Jen Shyu Solo: Nine Doors

@ 8 pm

Tickets:  Advance $15/10; Door $20/15


New New Music Curator Aram Bajakian’s first concert in the Luxe nods to DB Boyko’s 24 years of inspiring work with voice. New York Times critic, Ben Ratlif, called vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jen Shyu’s concerts “The most arresting performances I’ve seen over the past five years. It’s not just the meticulous preparation of the work and the range of its reference, but its flexibility: She seems open, instinctual, almost fearless.”

Nine Doors is a powerful and ecstatic ritual and celebration of our lost loved ones and how, through the eyes of a 6-year old girl, trauma and tragedy can be overcome and transformed into a life better lived. When Shyu lost her friend Sri Joko Raharjo “Cilik,” a famous Javanese shadow puppeteer who died with his wife and infant son in an automobile accident at the age of 30, she created this piece to honor him and his family and provide the audience members a chance to meditate on their lost loved ones as well. His 6-year-old daughter, who survived the crash, is the central character. Time stops as she encounters powerful female legends—from the Wehali Kingdom of Timor to the Korean folkloric myth of Baridegi—who become her guides. A mysterious phone booth in a gardener’s yard in Otsuchi, Japan, which has become a comfort to the families who lost loved ones in the 2011 Tsunami, also enters into the story, with the gardener himself, Itaru Sasaki, having given Shyu permission to compose a piece with his poetry titled “Phone of the Wind.”

Jen sings, dances, and plays Taiwanese moon lute, Korean gayageum, piano, Japanese biwa, and Korean soribuk drum  in order to express this multi-layered and transformative story. Nala encounters a series of mythical guides based on epic legends from different parts of the world that help her through the grief of losing her family, where she is able to seek help from a universal family. Starting and ending in English, Jen’s native language, while also sung in Indonesian, Javanese, Taiwanese, Mandarin, Tetum, and Korean, the work reflects not only the diversity of the world, but also the parallels that exist between life and death, different cultures, and the importance of empathy over destructive assumptions that divide humanity.

Nine Doors incorporates Shyu’s 15 years of study of traditional music from five countries: epic storytelling (Pansori), East Coast shaman music (동해안별신굿or “Dong Hae Ahn Byeol Shin Gut”), and Binari, usually performed as a blessing for an audience, all from Korea; music from sub-districts Aileu and Ataúro from East Timor; Bedhaya or Javanese sacred dance from Indonesia; and the “speaking-the-song” or “katari” with Japanese biwa, the rare 4-stringed instrument originally used by monks and priests.

Shyu will be leading a post-concert talk back session after the concert.


Nine Doors credits:

Jen Shyu: Compositions and lyrics unless otherwise noted, vocals, Taiwanese moon lute, Korean gayageum and soribuk drum, Japanese biwa, piano, dance, sound design, choreography, Timorese gong and Korean gong (ggwaenggwari)

Alexandru Mihail: Director

Kristen Robinson: Set & Props Designer

Solomon Weisbard: Original Lighting Designer

Naoko Nagata: Costume designer

Danang Pamungkas: Javanese “Bedhaya Pangkur Tunggal” choreography

Lianne Arnold, Original Projection Programmer

Satoshi Haga: Co-director with Shyu of Song of Silver Geese (2016), which inspired much of Nine Doors




