Lucas Artists Fellow

Jen Shyu
Photo: Jeon Chang Hun
  • RESIDENCY DATES : Feb 21st 2014 to Apr 4th 2014 | Jan 21st 2015 to Feb 19th 2015 | Mar 10th 2017 to Apr 9th 2017
  • FROM : USA

Born in Illinois, USA, from immigrant parents of Taiwan and East Timor, Jen Shyu is an experimental jazz vocalist, composer, multi-instrumentalist, dancer, scholar, and educator, having performed internationally as a solo artist, bandleader, and collaborator. Also a Stanford University graduate, MacDowell, Yaddo, and Montalvo Arts Center fellow, she has toured and recorded with saxophonist Steve Coleman & Five Elements since 2003 and has presented her own music at Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Blue Note NYC, Merkin Hall, Bimhuis (Netherlands), Salihara (Indonesia), National Gugak Center and the National Theater of Korea, to name a few. Shyu has sung with jazz giant Anthony Braxton in his operas Trillium E and Trillium J (April 2014), and with Dave Burrell, Chris Potter, and Michael Formanek among many others. She has produced 5 albums as a leader: For Now, Jade Tongue, Inner Chapters, Raging Waters and Red Sands, and is the first female artist and vocalist as bandleader on the Pi Recordings label with the widely praised album Synastry with legendary bassist Mark Dresser.  

Having done extensive music fieldwork and research, especially shedding light on lesser known traditional musics in danger of disappearing in Taiwan, China, and East Timor, Shyu recently spent almost two years (2011-2013) on a Fulbright in Indonesia studying Sindhenan, traditional Javanese improvisational singing, as well as the simultaneous Javanese song and dance form rarely performed because of its difficulty, Ledhekan.  She was invited to perform Ledhekan at the Mangkunegaran Palace, the center of her Javanese dance studies, as well as the sacred dance Srimpi Pandelori  in the Kraton palace of Yogyakarta, as taught by Bu Sutiyah, leader of Pujokusuman dance school.  She also has performed her own music at numerous festivals throughout Indonesia both solo and in collaboration with Javanese artists such as Djaduk Ferianto, Eko Supriyanto, the late Ki Slamet Gundono, Mugiono Kasido, Suprapto Suryodarmo, and Peni Candra Rini.  She then received a six-month scholarship from the National Gugak Center and the Cultural Partnership Initiative of the Korean government to study Pansori, Gayageum Byeongchang, and Korean language in Seoul.  Also an Asian Cultural Council and Jerome Foundation grantee, she is currently composing a solo opera called Solo Rites: Seven Breaths inspired by her fieldwork in Cuba, Brazil, Taiwan, China, East Timor, Indonesia, and Korea over the past 10 years, directed by renowned Indonesian filmmaker-director Garin Nugroho and to be premiered on May 28, 2014 at Roulette in NYC.

Ben Ratliff of the New York Times, on her singularity:  "I suppose there have been other people like Jen Shyu: disciplined vocalists who speak and sing in multiple languages, work with improvisation and composition and movement, feel at home both with quick-change rhythmic patterns and meditative long tones, use narrative poetry as a basis for songs, and use a two-stringed Taiwanese moon lute in a New Yorkish and vanguardish jazz context.  I just can't think of any right now.  Instead of thinking about her categorically, you can focus on how beautifully and generously she uses sound.”