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Songs of Strength (S.O.S.): Dialogues in Immigrant Perspectives Through Art

Participation is FREE, with a suggested donation of $5. Register via eventbrite at

Presented by the Vietnamese American Non-Governmental Organization (VANGO) Network in partnership with PIVOT, DVAN, and UNAVSA, “Songs of Strength-S.O.S.” is a series of online workshops with Vân-Ánh Võ and the Blood Moon Orchestra featuring dialogues with a variety of artists and musicians of diverse cultural, social, and immigrant perspectives and backgrounds.

Hosted by Thang Do and Philip Nguyen, guests will engage in virtual conversations and discussions regarding their work, stories, and communities, with live Q&A sessions following each event.This second workshop features guest artists and musicians in a discussion about their experiences and perspectives as, not only immigrants and refugees but, immigrant and refugee artists in today’s political and social climate and how they use their art to engage in social activism and advocacy. This workshop will feature Vietnamese traditional instruments, western instruments, voices, rap/spoken word poetry, and breakdance.

Guest artists: DEM ONE, Mahsa Vahdat, Kai Eckhardt, and TUNJI.

About Thang Do: I am an architect and an entrepreneur. For nearly 30 years, I have led Aedis Architects, a San Jose-based architectural firm that specializes in the design of educational institutions. More recently, I founded SoFA Market, an urban food hall in San Jose’s emerging SoFA Art District, as well as The Fountainhead Bar, an architecture theme bar located within. I have been active in the efforts to revitalize downtown San Jose, as evidenced through my services as Chair of the San Jose Planning Commission, board member of SPUR, the San Jose Museum of Art, and the Housing Trust of Silicon Valley and member of San Jose Architectural Review Committee. As a committed urbanist and environmentalist, my architectural work embraces sustainable design practices, such as Aedis Architects’ office, a LEED Platinum-certified corporate headquarter. Community activism has played a significant part in professional work, ranging from advocating and advising on urban design issues and influencing planning practices to policymakers. Recognizing my contributions to society and the architectural profession, the American Institute of Architects elevated me in 2017 to the AIA College of Fellows, a distinction bestowed on fewer than four percent of AIA architects. I am a native Vietnamese speaker and fluent in both Vietnamese and English. I am conversational in Italian and French, with a limited ability in Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. I live in Saratoga, California, with my wife and four children, in a historic home that I restored and transformed.

About the Guests:

BLOOD MOON ORCHESTRA – Blood Moon Orchestra is a genre-bending musical collaboration featuring Vietnamese classical instrumentalist Van Anh Vo and rapper DEM ONE. Their music goes beyond the conventional boundaries of hip-hop and World music to create a unique sonic experience. In 2016, the Blood Moon Orchestra released a music video, “Moving Train,” garnering critical acclaim for addressing climate change and globalization with an innovative, unconventional soundscape. In addition to recording and performing, the Blood Moon Orchestra facilitates workshops to teach Bay Area youth about the power of creative expression.

DEM ONE – Known as San José’s hip-hop ambassador, DEMONE CARTER (DEM ONE)’s delivery has been compared to Common and Black Thought of The Roots. He has opened for Quannum hero Lyrics Born, performed at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium, and spit countless guest verses on various projects and releases. Named “Mentor of the Year” in the South Bay for 2013, he founded a community organization, Future Arts Now, which does vital work with San José youth, and is an active voice-over artist for both the art and commercial worlds. Recently, DEM ONE was awarded Artist Laureates – On Stage category for his contribution to the communities through the art.

MAHSA VAHDAT – Mahsa Vahdat is a prominent performer of Persian vocal music and strong advocate of freedom of expression in music, a dedicated singer and musician in her musical path and artistic cause. Her career has given a deeper knowledge about Iranian poetry and music to large audiences in Europe, America, Asia, Oceania and Africa. Mahsa has developed her personal style based on the Persian vocal tradition of classical and regional folk music, but with a contemporary expression. She has always searched for ways to make her music relevant to the present world. Even if the origin of her styles is Iranian, she believes in her music’s ability to express a universal message of humanism and freedom. Her collaboration with musicians from Iran and many other parts of the world has contributed to the development of her personal expression. Since 2007 Mahsa is one of the ambassadors of Freemuse Organization, an independent international organization that advocates freedom of expression for musicians and composers worldwide. In 2010, she was granted the Freemuse Award. She has developed a long and intense pedagogical experience in teaching classical Persian singing for years for Iranian and non-Iranian students and led many projects with her students as mentor.

