Sia’s “Alive” Music Video Spots New Wunderkind in Japanese Martial Artist

Over a year after the release of her sixth album, 1000 Forms of Fear, Australian singer-songwriter Sia is back with a new album underway. With her seventh album, This Is Acting, set for release on January 29, 2016, she’s already beginning to promote it with the release of three of its tracks and on November 5th, she released the music video for the lead single, “Alive.”

Similar to her previous music videos, Sia is nowhere to be seen as we are instead treated to a choreographed piece performed by a child in the trademark bob wig. Unlike the previous music videos, the one for “Alive” has martial arts rather than a dance routine, and instead of 13-year-old dancer Maddie Ziegler, it’s 9-year-old Japanese karate star Mahiro Takano who dons the bob.

All focus is on young Takano who appears to be alone in an empty room. She is meditating and stirring tea at the beginning of the video, and then performs a number of moves as Sia is heard belting out the song. Conceptually, the video is an interesting take on a song about overcoming struggles and becoming a fighter, especially in the parts where she looks as if she’s sparring an invisible opponent.

I could see this music video as an extension of a listicle I did last year about music videos that respectfully depict Asian culture. There are many examples where Asian culture is objectified in music videos, such as Avril Lavigne’s “Hello Kitty” and Nicki Minaj’s “Your Love,” but this music video is one of only few examples that doesn’t resort to cultural appropriation. Sia, who also served as the co-director for the music video, made a respectable and creative choice of using the Japanese martial art as a symbolic visual for her song by simply having Takano show what she knows.

In addition, it’s also wise to note that a young Asian girl is the star this time around. According to Entertainment Weekly, Sia found Takano online after coming across videos of her on YouTube. In fact, one of Takano’s demo videos went viral last year, where she is seen performing Kanku Dai kata (a karate form), and it has since garnered nearly five million views. Much like the music videos for Sia’s previous album, as author Shannon Carlyn observes in her article for Bustle, the casting of young girls has not only been a way of filling in for her absence, but also as a way to empower young girls and women to not feel limited in what they can or cannot do.

Ziegler, who beforehand was known for being on the reality show Dance Moms, gained wider notice after appearing in the music videos for Sia’s “Chandelier,” “Elastic Heart,” and “Big Girls Cry.” Due to the seldom appearance of Asians in music videos, the fact that Takano might receive similar attention for her performance in “Alive” is a really exciting possibility. It does, however, depend on her deal with Sia. While Ziegler was signed on to do three music videos, it is currently unknown as to whether or not this will be the only one Takano appears in.

The music video does have the potential to be subjective to enforcing the stereotype that all Asians know martial arts. Ideally, I’d like to think that we’re in a time now where people would know better, but if that were truly the case, then the stereotypical roles and lack of visibility of Asians in the media wouldn’t be as significant an issue as it is. But considering Takano’s background in martial arts, I hope that the music video can be seen more as a way of showcasing her talent, similar to how “Chandelier” showcased Ziegler’s. Besides, it’s not that often where martial arts are included in a music video. Unlike mainstream martial art films where they’re made to look flashy with post-production visual aesthetics, Takano makes it real by simply demonstrating the moves she has learned that has led to her earning a black belt.

This past year, we’ve begun to see a turnout in better representations of Asians and Asian Americans in the media landscape. With this music video out there now starring a talented Japanese girl, my hope is that it ignites the move to diversify actors and performers in the future of music videos.


Cover image source: Sia

What’s new on the TRAKTIVIST Playlist – 5/8/2015

Our friends at shared with us a list of their favorite new releases from the last few weeks. Take a listen and check out some sweet new tunes from APA artists!

1. ‪Steve Aoki ft. Linkin Park‬ – ‪Darker Than Blood ‬

2. Sam Tsui & Casey Breves – Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper)

3. AWOLNATION – Sail (cover by Kawehi)

4. Liane V – Don’t Be That Guy feat. Honey Cocaine

5. Best Coast – Feeling Ok

6. Towkio – Reflection (Prod. Kaytranada)

7. Jonwayne – Green Light (ft. Anderson Paak)

TRAKTIVIST.COM is the premiere platform to discover, promote, and historically archive music made by Asian Americans. From new releases to undiscovered gems, music will be posted every week for your enjoyment. Check us out at

Hear more from the TRAKTIVIST on this week’s KollabCast!

Turn Up the Love and Turn Down the Hate for Psy’s New Music Video

In case you haven’t heard, Psy and Snoop Dogg released the music video for their new song “Hangover” this Monday—a feat which has already amassed close to 40 million views in just two days. Like “Gangnam Style” and “Gentleman”, the video is characterized by Psy’s over-the-top antics to mainstream pop music, which, as usual, has inspired an outpour of negative feedback from Internet users.

