Boston-based recording artist, producer, singer-songwriter, and film composer Jiexi Zhao makes his mark with a funky and versatile 3-track EP, 'Ìnkè.'
Known for bridging the gap between his Asian heritage and sonic explorations of r&b/soul, it goes without saying that Jiexi Zhao's music is nothing less than unique. Producing groovy, groundbreaking, and retro-inspired tunes that leave anyone tapping their feet, the dynamic and experienced recording artist never fails to leave us in awe of his skill set and talent.
Recently releasing his 3-track EP, 'Ìnkè,' listeners are able to get a better understanding of the sonic and lyrical content that Jiexi Zhao has to offer. The project was initially set to release in 2020, but as a product of the Asian discrimination in the US, Jiexi Zhao felt insecure and questioned if listeners were ready and open to receiving the record. As the Asian community fought back with social and political movements, Jiexi Zhao felt it was a better time than ever to release the dynamic project.
To give our readers a taste of what to expect from Jiexi Zhao's EP, we've decided to elaborate on the project's funky intro track, "BE YOURSELF." This track truly holds everything we're looking for in unique and explorative artists, as it opens with a funky bassline, a mid-tempo drum beat, and various samples of Asian instrumentation that enhances Jiexi Zhao's musical upbringing and heritage.
As Jiexi Zhao continues his groovy, sensual, and seductive lyrical venture, he expands on the importance of living for yourself and finding authenticity in our differences. We're wildly impressed with Jiexi Zhao's merge of Asian and North American production stylings/instrumentation, as it truly makes for an unforgettable and soul-clutching listening experience.
Find the rest of Jiexi Zhao's 3-track EP, 'Ìnkè' on all digital streaming platforms.
Welcome to BuzzMusic Jiexi. We must thank you for releasing your needed and unique project, 'Ìnkè.' What inspired you to create this groovy, funky, and dynamic 3-track EP?
My childhood was kind of unique, where I grew up listening to Chinese Traditional Music & Classical music in my grandparents' home during weekdays; and R&B music in my dad's car during the weekends. So I've always lived between these two parallel universes. Therefore, I always felt a special connection towards R&B music, but at the same time, I also want to make music that represents me. And I've had some help from my friends, Joshua Lu, who engineered, recorded the songs and witnessed the entire process with me, and Zhiyao Zhang, who made the beautiful album artwork that can't fit the EP any better. That's why I've called this EP ìnkè（印刻）. It stands for both "imprint" in Chinese and "ink" in English. I wish to imprint my statement, using my blended ink on top of what people listen to these days. In addition, each song is blended in a unique way. For example, in the second song, How does it Feel, I've taken inspiration from Shidaiqu (時代曲), a genre from Shanghai that combined Chinese folk songs with American jazz in the 20s. For the music, I chose to feature Erhu and blended it with a Motown R&B/Soul-inspired groove. Traditional Chinese music often uses Erhu to express the feeling of missing someone（思念）. Although Erhu is somewhat played similar to a violin, the sound is entirely different. The tone of Erhu is filled with wist and somber, and when Erhu plays some hint of blues lines in the song, it just blends in perfectly with the Motown-inspired groove.
Why did you choose to open the EP with the intro track, "BE YOURSELF?" How does this track set the tone for the rest of the project?
Being yourself can sometimes be the easiest and the hardest thing to do in the world. For us Asians, I think it's tough to be yourself in the western world. We were never taught how cool our cultures actually are, and no one was out there representing us correctly. So when you're trying to make it in America as an Asian artist, it's so easy to lose yourself in the game and drift away from who you are to "fit in". Therefore, since this whole EP is all about being myself, it was the perfect song to kick it off.
Do you have a favorite track within the EP' Ìnkè?' What makes that specific song your favorite, and why?
My personal favorite is "Vintage Lover". The song is one of the oldest song ideas from this EP. I think this song is very me because I love old stuff, antiques and all. And I'm really old-school when it comes to relationships too. And I've always wanted my other half to be just as old school as I am, so...I guess now they know what to expect now!
Was it challenging to mentally prepare yourself for the EP's release after witnessing America's discrimination towards the Asian community? How did you summon the strength and courage to release the project during those difficult times?
To be honest, I was battling mentally with myself about this EP, because I didn't think people would like it, or even just be curious about it, because I've stayed here long enough to know America doesn't understand Asian culture. And I constantly had that thought like, "who am I to cause a change？" But then the turning point was when the 75-year-old Asian grandma fought back a guy who attacked her, and she ended up donating all of her money from her funds to the community to fight against racism. And that is what motivated and inspired me in so many ways to finish and release this EP. There's a saying in China, "the water that bears the boat is the same that swallows it up (水能载舟，亦能覆舟)." Change can only happen when all of us take action. This EP might not cause any actual significance, but even if it just inspires one, that one will start inspiring others.