KAI ECKHARDT – Kai Eckhardt is an Afro-European musician who has made a significant contribution to the evolution of the electric bass since 1989. Heavily influenced by the emerging fusion of funk, rock and jazz in the late 70’s, Kai developed a unique style on his instrument long before attending Berklee College of music in Boston – the renowned music college- from which he graduated with honors in 1987. Kai Eckhardt has performed at distinguished venues around the globe such as the Royal Festival Hall in London, the Philharmonic in Munich and the Esplanade in Singapore. Festival engagements include Montreal Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague, Womad World Music Festival in Spain and Glastonbury in the U.K. Kai has performed for dignitaries on some occasions like the King and Queen of Norway. In the educational field, Kai teaches clinics and master classes internationally. Engagements include Berklee in Boston, the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, the Bruckner Conservatory in Austria and Amsterdam Conservatory in the Netherlands. Perhaps the most notably unique band in Kai’s career was the pioneering jam-band Garaj Mahal, which he co-lead between 2000 and 2010, producing 9 albums and performing roughly 1000 concerts in the U.S and Canada.

TUNJI – Babatunji Johnson (TUNJI) is a breakdancer born in Portland, Oregon and grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii. Though never formally trained as a child, Babatunji was always moving his body to the beat. At the age of 15, he discovered the art of hip hop. Following over a decade of self-taught street performance, he has developed a unique approach to various styles of hip hop such as breakdance, popping, and krump. While cultivating his own movement language, Babatunji simultaneously trained in ballet, modern, and contemporary, going on to work and perform around the world with Alonzo King LINES Ballet for six years among other inspiring companies. In 2015 Babatunji was awarded a Princess Grace Award, as well as a Chris Hellman Award for his outstanding achievements and promise in the world of dance.

VÂN-ÁNH VÕ – An Emmy Award winner and a Grammy Award judge in the World Music Category (2014-2016, 2018, 2019), Ms. Vo is one of the finest performers of Vietnamese traditional instruments in the world and a rapidly emerging composer. She dedicates her life to creating music by blending the wonderfully unique sounds of Vietnamese instruments with other music genres, and fusing deeply rooted Vietnamese musical traditions with fresh new structures and compositions. Since settling in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2001, Ms. Vo has focused on collaborating with musicians across different music genres to create new works. Ms. Vo has also been collaborator and guest soloist with such artists as Yo-Yo Ma, Kronos Quartet, Oakland Symphony. In addition to touring internationally, she has presented her music at Carnegie Hall, Zellerbach Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, and as a composer and guest artist for the Kronos Quartet at the Olympic Games 2012 Music Festival. For more information, please visit

About the organizers and community partners:

PIVOT aims to achieve our mission through working together with Vietnamese Americans of all ages and other communities to promote a common agenda that includes the promotion and support of human, civil, and refugee rights; increasing cultural, linguistic, and financial access to quality education, health care, and economic opportunities; and protecting the environment. For more information about PIVOT – The Progressive Vietnamese American Organization please visit or follow PIVOT on Facebook and Instagram (@pivotorg)

DVAN believes that the stories, imaginaries, and poetics of a thriving Vietnamese diaspora can unite our global community. Our mission is to celebrate and foster diasporic Vietnamese voices. DVAN presents nonfiction, fiction, and poetry to empower Vietnamese artists in the diaspora and to promote understanding and dialogue within our community, and with others. Our complex and diverse stories must be championed and passed on to current and future generations. We are refugees, immigrants, survivors, and descendants, and our stories must be heard. For more information about the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network (DVAN) please visit our website at or follow us on Instagram (@weare_dvan)

The Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan community-based organization dedicated to cultivating the next generations of leaders who will serve as stewards of the Vietnamese community. For more information about UNAVSA – The Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations please visit or follow UNAVSA on Facebook and Instagram (@unavsa)

This program is funded by the VANGO Network, MAP FUND, and Creative Work Fund, a Program of the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, supported by a generous grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.