Last Saturday April 12, 2014 in Brooklyn NYC, Fred Ho, Saxophonist, composer, bandleader, playwright, writer, matriarchalist, ecosocialist, revolutionary, and activist passed away from his fight with cancer. A pioneer in Asian American Jazz and Avant Garde Jazz, Fred Ho was known for his Afro Asian aesthetics, a fusion of Asian and African American cultural aesthetics (Fred Ho was against the use of the word “Jazz” which he saw as a demeaning term used by dominant white culture to denigrate African American music). Some examples of Fred Ho’s Afro Asian aesthetics would be his fusion of Chinese opera with traditional African American music, and his DIY suits which remixes Asian and African styles. Fred Ho was influenced by the Black Arts Movement, the Black Power movement of the 60’s & 70’s, the third world liberation movement, and brought those ideologies and aesthetics to the then budding Asian American arts and social political movement. Fred Ho was a strong champion of bridging communities (not limited to but of note, Black and Asian communities). As a revolutionary, community activist, Fred Ho helped found the East Coast Asian Students Union (Harvard), the Asian American Arts Alliance (NYC), the Asian American Resource Center (Boston), and the Asian Improv record label.
Fred Ho also wrote and edited books analyzing and critiquing art, culture, and socio-economic-political conditions. He authored Wicked Theory, Naked Practice: Collected Political, Cultural and Creative Writings (University of Minnesota Press, 2009), Legacy to Liberation: Politics and Culture of Revolutionary Asian Pacific America (AK Press, 2000), The Sheroes Womyn Warrior Calendar (Autonomedia/Semiotext), and co-edited two books; Sounding Off! Music as Subversion/Resistance/Revolution co-edited with Ron Salkolsky (Autonomedia/Semiotext, 1995), and Afro Asia: Revolutionary Political and Cultural connections between African Americans and Asian Americans co-edited with Bill V. Mullen (Duke University Press, 2006). Fred Ho speaks of his aesthetic vision in his book Legacy to Liberation:
“Revolutionary art must … inspire a spirit of defiance, or class and national pride to resist domination and backward ideology. Revolutionary art must energize and humanize; not pacify, confuse and desensitize…”
“I am adamantly against one-dimensional, so called “correct” proscriptive forms that petty bourgeois critics try to label as “political art.” I’m also not in favor of the errors of socialist-realist art with its glorified “socialist heroes”, but favor imaginative critical realism, a sensuous rendering of the colorful material world. Art can fill us with love, with hope and with revolutionary vision.”
“Ultimately society must be transformed through the organization of people for socialist revolution. Artists can contribute a critique of capitalist society. This is critical realism: to criticize appearances and obscured social relations … Artists play key roles in affecting consciousness and can help to transform the working class from a class-in-itself to a class-for-itself.”
Below are videos of talks with Fred Ho, clips from unreleased documentaries of Fred Ho, as well a a few performances. For a complete discography of his music, list of his published writings, books, and other projects head to his site Big Red Media.
Fred Ho! The Celestial Green Monster (Unreleased Documentary)
Diary of the Dragon Trailer (Unreleased Documentary)
Diary of the Dragon: The Revolution of Fred Ho Part 1 (Unreleased Documentary, Rough Cut Part 1)
Cancer, Art and Life = the Documentary FRED HO’S LAST YEAR
Fred Ho: Free New Afrika! Boogaloo (March 30th, 2011)
Fred Ho and Dr. Salim Washington: Scientific Soul Duet (March 30th, 2011)
Fred Ho – The Sweet Science Suite: A Scientific Soul Music Honoring of Muhammad Ali (2011)
Fred Ho and Ben Barson: Live at Amherst Media + post performance discussion (April 5th, 2012)
Music, Afro Asian Politics and Culture, “Jazz” and a Vision for Revolution: An Evening with Fred Ho (2009) @ AAARICUNY
A Conversation Between Eric Mann & Fred Ho (2014)