-cha rhythm, has turned into a line-dancing favorite on YouTube. What is line dancing? Oh, you’re in for a treat.

Crazy Rich Asians didn’t just give us young millennials of 2018 representation on screen. It also brought back and paid homage to a lost generation of music and talent. The power of the arts can do that. It can bring life to the forgotten.

Written by XiaoHwa S. Ng
Digital Strategist

South Asian Influencers you should not be sleeping on

Up until a few years ago, all South Asians could claim for entertainment representation was The Simpsons’ Apu Nahasapeemapetilon – not a real last name, btw. While things are changing for the better, with more South Asian faces on film and screen, it’s online where the South Asian community, or Desi Twitter as we call it, can really find their voices. This is where South Asians get to bond over strict Desi parents, our collective love for biryani, and our collective rage over why everyone else can’t stop saying chai tea or naan bread when they essentially mean the same thing. We have our big beauty bloggers– Farah Dhukai and Nabela Noor, comedy YouTubers – Lilly Singh, Liza Koshy and JusReign, and insanely talented mash-up singers – VidyaVox. But the biggest influencers are the South Asians stars and actors that Desi twitter can’t seem to get enough of. Here’s a handy list of the biggest names who have us hanging on to their every word on social media.

Priyanka Chopra: Before she took over Hollywood, becoming the first South Asian actor to headline a major network drama with Quantico, Priyanka Chopra was (and still is) a Bollywood superstar. She worked in over 60 blockbuster movies, cut music albums, became the most followed Indian on Twitter and then moved to the US to produce a show casting herself as its lead. Since then, Chopra has been busy starring in the Baywatch reboot alongside Zac Effron and Dwayne ‘Rock’ Johnson and has major upcoming projects with two Chrises (Hemsworth and Pratt). Even before her stop-the-presses engagement with Nick Jonas, which caused a social media meltdown in both India and the US, PeeCee as her fans know her, caught constant media attention with her well-informed perspectives on being a brown woman in America.

IG: 27.8m Twitter: 23.2m

Mindy Kaling: There are a few reasons that a list filled with South Asian faces on American TV and film can now exist and one of them is Mindy Kaling. The OG South Asian woman on TV, Kaling wrote, starred in and later produced the beloved comedy, The Office. Her recurring role as the narcissistic Kelly Kapoor, a far cry from the muted wallpaper of South Asian women depicted on TV (if we saw them at all), remains a huge fan favorite even years after the show has ended. Soon after, she produced and starred in the groundbreaking The Mindy Project, playing a quirky rom-com loving, Ob-Gyn — another first for a South Asian woman on TV. She has since produced and starred in NBC’s Champions and has a major role in the upcoming Ocean’s 13 along with Rihanna and Anne Hathaway. We also love this new mom’s Instagram for her adorable baby food recipes, workout fails and red carpet fashion, where she regularly interacts with fans and supports up and coming South Asian talent.

IG: 3.4m Twitter: 11.9m

Kal Penn: There was a time in the late 90s and early 2000s when South Asian actors routinely played sidekicks or comic relief to the lead (mostly white) actor. And Kal Penn played almost all of them. It changed somewhat only in 2004 when he starred in Harold and Kumar, one of the biggest Asian comedy franchises, with Jon Cho. While Penn has since continued acting with popular roles in series like House and How I Met Your Mother, he was also the Associate Director for Public Engagement at the White House during the Obama administration. Even after moving on from that role, Penn has consistently used social media to speak for human rights and the unfair and racist typecasting of South Asians in Hollywood. In 2017, when a racist troll told him that he didn’t “belong in this country,” he used that comment to raise over $160K for refugees in Syria. He is soon coming out with his own book of essays.

Twitter: 599K IG: 137K

Jameela Jamil: This British-South Asian radio and television presenter was known for speaking her mind and standing up for women even before her stint as Tahani-Al-Jamil in the hit sitcom, The Good Place. Contrary to her role as the out-of –touch British heiress on TV, in real life Jamil has been dubbed as the social media vigilante women need. After struggling with anorexia as a teen, and recovering from a spine-crushing accident, Jamil is an outspoken advocate for body positivity. She has consistently called out the Kardashian sisters for promoting weight loss supplements and even started “I Weigh”, a user generated Instagram account where people describe how and why they ‘weigh’ more than their bodies or appearances.

