The Fiendish Dr. Wu
Named after the nefarious villain from one of my favorite movies Black Dynamite, I go by the name “The Fiendish Dr. Wu” when transposing my experiences in Asia into music. Living in such a vast continent for the past three years has blessed my palette with an endless ocean of sounds and rhythms. I’m excited to share my findings with fresh ears.
On my first trip to Indonesia in 2013, I found myself in the arms of a culture tattooed with ragged scars and unapologetic kindness. Beneath the suffocating air of density and pollution, people embrace each other with hopeful eyes. As I walked past the smoky slums of Jakarta, I noticed so much beauty in the people but they were held in the horrible grip of poverty. When I smiled, I couldn’t help but feel sad yet I kept smiling because they did.
Selamat Malam means “good night” in Bahasa Indoensian. I composed and wrote this as the exit music for Voiceless, a documentary about the plight of Southeast Asian domestic workers in the UK. I thought about how these women would feel falling asleep. Would they be happy or sad? Would they cry or laugh? Would they think of home?
This is my lullaby for them.
The Mojo Strain
Kicking through the velvet sand of Ko Phangan (Ko means island in Thai), I was surprised to discover two surfer boys strumming Bob Marley’s “Jammin'” on a detuned guitar. They couldn’t have been more than 18 and their skin was leathery brown from the sun but they were having so much fun hitting that upbeat strum. At the time I was listening to a lot of Donald Byrds’ Cristo Redentor, so I decided to sample the choir and turn it into a dub song. This one is for those hazy afternoons where the only accomplishment is an impressive sandal tan.
A Girl Named Toska
I’ve always been fascinated by words that cannot be translated into another language since the shades of its meaning would be lost. Toska is a Russian example which I became fascinated with after reading Vladimir Nabokov’s translation:
“No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.” – Vladimir Nabokov
I moved to Hong Kong in 2012 and I missed home dearly for the first few months. The remedy for this homesickness was to write a song I could listen to if I felt blue.