Hmong Performance Boosts Morale


Alex Prochaska photo

Hmong culture was celebrated by multiple artists during the Hmong Performance in the Center for the Arts on Feb. 27.

GY Yang, a student from St. Paul University majoring in elementary education, was the first performer of the night. Yang sang her two R&B singles “Could’ve Been my Baby” and “Ua Kuv Tus.” “I’ve been doing music since choir in middle school,” Yang said.

Next, Touky Xiong, a rapper from Appleton, WI preformed, “Tee Ntshav,” his most popular song on Spotify, is one of many songs that he performed. “I want to preserve our language,” Xiong said. “In English, [one of my lyrics] translates to ‘butterflies come out, butterflies lose wings.’ And the true definition it’s so complex it’s so beautiful that, put through English, it’s just going to ruin the meaning,” Xiong said.

LunaBellas, a women’s dance group from Sheboygan, WI performed twice during the show. They wore traditional Hmong dance attire and were a crowd favorite.

“In the dance community, we’re all just a great big family,” said Dalinee Vang, a member of LunaBellas. “Dance is one of the arts that is keeping our Hmong culture alive.”

Kevin Yang, a rapper from Madison, WI, came next. One of the songs he performed, “Tus Kuv Hlub” (feat. Lydia Yang & Deathrhyme), has 3.8 million views on YouTube.

“We want to be mainstream as anyone else,” said Yang. “My goal is to pave a way as far as I can so the new generations can come and pave it even bigger.”

Next on stage was Ka Lia Universe. Two of the songs she performed were “Do You Really Love Me?” and “Dej Txias (Cold Water)”. The latter has 1.8 million views on YouTube.

Ka Lia ran through the aisles of the theater giving high-fives to fans. At the end of her set, she encouraged the audience of nearly 200 people to join her onstage and dance.

The rapper Supryze came next. His set included the songs “Summer Dreams” and “Tseem Nco Tau” (ft. K Ballin). Supryze did a duet with Chenning Xiong, a singer from St. Paul, Minnesota. 

One piece that Xiong sang was, “Yog Nws Tsis Muaj Tag Kis,” which has 2.1 million views on YouTube. Another was “Ib Tug Phoojywg,” which has 1 million views.

“Music is a stress reliever,” said Chenning. “It’s the only way I know how to express myself … I want to inspire the younger generations, and to evolve the Hmong music industry.”

 Zong Pha Xiong (ZPX) took the stage next. He is an R&B singer with influences from traditional Hmong music. A song ZPX performed, “Liam Rau Kuv,” has 4.2 million views on YouTube.

David Yang was the last performer of the night. Originally from Madison, WI, David lives in California. His song “Txoj Hmoo Phem” (feat. Feng Yang), has 9.9 million views on YouTube. David also performed a duet of the song “Txhob Lam” with Kevin Yang.

“I grew up finding that music is a big part of self-healing,” said David. “A lot of these kids, especially Hmong kids, look up to artists that are in their community.”

Regardless of the language barrier, the music and performances were immersive and engaging. Ka Lia Universe’s stunning presence electrified the audience. Hearts melted as she took a moment during her set to wave at her young daughter who was backstage dancing along to her set.

A crowd favorite performance was “Tseem Nco Tau” (ft. K Ballin), by the rapper Supryze. A nostalgic ode to his childhood in the 90s, audiences were hypnotized by its bittersweet rhythms.

Another standout song was Kevin Yang’s “Tus Kuv Hlub” (feat. Lydia Yang & Deathrhyme). Kevin Yang’s flow was impeccable, Lydia Yang’s backup vocals were incredible and the composition had a driving intensity to it.

“This is our second Hmong Arts Performance,” said Jason Thao. “The planning and coordination takes a lot of effort and work. Thanks to my board members for helping me.”