The Afro Asian Music Ensemble Tour!

April 6, 2015

(click on the poster to enlarge or download)

From April 19th­ to April 26th, the Afro Asian Music Ensemble will take Fred Ho’s Afro­Asian music and radical ecosocialist politics on tour. The group will perform at venues in Western Massachusetts, New York City, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Vermont. (Scroll down for showtimes!) Throughout their performances, they will be joined by special guests and longtime collaborators of Mr. Ho, including singer and theatre artist Youn Joun Kim; in Chicago, by dancer and professor Peggy Choy, and theatre artist Marina Celander; and in Hampshire College in Massachusetts, Magdalena Gomez, poet, playwright and cultural organizer, and founder of Teatro V!da. The Afro Asian Music Ensemble includes royal hartigan on Drums, Wes Brown on Bass, Matan Rubenstein on piano, Masaru Koga on the Alto Saxophone, David Bindman on the Tenor Saxophone, and Ben Barson on Fred Ho’s Baritone Saxophone.

Fred Ho, founder and bandleader of the Afro Asian Music Ensemble until his passing to colon cancer in 2014, was a one­of­a­kind revolutionary Chinese American baritone saxophonist, composer, writer, producer, political activist and leader of several music ensembles. For two decades, he has innovated a new American Multicultural Music embedded in the swingingest, most soulful and transgressive forms of African American music with the influences of Asia and the Pacific Rim. As Larry Birnbaum writes in Down Beat “Fred Ho’s style is a genre unto itself, a pioneering fusion of free­jazz and traditional Chinese music that manages to combine truculence and delicacy with such natural ease that it sounds positively organic.”

They will be partnering with community organizations all throughout their tour as well, including Ecosocialist Horizons, the Campaign to Free Oscar Lopez Rivera, and the Fred Ho Revival community. Each performance will not only be dedicated to the living legacy of Fred Ho but the causes that his music stood for: the liberation of oppressed nations, the struggle for an eco­centric society away from capitalist toxicity, and for matriarchal liberation against the rule of patriarchy.

Truth And Dare: A Comic Book Curriculum for the End and the Beginning of the World, along with other literature from Ecosocialist Horizons, will be available for purchase at all of the concert venues.


April 19th: Hampshire College Music and Dance Building | 7pm | Free
893 West St, Amherst, MA 01002

April 20th: Fred Ho Revival at the Commons | 7pm | $10 |
388 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn, NY |­ho­revival/

April 22nd: An Die Musik | 7:30pm and 9pm sets | $18 advance / $21 door / $10 students
409 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD | (410) 385­2638 |

April 23rd: First Unitarian Church | 7:30pm | $16 advance / $20 door
605 Morewood Ave, Pittsburgh, PA | (412) 621­8008 |­asian­music­ensemble­april­23rd/

April 24th: Association of Asian American Studies Conference | 3pm | Open to Conference
Hilton Orrington Hotel, 1710 Orrington Ave, Evanston, IL |­aaas­

April 24th: We Refuse to be Used and Abused: Anti­Colonialism, Gentrification and the Struggle
for a New World |7pm | $10 donation
United Electrical Hall at 37 S Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL |

April 26th: ArtisTree Community Arts Center and Gallery | 3pm | $20 |
South Pomfret, Vermont | 802 457­3500 |

The Afro Asian Music Ensemble is the product of over three decades of renowned composer­ saxophonist Fred Ho’s revolutionary and multicultural musical and theatrical productions. Consisting of royal hartigan (drums), Masaru Koga (alto sax), and Ben Barson (who wields Fred Ho’s own Mark VI Baritone Sax), and other notable alumni from Fred Ho’s bands including Wes Brown (bass), David Bhindman (Tenor Sax), and Bhinda Kiedel (soprano sax), the ensemble represents the core of Fred’s compositional legacy. Fred Ho wrote for this 6 piece ensemble for the majority of his career, combining groovy mixed meters bass lines with Chinese percussion, Korean operatic tuning systems, and infectious funk — all set to agitprop titles with uplifting references to the people’s struggle for liberation and dignity!