IG: 365K Twitter: 325K

Tan France: Born to Pakistani parents in England, Tan France is one of the Fab Five from the breakout hit of the season, Queer Eye. As the stylist on the show, where five gay men help a participant make over different areas of their life, France is known for his empathetic and body positive makeovers. While relatively new in the American spotlight, France is already working with SNL’s Pete Davidson and writing a forthcoming memoir. On the show, he often talks about growing up gay in a Pakistani household in England and how that helped shape his identity. His Instagram is a refreshing mix of real life moments and style-inspo, which he also uses to engage with fans and the rest of the Queer Eye cast.

IG: 2m Twitter: 306K

When it comes to social media, it’s not always about the biggest numbers. While each of these celebrities has a huge following, what makes their social media shine is constant engagement. Apart from promoting their upcoming projects, they come across as real people who constantly speak to their followers. And that, in our opinion, is what turns a celebrity with a social media into a valuable influencer

Written by Yashica Dutt
Associate Creative Director

Innovation and Disruption in Asia: Smart Home


This post is part of an ongoing series on Innovation and Disruption of technology and business in Asia. Visit the archives of previous posts here.


Digital technology hasn’t just transformed the way people shop, but also the way people live. The global smart home market is expected to reach an estimated $107 billion by 2023.1 Asia is projected to see the highest growth because of increasing urbanization, rising standards of living, and government investment in the building of smart cities.


Pre-Installed Smart Homes: In South Korea, most new residential buildings have smart home systems pre-installed. You won’t see light switches in these ultra-modern apartments, instead, there are touchscreens in every room. These integrated systems aren’t just for lights–they control temperature, digital locks, cameras, air purifiers, smart TVs, gas lines, energy reporting and even elevator requests.

Samsung and LG lead global smart appliance sales
Photo credit: LG

Smart Drones: A growing trend is the utilization of drones as a part of the smart home security system. These security drones can fly whenever unusual activities are detected, inside or outdoors. Chinese brand DJI is dominating the global drone industry, and capturing 50% of the market share for drones purchased in the U.S. across all price points.2

Automated Toilets: In fact, there’s an area, rather intimate, that has also been elevated to a whole different level by innovators in Asia. It’s the toilet. In Japan, the smart toilets installed in the hotels create interesting experiences for travelers. It is, according to Toto, the world’s largest toilet brand, “an element of Japanese culture that is difficult to explain in words”. In practical terms, that means a motion-sensing toilet seat that lifts automatically, a stream of warm water sprayed at one’s undercarriage, and a gentle, warm breeze to dry everything off. For the past 5 years, Japanese smart toilets have become a shopping phenomenon in Asia, now you can easily spot them at Asian American homes.

For Asian Americans, the idea of living in a modern smart home is a natural part of their tech-forward lifestyles. Take the smart home speaker as an example. Asian Americans have the highest ownership of Amazon Alexa.3

Written by Selina Guo

Planning Director, Admerasia

Smart Home is not the only industry disrupted by Asian innovation. There are eight more! Download the link at https://www.admerasia.com to read the entire report.


1NY Mag, We’re Already Living in the Smart-Home Future, 2017

2Techcrunch; prnewswire, Skylogic Research Report Unveils Drone Industry Market Share Figures, 2017

3thinknowresearch, OK Google How Are Multicultural Consumers Adopting Smart Speaker Technology in the US, 2018

INDIA POST: State Farm spot shows why Indian parents know best

NEW YORK: State Farm has released a new spot targeted to the growing Asian Indian market in the US. The spot was inspired by the relationship between driven, career-minded 30-somethings and their visiting parents. Aptly titled ‘Intuition’, it tells the funny yet relatable story of an Asian Indian family, and of how ignoring parental advice isn’t always the best idea. The commercial also features Anu, a real State Farm agent who is so close to them that she’s almost a part of the family. In addition to broadcast, the creative is running across all digital platforms with the intent of generating positive associations among the community.