Jen Shyu is a groundbreaking, multilingual vocalist, composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, dancer, 2016 Doris Duke Artist, and was voted 2017 Downbeat Critics Poll Rising Star Female Vocalist. Born in Peoria, Illinois, to Taiwanese and East Timorese immigrant parents, Shyu is widely regarded for her virtuosic singing and riveting stage presence, carving out her own beyond-category space in the art world. She has performed with saxophonist and 2014 MacArthur Fellow Steve Coleman since 2003 and has collaborated with such musical innovators as Nicole Mitchell, Anthony Braxton, Wadada Leo Smith, Vijay Iyer, Bobby Previte, Chris Potter, Michael Formanek and David Binney. Shyu has performed her own music on prestigious world stages such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rubin Museum of Art, Ringling International Arts Festival, Asia Society, Roulette, Blue Note, Bimhuis, Salihara Theater, National Gugak Center, National Theater of Korea and at festivals worldwide.A Stanford University graduate in opera with classical violin and ballet training, Shyu had already won many piano competitions and performed the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto (3rd mvmt.) with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra by the age of 13. Shyu has won commissions and support from Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards, MAP Fund, US-Japan Creative Artists Fellowship from Japan-US Friendship Commission and National Endowment for the Arts, Jerome Foundation, Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works, New Music USA, Jazz Gallery, and Roulette, as well as fellowships from the Fulbright Scholar Program, Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Asian Cultural Council, Hermitage Artist Retreat, Yaddo, MacDowell Colony, Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Korean Ministry of Sports, Culture, and Tourism.Shyu has produced seven albums as a leader, including the first female-led and vocalist-led album Pi Recordings has released, Synastry (Pi 2011), with co-bandleader and bassist Mark Dresser. Her critically acclaimed Sounds and Cries of the World (Pi 2015) landed on many best-of-2015 lists, including those of The New York Times, The Nation, and NPR. Her latest album Song of Silver Geese (Pi 2017) is receiving rave reviews and was also included on The New York Times’ Best Albums of 2017.Even with the acclaim she has received for her recordings, Shyu is just as renowned for her dynamic performances. Her duo performance with Tyshawn Sorey was among The New York Times’ Best Live Jazz Performances of 2017. Larry Blumenfeld wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “her voice, a wonder of technical control and unrestrained emotion, tells a story dotted with well-researched facts and wild poetic allusions. She claims both as her truths.”Currently based in New York City, Shyu premiered her latest solo work Nine Doors at National Sawdust June 29, 2017, kicking off a 50-state U.S. tour of “Songs of Our World Now / Songs Everyone Writes Now (SOWN/SEWN),” planting seeds of creativity and threading communities together through art.

Alexandru Mihail, director

Alexandru Mihail is a NY based director, originally from Bucharest, Romania. His work, both in Romania and the US, varied in style and genre, is always fueled by the dialogue with the community and unabashedly challenging its fears. Selected theatre credits include: Aliens with Extraordinary Skills* by Saviana Stanescu (Odeon Theatre, Bucharest – European Premiere); The Underpants* by Carl Sternheim (National Theatre, Bucharest); Zoyka’s Apartment by Mikhail Bulgakov and Sophocle’s Elektra (Princeton University); The Last Days of Mankind by Karl Kraus (Bard Center for Performing Arts – American Premiere); The Stronger by August Strindberg (TBG Theatre/ Drama League NY); Master Harlod and the Boys by Athol Fugard and Enemy of the People by H. Ibsen (NYU/Atlantic Acting School); Tlicked* by Gabriel Pintilei (Odeon Theatre, Bucharest –Premiere); Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (The New School); Chekhov’s The Seagull (Yale School of Drama); the friendship of her thighs by Martyna Majok (Yale School of Drama); The Bachelors by Caroline McGraw (Yale, Carlotta Festival). Alex has won the prestigious UNITER Prize for his direction of Peter Shaffer’s Black Comedy. For MediaPro Pictures, Romania, he directed the television series Poor Man, Rich Man. 2016 New York Theatre Workshop Directing Fellow; Drama League Directing Fellow; Fulbright Fellow; MFA, Yale School of Drama. (*Indicates show is still currently running)

Kristen Robinson, Set & Props Designer

Kristen Robinson is a NYC based set designer, her work ranges from site-specific installations, to outdoor Shakespeare. She is excited to be collaborating with Jen Shyu for a second time. Her first collaboration with her was  Solo Rites: Seven Breaths. Kristen’s design for Westport Country Playhouse’s Nora has been featured in Chance Magazine issue 4, and her design for Rapture Blister Burn won the 2015 Barrymore Award for Best Set Design. A Princess Grace Fellow, she holds her MFA from Yale. Recent credits include: Chasing Rainbows (Goodspeed Musicals), Sincerity Project (Team Sunshine Performance Corporation/Philadelphia Fringe Festival)  Ethel,Alliance Theater, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Idaho Shakespeare Festival and Great Lakes Theatre,Heart of Darkness, Baryshnikov Arts Center, Minor Character The Invisible Dog. You can see her work at