Bassist Wes Brown has appeared on stage with many of the top names in jazz, including two years touring worldwide with the legendary Earl “Fatha” Hines. Known mostly as a bass player, he currently plays electric bass with Black Rebels (African Roots Reggae), Urban Family Band (soukous/Afro­pop), acoustic bass with various jazz ensembles, and percussion and bamboo flute with traditional West African groups, including Talking Drums and Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng. He is now working on a concert of European classical works for solo piano, performing the music of composers from Bach to Gershwin. Wes is a regular member of the Royal Hartigan Quartet which recently returned from its second trip to China; he also performs with Fred Ho’s Afro­Asian Ensemble and Monkey Orchestra including shows at the Guggenheim Museum, Brooklyn Academy of Music and Harlem’s famous Apollo Theatre during the past twelve months, and a 33­city U.S. tour the year before.

royal hartigan is a percussionist, pianist, and tap dancer who has studied and performed the musics of Asia, Africa, Europe, West Asia, and the Americas as well as African American blues, gospel, funk, hip­hop, and jazz traditions. He was awarded an A.B. in philosophy from St. Michael’s College in 1968, a BA in African American Music with honors from UMass Amherst, and M.A. and PhD degrees in world music and ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University in 1983 and 1986, studying intensively with ethnomusicologist David McAllester and Bill Lowe, Bill Barron, Edward Blackwell, Freeman Kwadzo Donkor, Abraham Kobena Adzenyah, and other master artists/scholars from Java, India, and Ghana, West Africa. Royal has received many awards for global research, performance, and teaching. These include Healey and Whiting Award (2010), Asian Cultural Council Research Grant for the Philippines (2009), a J. William Fulbright Lecture/Research Award for the Philippines (2006), a New School University (NY) Dean’s Resident Master Artist Award (2005­06), and a Korean Foundation Fellowship (2001). He is an endorsee for Vic Firth Sticks and Mallets, Istanbul Cymbals, and Remo drumheads. Royal has taught ethnomusicology, African drumming, and world music ensemble at the New School University (formerly the New School for Social Research) in New York, Wesleyan University’s Graduate Liberal Studies program, San Jose State University, and is currently a full Professor at UMass Dartmouth. His publications include Blood Drum Spirit: Drum Languages of West Africa, African America, Native America, Central Java, and South India, a 1700­page analysis of world drumming traditions (UMI/ProQuest); articles in Percussive Notes, World of Music, Annual Review of Jazz Studies, Music in China, and The African American Review; a book with compact disc, West African Rhythms for Drumset (Manhattan Music/Warner Brothers/Alfred 1995, 2004), named one of the top 25 percussion books in the history percussion publications by Modern Drummer Magazine, and two with digital video disc, Dancing on the Time (Tapspace 2006), and West African Eve Rhythms for Drumset (Print Tech 2011). He has given lectures and clinics on world music and jazz in Africa, China, the Philippines, Europe, and North America. Royal travels to West Africa most summers to teach, perform, and
do research, collaborating with master artists and the people of various villages, including the Dagbe Cultural Centre at Kopeyia Village, Volta Region, Ghana, the Dagara Music Centre in Midie, Ghana, and Mampong, Asante Region, Ghana. He was a Visiting Professor at the Centre for Culture and African Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, during the 2013­14 year.He has performed, given workshops, and recorded internationally with his own blood drum spirit ensemble and master artists (blood drum spirit, 1997 and 2003, Innova; ancestors and blood drum spirit: the Royal Hartigan ensemble live in china, both Innova, 2008), Juba (Look on the Rainbow, 1987), Talking Drums (Talking Drums, 1985 and Someday Catch, Someday Down, 1987) the Fred Ho Afro­Asian Music Ensemble, Hafez Modirzadeh’s Paradox, the David Bindman­Tyrone Henderson Project, Nathaniel Mackey, Michael Heffley, soundSFound Orchestra, Global Phatness, and Paul Austerlitz, among others. He has released a documentary and artistic video of his work in West Africa and its relation to the African American music cultures (eve).