(Read More on India Post)

10 Asian American NYC Chefs with Delicious Instagram Feeds

Featured image above: Vegan Liftz

Ask a chef what their biggest obstacle is, and it won’t be customers waiting at the door, or the art of sous-vide, or their mixologist quitting on a Saturday night. It will be the daily grind of social media. As one chef put it to me in an off-handed comment, “I can’t wait to stop taking pictures and actually get back to cooking”.

Food is visual. We eat with our eyes as much as our taste buds. Instagram hashtags like #foodie, #nomnom and #instayum have taken off, and there is no end in sight. From styling, plating and portrait-mode, to engagement numbers, and backend analytics – the chef’s life has slowly but surely become a life in front of a screen. It’s no wonder that many chefs now have someone dedicated to the task – personal social media managers, entire departments, or even agencies (we know one in particular – wink, wink).

But for chefs that reside the outer-reaches of general market cuisines, social media is a blessing-in-disguise.

“Instagram came to give a voice to chefs and to the food they serve.”
– 2-Michelin Star, Dominique Crenn, Wired Magazine.

Sure, finding 101 ways to take a picture of your cheeseburger might sound like a bore. But for the oceans of chefs in NYC, heralding dishes unfamiliar to the American regional scope, social media has given them a open window.

For years, Asian food has made a home on Instagram – demystifying cuisines long thought of as “exotic”. To advocate these chefs who are determined to bring your eyes to their food, here are OUR favorite New York City Instagram Chefs and restaurants, both famous and underground, who are worth following – and are worth a visit IRL too.

1. Bricolage – Chefs Lien and Edward Lin – Vietnamese Gastropub

Michelin Guide 2018, Bricolage has everything – their own dried beef jerky, bespoke cocktails and mouth-watering pork belly. What they do right on Social, is a combination of color, warmth and pics of real-life people, such as the Lien family, children included, at the restaurant.

2. Baoburg – Chef Bao Bao – Thai South East Asian Fusion

Stepping into Baoburg in Greenpoint, BK is like stepping into a noodle shop in Thailand, complete with sunny back patio and plastic stools. Wonder Woman, Chef Bao Bao relies on natural light plus an awfully cute cat and parrot.

3. Junoon – Chef Akshay Bhardwaj – Indian

Make your reservations in advance for Michelin Guide 2018 Junoon’s upscale Indian fare. Shooting typical Indian food is HARD! Junoon social success is due to it’s unexpected presentations – not bowl after bowl of soggy tikka masala.

4. Flip Sigi – Chef Jordan Andino – modern Filipino-Mexican

Flip Sigi has a playful touch with it’s Filipino-Mexican fare. They are good at using tiling effects in their feeds (and it helps that Celebrity Chef Jordan Andino is easy on the eyes).

5. Mokbar – Chef Esther Choi – Korean Ramen Bar

Chef Esther Choi has been kicking a$$ and taking names with her two Mokbar locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Her social style is all about natural light, brilliant colors and some mouth-watering noodle action.

6. Little Alley – Chef Yuchun Cheung – Shanghainese

Get a taste of Shanghai-inspired comfort food, complete with crispy-bottom bao, ma po tofu, and savory soup dumplings. Little Alley’s feed is not only filled with those savory dishes we yearn for but also of Shanghai life and culture, making the experience both yummy and inspirational.

7. Raku – Udon-centric Japanese

These guys don’t play around with their Udon. Cold or hot, Raku serves up delicious, chewy Udon every time – and other stuff too. Minimalism is the name of their game. Clean lines, balanced usage of shapes and colors, all bring Zen to Raku’s feed.

8. Kopitiam – Chef Kyo Pang – Traditional Malaysian Coffee House

Filled with spices, fusion, and flare, Kopitiam’s mission is to preserve the fading recipes of a cuisine infused with global influence. Relatively new, their social is still finding their balance but often we are surprised with an unusual and gorgeous image of Malay food or life.

9. Ho Foods – Owner Richard Ho – Taiwanese Beef Noodle Shop

Taiwanese-cuisine has finally found some traction in NYC. The warm and comforting bowls of beef noodle soup at Ho Foods are responsible. It’s all about the noodles so if you don’t mind bowl after steaming bowl, then this is the feed to follow.

