JEST JAMMIN BAND CELEBRATES 50 YEARS


By Rev. Norman Fong

June 11, 2018



In the late ‘60’s & early ‘70’s, did you know that there were many bands that came out of Chinatown? As young people back then, we needed to have our own community dances and parties as there were few places where the Chinese felt welcome because of racial prejudice. There was also great American Pop music that young Chinatown folks really liked back then from MOTOWN music to the dance music of Earth, Wind & Fire to the Chicago Band which is also celebrating their 50th Anniversary this year. It was so fun back then because there were new Asian Student Associations in all the colleges & universities and we played for their student association dances from San Jose State to UC Berkeley even to Sacramento!

jest jammin' band

Our “Jest Jammin’ Band” has played every year for the Chinese New Year Street Fair on the day of the annual Chinese New Year Parade and also regularly at the Chinatown Moon Festival, Chinatown Music Festival, occasionally the Oakland Chinatown Festival & Cherry Blossom Festival… We have also played for so many Chinatown Fundraisers like for Self-Help for the Elderly, Cameron House, Chinese Hospital, CACA, Asian Law Caucus, Chinatown Community Development Center, Chinese Historical Society… Yes there were many bands back then, but Jest Jammin’ has stood the test of time and is still going on strong & continues to play for Chinatown & the broader Asian American community.

jest jammin' band

jest jammin' band

Yesterday – June 9th, our Jest Jammin’ Band played for a dance to fundraise for our old school: Galileo High School. In fact, our founding Jest Jammin’ band members all attended Galileo High when we started the band in 1968. I think we should have more not less band music programs in all our schools. Youth spending time after school just to use their phones or computers for entertainment is not that good in my opinion. With a band, you play with others to make music. You have to practice a lot to be good which teaches youth about discipline. When you perform, whether it’s in the annual Chinese New Year Parade or a dance event, you bring a little bit more “Joy to the World”.

I’m not sure how long our Jest Jammin’ Band will last, but I really just want to say thanks to all the band members and friends who grew up in Chinatown back in the day that still ask us to play for their parties. In 1968, we started the band because we wanted to throw a big farewell party for one of friends who was drafted to serve in the US Army. We’ve played for so many friends’ weddings & even birthday parties. Today, we are performing for their children’s weddings & many 60s birthday parties & even retirement parties. We are getting old!

jest jammin' band

jest jammin' band

jest jammin' band

Playing music is good for the soul, but also, it’s a positive outlet for young people. At Cameron House, I was part of a club and there were a lot of street gangs in Chinatown then… The bands became a great alternative for youth to get them off the streets (including myself). Someone donated some money to Cameron House to buy music equipment so us street kids could make music instead of causing trouble. We became the Cameron House band back then in the mid ‘60s. (We were called the “Sentinels” then). Afterwards, we started a new band which in 1968 became Jest Jammin’. I hope that there will be a lot more new bands coming out of Chinatown or other communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. I know karaoke is so popular and a lot easier because you don’t need a band. Still, playing in a regular band is about building long lasting friendships, working hard together to create LIVE Music & pulling together the community at the same time. We all need to sing and dance more in life. Let’s Bring Live Music back to Chinatown. There used to be the Rickshaw Bar, Forbidden City, Dragon-a-go-go.. Lion’s Den… where there was Live Music & performances in Chinatown. Hey! I hear that Steven Lee (our city’s Entertainment Commissioner) is trying to bring the old “Lion’s Den” back to life again which will feature live entertainment. Hey Steven – can Jest Jammin’ play there? Ha! Ha! KEEP ON SINGING, DANCING, & “JAMMIN’” EVERYBODY!
jest jammin' band



Originally published in Sing Tao Daily on June 10, 2018
 
 
 
 

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