Masaru Koga , originally from Japan and currently based in San Francisco CA, is a saxophonist and flautist, and has been an integral part of the creative music scene, known for his colorful cross­cultural musical palette and innovative approach. He has traveled, recorded, and performed both nationally and internationally with artists such as Anthony Brown, Mark Izu, Hafez Modirzadeh, Royal Hartigan, Fred Ho, John­Carlos Perea, Wayne Wallace, Gail Dobson, and Kat Parra. From 2006 to 2011, Koga also served as the artistic director of SambAsia San Francisco, an award winning community samba school, teaching and performing Brazilian Samba drumming, as well as create various unique blend of Brazilian Samba and Asian musical traditions. In 2010 he was awarded as Latin Jazz Flautist of the Year on a worldwide poll on Latin Jazz Corner. His recent work include the Otonowa Project with Akira Tana (http://www.otonowa­, The Afro Asian Music Ensemble, Sound and Social Justice Collective with John­Carlos Perea. Koga has been a part of Fred Ho’s music since the late1990’s, playing the alto sax, flute, shakuhachi and fue in his ensembles. In 2013, he led the Afro Asian Music Ensemble as the musical director in a three­week run of Ho’s critically acclaimed work “Deadly She­Wolf Assassin at Armageddon!”

David Bindman, saxophonist and composer, leads his sextet, is a member of Blood Drum Spirit and the Brooklyn Infinity Orchestra, and has performed and recorded with Wadada Leo Smith, Kevin Norton, Ehran Elisha, Anthony Braxton, Talking Drums, Adam Lane, and many others. David has collaborated with poet Tyrone Henderson and visual artist Quimetta Perle, recording Strawman Dance, and co­founded the Brooklyn Sax Quartet with Fred Ho, recording Far Side of Here and The Way of the Saxophone. In 2012 David released his sextet’s acclaimed double CD Sunset Park Polyphony. He lives in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Matan Rubinstein is a composer, pianist and electronic musician, making music in a variety of contexts and venues from works for orchestra and chamber groups (with and without electronics), to Jazz Orchestras and combos, as well as projects for dance, film, television and interactive media. Among his notable credits as bandleader are the Modular Music Ensemble, a Nine­piece Genre­bending group, and Sada, for a small group of improvisers, both dedicated to performing his original compositions. Originally from Israel, Rubinstein has lived and worked in Brooklyn, NY and Madison, WI, where he received a doctoral degree from the University of Wisconsin in music composition, and he now lives in the Pioneer Valley in Western Massachusetts. He is on music faculty at Marlboro College. His music is on the web at:

Ben Barson is a composer, baritone saxophonist, and revolutionary political activist. He had been Fred Ho’s Baritone saxophone protege from 2009 until Mr. Ho’s passing in April of 2014, and partnered with Mr. Ho to produce several mixed media musical projects, most recently a tour of Ho’s music through Vermont under the banner of Ecosocialism during Black History Month of 2014.Ben has played with the bands of a diverse cross­section of innovative voices in New York City’s jazz scene, ranging from Arturo O’Farrill to Craig Harris. He has performed at New York’s prestigious cultural institutions such as the Guggenheim Museum, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Lincoln Center. As a producer & curator, Ben was responsible for the launch and development of the music program at the iconic Red Rooster in Harlem. He has also worked across disciplines, such as with choreo­prosodists Daria Fain and Robert Kocik, and with poet Magdalena Gomez.As a bandleader/composer, Barson has performed at the Poet’s House in New York City, the University of Vermont, the University of Pittsburgh, One State and City Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts, the Borough of Manhattan Community College, and many other concerts halls and Universities.Ben’s work combines culture and politics and considers cultural work to be essential to the construction of politics of liberation and sustainability in the 21st century. Currently Ben is working with the collective Ecosocialist Horizons to construct a revolutionary self­sufficient gardening project in the city of Pittsburgh, using growing food as a model to teach anti­racism and radical education. More information can be found at