10. Taco Mahal – Chef Danikkah Josan – Indian Tacos

Can you have too many tacos? Trick question. There’s no such thing as “too many tacos”. Not when Indian-Latina chefs like Danikkah Josan are stuffing these incredible morsels with so much goodness. And it’s hard to make a taco look healthy, vibrant and full of life, but Taco Mahal succeeds.

But it’s not just about pretty pictures. What all these talented restaurants and chefs do consistently is 1) stay relevant 2) keep posting 3) learn from your audience 4) engage, engage, engage 5) use Instagram as a gateway into your world, not just a recorder of history.

Did we miss a restaurant or a chef you think deserves mention? Comment. We’d love to see some more delicious pics.

Written by XiaoHwa S. Ng
Digital Strategist


Do Desi Parents Really Have A Third Eye?

Desi culture is known for many things – Bollywood, deliciously spicy and fragrant food, festivals, and ‘loving your parents’. You might say that the last bit could be true for any culture (yes, we all love our parents) and you’d probably be right. But no one loves their parents in quite the same way as us Desis. And we have the movies to prove it – one of them literally had “it’s all about loving your parents” in its title. At least till a few decades ago, the Maa or Mom was a central figure in Indian movies, often rivaling the female lead in the order of importance. And almost every Maa in Indian cinema had the uncanny ability to predict exactly what was about to happen to their children before it happened. While lately, more diverse stories have taken precedence over the old-school-hero-with-a-perpetually-disappointed-mother plots; mothers in modern Indian cinema seem to have retained their extraordinary abilities of intuition.

TBD caption

Rakhee’s famous character in Karan Arjun was convinced her murdered sons would be reborn to avenge their deaths.

Although Indian movies, whether they are made in Bollywood or southern film industries, are notoriously prone to exaggeration, this remarkable trait of parental intuition is rooted in reality. At least somewhat. It’s no secret that Desi parents have deeply tight-knit relationships with their children that extend well into adulthood. Many pick their kids’ after-school activities, prescribe their career paths and more often than not, even choose their spouses through arranged marriages. A significant portion of adult children never move out of their parents’ homes, which are built to accommodate each sibling and their future partners. However, in a dynamic and globally connected South Asia and South Asian America, the parent-child relationship is fast evolving and not all parents micro-manage their children’s lives. In fact, more young parents are recognizing their children as individuals with unique interests and personalities. But regardless of the parenting style, the core of the Desi parent-child relationship remains incredibly snug and involved in each other’s lives. Even after moving few thousands miles to the US, adult children still rely on, or at least pay serious attention to, their parents’ advice.

But beyond the familial closeness, Desi parents’ presumed sense of intuition comes from the Hindu cultural context of ‘Third Eye’. A mythical ‘eye’ located between the two eyebrows, it is also understood as the center of a deeper consciousness in the Vedic practice. The cultural instinct for parents to monitor (and control) their children’s every move leads to slightly overstated warnings about having an actual ‘third eye’, and thus the ability to see the children even when they’re not around. While parental ‘third eye’ might be little more than an urban legend dressed as a cultural truth, its repeated sightings in Indian cinema have more or less cemented it into social realism. That, mixed with some scientific evidentiary maternal and paternal intuition often has Desis convinced that our parents just might have the ‘third eye’.

The Mom in State Farm’s Intuition commercial senses a tree might fall — and it does!

The Mom in State Farm’s Intuition commercial senses a tree might fall — and it does!

Above all, the ‘third eye’ is a cultural representation of the children’s acknowledgement and trust of their parents’ foresight. When we were looking for an idea that would resonate with Desis of all ages and generations, we realized that this would be the perfect way to deliver State Farm’s message of trust and being here to help life go right. A story about the ‘third eye’ where visiting parents call out a mishap before it happens but adult children ignore them anyway, came together in the latest commercial for State Farm we titled Intuition. Check it out below:

State Farm “Intuition”: Third-Eye Commercial

Written by Yashica Dutt
Associate Copy Director