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South by Southwest to Host Its 'First Asian-American Showcase'

by Stephany Bai /

South by Southwest (SXSW) is scheduled to stage its first Asian-American music showcase as well as a panel on Asian-American issues this March, according to a non-profit arts organization working with the festival.

Christine Minji Chang, global executive director of Kollaboration, told NBC News that the organization's programming at the 2017 festival will consist of both a speaker panel and a music showcase featuring acts including indie band Run River North and singer Megan Lee, who currently stars on Nickelodeon's “Make It Pop.”

The speaker round table, titled "Asian Americans Break the Silence and Stereotypes" and scheduled for March 12, features Chang, Angry Asian Man blogger Phil Yu, actor Dante Basco, and comedian Jenny Yang. The panel will be based on a music industry panel Chang attended, where she asked executives if they had ever signed an Asian-American artist.

“[An executive] basically answered me with, ‘I don’t know how we could move forward with them. I don’t know how I can market them,’” Chang said. “I’ve heard this directly from the artists that Kollaboration has worked with over the years. It’s not malicious. It’s just something they’ve been told time and time again.”

Chang calls the concert, which is scheduled for March 16, “South by Southwest’s first Asian-American showcase.” While the festival has hosted a number of Asian musical acts in the past, including those in its annual “K-Pop Night Out” showcase, Chang said she felt a lack of homegrown Asian-American talent.

“I saw Asian talent, I saw international talent flown in,” she said. “I didn’t see too many Asian-American artists.”

With this year's showcase, Chang hopes to increase the amount of Asian-American talent at the festival. Chang noted that only a fourth of performance acts who apply to South by Southwest are approved and that each artist had to submit separate proposals.

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“I hope that our being at these events and having both the panel and the showcase can put our artists on the map," Chang said. "A lot of really incredible artists were found there. I want to celebrate that this conversation is happening.”

RELATED: Run River North Is Making Music and Sharing Stories of Identity, Immigrant Families

“I think continuing to be persistent in the States and presenting the Asian-American story is so important, and I think we’ve made huge strides in the last two, three years,” Chang continued. “It’s going to be an ongoing movement. You’ve got to keep going forward, keep pushing forward.”

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