"An act of revisionist subversion." - NPR
No-No Boy is an immersive multimedia work blending original folk songs, storytelling, and projected archival images to illuminate hidden American histories. Taking inspiration from his own family’s history living through the Vietnam War, as well as interviews with World War II Japanese Incarceration camp survivors and other stories of Asian American experience, Nashville born songwriter Julian Saporiti has transformed years of doctoral research at Brown University into an innovative project bridging a divide between art and scholarship. By turning archival study and fieldwork into a large repertoire of folk songs and visuals Saporiti has been able to engage diverse crowds with difficult conversations through song.
2018 saw the release of the first No-No Boy album1942 and an ambitious eight-week national tour, performing everywhere from rural high schools to New York City's Lincoln Center. But the nighty performances took a severe toll on Saporiti's mental and physical health resulting in panic attacks following several concerts. After half a decade spent inhabiting complex and often tragic histories, the songwriter was diagnosed with acute depression and anxiety resulting from "secondary trauma" and scaled back on touring. A breath, a move, and a reprioritization of joy ensued.
In the spring of 2019, Saporiti expanded the project's scope, embarking with longtime collaborator and photographer Diego Luis and their Brown colleague Juan Betancourt on a trip to the Mexican border. Playing concerts for asylum seekers and aid workers in Laredo, Crystal City (former home of a WW2 Internment Camp), and Dilley, TX (current home to the largest family detention center), the experience was jarring and impactful. The trip created an eery sense of deja-vu, as the trio made music and investigated overlapping histories of oppression and incarceration in the same physical spaces, surrounded by lessons seemingly unlearned. This trip altered the direction and purpose of the project, refocusing Saporiti's writing towards the present.
Moving forward, No-No Boy remains indebted to a revolving cast of dozens of artists, musicians and scholars helping Saporiti to record the almost 70 songs he has composed for this project. A second album is scheduled for release in 2020 and he hopes to turn in his dissertation around the same time with a final tour through the swing states before the November election.
"No-No Boy takes us on a journey to the stories of our parents, our ancestors and ourselves in ways that we haven’t yet experienced...armed with scholarship and creativity, to carry forward the discussion around loss, resilience, and identity."
- Riksha Magazine
"Two Candles In The Dark" featuring Erin Aoyama & Kishi Bashi from 1942.
Dilley Texas, 2019. A research trip with Juan Betancourt and Diego Luis to the largest U.S. Family Detention Center, supporting our friends at Dilley Pro Bono Project.
"Heart Mountain" live at Brown University with Emilia Halvorsen,
Michelle Bazile & Noah Choi, 2017
Performing with Emilia Halvorsen + Hamilton Berry at the AC Institute, NYC, 2019. photo credit: David Moriya
Performing at the Holding Institute in Laredo, TX with Juan Betancourt translating for the audience, 2019. photo credit: Diego Luis
Photo credit: Katie O'Donnell, University of Maine-Farmington