From a Korean’s perspective, watching Snoop Dogg eat triangular gimbap, do a loveshot with soju, and dance with an ahjumma (an elderly Korean woman) may have been one of the most amusing things I have ever seen. Why do I find this amusing? Because this literally never happens in mainstream media. The juxtaposition is the strangest of strange visuals: a well-known American hip hop figure, not only chilling with a Korean, but also engaging in part of his Asian culture. While others can cringe at the weirdness, I raise a toast to Psy–congrats on raising awareness of Korean culture, even if it is through your own quirky way.

Sure the video may not offer an accurate portrayal of all Koreans. Not all Koreans drink and party insanely. There’s more to our culture than that. But Psy also makes a more conscious effort to incorporate staples of Korean culture unseen in his former music videos. While Americans might see the music video as random compilations, scenes like ramen-eating at local delis, the disco pang pang ride, the appearance of k-pop stars, and gangster fighting scenes are all authentic aspects to Korean society that deviate from the stereotypical representations of Asians that we see in America. Even the focus on drinking is not terribly inappropriate to talk about since Koreans outdrink most countries in the world. While Psy’s quasi-fetishizing of our culture is something to worry about to some, it is also important to acknowledge that he is tapping into a mass proportion of people who can barely differentiate Koreans from other Asians.

So before you post your yappy YouTube comments, Twitter statuses, Facebook links, or whatever, trash-talking the ridiculousness of Psy’s new music video, go watch the millions of other music videos (I suggest Turn Down for What or anything Katy Perry/Lady Gaga), and realize that Psy’s shock tactics come from following successful American mainstream pop. For me, there is real value to Psy’s music, at least to the Asian-American community, and at the end of the day, if a voluntary click of a url and willingness to sit through a 5-minute video, is another step to expanding diversity, then I’m proud to rep Psy as my fellow Korean.

Check out the video here!

Clara C’s newest song inspired by Girl Rising

Inspired by the Girl Rising documentary, singer-song writer and 2010’s Kollaboration alumna, Clara C wrote “Wildflower” and debuted the music video last March.

Girl Rising, a global campaign founded by New York independent film company Ten Times Ten, advocates girl’s rights to an education around the world through screenings of their 2013 documentary, donations through their website, and offering fundraising ideas. In the light of the recent kidnapping in Nigeria, Girl Rising also helps people who want to get involved in rallies, spread the word #BringBackOurGirls, and they provide a timeline of events for people to follow and understand the whole story of the situation. The campaign calls everyone who believes in the universal right of education to rise to take a stand.

Girl Rising’s cause inspired Clara to compose “Wildflower.” The music video features Clara walking in the woods interposed with different photos of people around the world advocating Girl Rising. The chill, low-key song encourages staying strong against challenges, and flourishing despite the odds. Her music video already has over 35,000 views since its on March 5.

At the end of the video, Clara sends out a personal call to action, backing the Girl Rising movie and promoting the hashtag #IAmCourage to trend ideas and awareness of girls education in the world. Girl Rising’s other partners like CARE, UN Women, the Girl Effect, Intel, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and World Vision tweeted out their support of #IAmCourage, along with countless other users.

Girl Rising continues its fight for girl’s education, especially given the crisis in Nigeria. Accepting donations, hosting rallies, and helping #bringBackOurGirls become more prolific, Girl Rising won’t cease until all girls receive the education they deserve.

 Check out the video:

For more information on Girl Rising, click here.

3 Music Videos that Respectfully Depict Asian Culture

We’ve all seen the atrocities of Western appropriation of Asian culture in many music videos, such as Nicki Minaj’s “Your Love” and Gwen Stefani’s “Harajuku Girls.”  But what about music videos that exhibit Asian culture without degrading it to Oriental set dressing?

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Hana Kim Releases “Caravan” LIVE Music Video

Hana Kim, singer-songwriter and Kollaboration L.A. 2013 alumna, released an enchanting live performance music video of her song “Caravan.”  The video was shot by KCM Media and is set in a whimsical clearing in the woods with sunlight glimmering through the treetops.  Hana’s soulful voice echoes as she sings the haunting melody while playing on her keyboard, accompanied by her guitarist Eugene Choi. 

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Why I Love Clara C’s New Video “Things Untold”

Clara C just released the official video for her new song “Things Untold,” putting her enticing vocals and adorable personality on display once again for our viewing pleasure. The video is a montage of Clara’s blissful and heartwarming moments with her friends, which goes perfectly with the song’s message of making memories while feeling alive. She and her friends dance in a car. They play mini golf. They don’t care about the gloomy weather outside, and they certainly don’t need money, fame, or even sunshine to have a good time. To create lasting memories, all you need are friendship and positive vibes.

Continue reading “Why I Love Clara C’s New Video “Things Untold””