Fred Ho (August 10, 1957 – April 12, 2014), founder and bandleader of the Afro Asian Music Ensemble until his passing to colon cancer in 2014, was a one­of­a­kind revolutionary Chinese American baritone saxophonist, composer, writer, producer, political activist and leader of several music ensembles. For two decades, he has innovated a new American Multicultural Music embedded in the swingingest, most soulful and transgressive forms of African American music with the influences of Asia and the Pacific Rim. As Larry Birnbaum writes in Down Beat “Fred Ho’s style is a genre unto itself, a pioneering fusion of free­jazz and traditional Chinese music that manages to combine truculence and delicacy with such natural ease that it sounds positively organic.” Ho, whose music has been hailed as “hard driven and energetic, with a subtle underlying sense of humor” (New York Times) is a prodigious composer, having recorded more than fifteen albums as a leader and written several critically acclaimed operas, music/theater epics, cutting edge multimedia performance works, scores, oratorios and a martial arts ballet. He has received numerous grants and commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Apollo Theatre Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, NY State Council on the Arts, Chamber Music America and World Music Institute among others to present his vision of music and the arts. Fred Ho has been the subject of several scholarly works while other distinctions include a 1996 American Book Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2009 Harvard Medal of Arts and in 1988 became the youngest person to receive the Duke Ellington Distinguished Artist Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Recent commissions include the nationally toured and celebrated Voice of the Dragon; Josephine Baker’s Angels from the Rainbow for Imani Winds; Suite for Matriarchal Shaman Warriors for percussion ensemble IIIZ+ and a Jazz Commissioning Award from Chamber Music America to compose Suite Sam Furnace. Other unique compositions include the music/theater project Deadly She­Wolf Assassin at Armageddon!, a martial arts sword epic co­created with Ruth Margraff paying homage to manga and samurai film classics, the opera Mr. Mystery: The Return of Sun Ra to Save Planet Earth with libretto by Quincy Troupe, and Dragon vs. Eagle in collaboration with Ruth Margraff for the Apollo Theater and Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave Festival. As a musical leader, Fred Ho founded the Afro Asian Music Ensemble in 1982 and Monkey Orchestra in 1990, co­founded the Brooklyn Sax Quartet with David Bindman in 1997, Caliente! Circle Around the Sun (featuring Ho’s solo baritone saxophone with poets Magdalena Gomez and Raul Salinas). Additionally, Fred has published several books including his newest Wicked Theory, Naked Practice, a groundbreaking collection of his writings, speeches and interviews from the past 30 years. Fred’s recent works include Deadly She­Wolf Assassin at Armageddon! (2013, La MaMa), and Sweet Science Suite (2013, BAM).

Members of this band have performed on the following albums:
1987 We Refuse to Be Used and Abused Soul Note (Italy)
1993 The Underground Railroad to My Heart Soul Note (Italy)
1996 Monkey, Pt. 1 Koch Jazz
1997 Monkey, Pt. 2 Koch Jazz / Koch
1997 Turn Pain into Power O.O. Discs
1998 Yes Means Yes, No Means No, Whatever She Wears, Wherever She Goes Koch
1999 Warrior Sisters Koch
2001 Once Upon a Time in Chinese America Innova
2011 Year of the Tiger Innova
2011 Big Red! Innova
2011 Celestial Green Monster Big Red Media / Mutable Music
2011 Deadly She­Wolf Assassin At Armageddon!/Mommas Song Big Red Media / Innova
2012 The Music of Cal Massey: A Tribute Mutable Music
2012 The Sweet Science Suite: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali Mutable Music