Solomon Weisbard, Lighting Designer

Previously with Jen Shyu: Solo Rites: Seven Breaths. Collaborators in music, dance and dance/theatre include Jennifer Archibald, Joshua Beamish/MOVE, Maria Chavez, Ximena Garnica/Leimay, Invisible Anatomy, LoudHound Movement, Belinda McGuire, Stefanie Nelson, Patricia Noworol, Waxfactory, and four major works as associate set designer with Bill T Jones.  Other New York credits include Duat (Soho Rep); Men on Boats (Playwrights Horizons/Clubbed Thumb); Christina Anderson’s Hollow Roots (Public Theatre/Under the Radar); Rite of Spring (Martha Graham); The Soldier’s Tale (Carnegie Hall); The Film Society (Keen/Theatre Row). Regional theatre: Arden, Berkshire Theatre Group, Magic, Merry-Go-Round, Portland Playhouse, Portland Stage, Yale Rep. MFA: Yale School of Drama.

Danang Pamungkas, Choregrapher

Danang Pamungkas, born in Surakarta, Indonesia on 30 December, 1979, received formal training from a young age and graduated from the Indonesian Institute of the Arts (ISI), Surakarta. He also learned traditional Javanese dance at Mangkunegaran Palace of Surakarta, where he is currently a principal dancer. Credits: “Spring In Solo” with Pappa Tarahumara Dance Company from Japan (Solo 2002); English National Opera in Monteverdi’s “Orfeo” and “The Coronation of Poppea” produced by Cheng Shi-Zheng at London Coliseum and Schubert Theatre Boston (2006-2007); Choreographed “Panyot Pun Padam” (First Prize Winner at The Next Wave Indonesian Choreographer in Jakarta and Surabaya Art Festival in 2004) and “Song of Body” performed in Salihara Theatre, Jakarta (2009); Member of Cloud Gate Dance Company led by Taiwanese artistic director Lin Hwai Min in Taiwan (2008 – 2011); Beat Project supported by Kelola Foundation and performed at Teater Arena Taman Budaya Jawa Tengah In Surakarta (aka TBS, 2011) and Salihara Theatre, and Indonesian Dance Festival 2012, Jakarta; Choreography credits: “Gandamayu” with Garasi Theater, Gedung Kesenian Jakarta (2012); Garin Nugroho’s “Opera Jawa: Selendang Merah“, Jakarta Theatre (2013); “A Part of Passion,” Teater Arena TBS (2013); and will perform at Salihara Festival 2014 in Jakarta; Occupy the Museum “Break the Harmony,” Welt Museum Impulstanz Festival 2013 in Vienna, Austria; “Fly on the Earth,” Welt Museum Vienna, Austria (2013); Residence program from Austrian Ministry of Education Vienna, Austria (2013); “Fly on the Earth” with Maya Dance Theater of Singapore at Sub Station Singapore 2013.

Special thanks to Alex, Kristen, Solomon, and Lianne, who helped me create this piece so joyfully; Satoshi Haga, choreographer and co-director of Song of Silver Geese, which inspired much of this solo work; to Chamber Music America and New Music USA for supporting Song of Silver Geese; Nine Doors was supported in part by MAP Fund and Doris Duke Artist Award; 150 Studios (150 W. 46th St., NY, NY); Rachel Cooper and Rachel Rosado; to Garin Nugroho, who inspired the title Nine Doors; my administrative assistant Corinne Judd; and to the Shyu family and Taborn family for their constant love and support. I dedicate this performance to  the late Sri Joko Raharjo “Cilik” and his entire family, as well as poet Edward Cheng, who passed in 2015; as well as Geri Allen, the great pianist whom we lost too soon on June 27, 2017.