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Kollaboration New York 2014 was a resounding success. The well attended show featured a surprising amount of cellos, and was hosted by a comedic-duo whose routine hit the mark often enough to keep the intervals between performances fun and engaging. The contest featured 6 contestants, and put the winner in the running for a $10,000 purse at the national event, come November. Sung Lee, the beatboxing magician took home the glory and the accolade of winner of Kollaboration NY 2014.

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The “I Love Dance” troupe kicked off the evening with a repertoire of modern dance, hip-hop and k-pop moves. They danced to a medley of hip-hop and k-pop tunes including Lydia Paek’s cover of Taeyang’s “Eyes, Nose, Lips”. Interestingly, and confirmed by reputable sources, in the darkened large hall Lydia’s cover sounded remarkably more beautiful than our first impression of her YouTube video.

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Ivan Polanco began the contest, singing with beautiful vocals in a distinctive falsetto. He talked briefly about his seven-year journey in music, and singing in coffee shops. Ivan’s first song was a sad love song of unrequited love, and he hit all the right notes.

His second song was musically more intricate, with less innocent lyrics. Both songs effectively put on display his breadth of talent. However, his performance was a little boring, at least at first.

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Ivan wields his acoustic guitar with talent and has great vocals, but something is missing. Sort of like when Hyundai motors rolled out the Genesis sedan without a figurehead or logo on the hood. It was a great car, but everyone said “something’s missing.”

A band may be what he needs, and a blazer. An acoustic guitar is always great when you want to mellow-out the crowd after a rump shakedown, but it wont sway any crowd to your corner if that’s all you have. With such moving vocals, a bass player or an accompanying electric guitarist for instance, could add to the melancholy, sinking the crowd further into the depths of despair. But then again, advice is free.

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Lionel Yu gave us his “musical basics” on the piano, and a beat-boxer accompanied him for his second song. Lionel at times showed no mercy with the keys, pounding vigorous especially as he wrapped up each song. And, the beat-boxer certainly added a contemporary twist that saved the young audience from lethargy. Other contestants were, “Grace Shay” accompanied by a stringed duo, and “Red Oak Lane” who are a full band with lots of promise. Their cellist certainly added the it-factor, especially with his intro of the second song.

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An un-agreeable fellow, who stormed the stage yelling at the violinist Yut, suddenly interrupted the show. He flung across the floor, the music stand Yut had been playing from. The audience fell silent, stunned and confused. As the apparently dumbfounded violinist stared in disbelieve facing his antagonist, someone in the crowd yelled out “security!”

An audible sigh of relief filled the hall, as the violinist showed it was all an act when he responded by calling for back up from an MC and another fellow off stage. And, so began “Yut and the Hot Four” band’s performance. Yut, switching to an electric violin gave a thrilling routine, all through which the two fellows enacted a pugilistic dance to the stimulating music.

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On a solemn note, given that Kollaboration aims to break stereotypes of Asian Americans, the “rude interruption” was also a moment of clarity on the stereotypes of African-Americans. Our “rude boy” was black.

Sung Lee, a gentle speaking New Jersey native has the ability to recreate a music studio in his mouth, sometimes with the help of a little mixing box. The duo hosts called it magic, and felt the need to clarify for everyone that the beats were being created from scratch with nothing prerecorded. The crowd’s response was slightly below frenzy, as Sung recreated the Jackson Five’s “I want you back.”

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While the judges conferred among themselves, Izzy Man who won Kollaboration 2013 commandeered the stage with a dancing and stepping posse. Holding up the audience’s attention, Izzy performed two songs from his upcoming album, Genesis. Then came the “awkward” Awkwafina (as it seems to be her favorite word), who gave the unsuspecting teenagers in the crowd (and a few others) a tutorial on “anatomy”. Her witty and clever, albeit sophomoric lyrics had many in the audience laughing and others blushing. Yes, it was awkward, but nonetheless artistic.

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When the judges pronounced Yut and the Hot Four as the runner up, it was almost certain who had been picked as winner. The night was obviously a contest between the two. As Sung Lee was presented with the winning trophy he thanked his fellow contestants, the audience and the army of volunteers that make Kollaboration possible.

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Up next for Sung lee is the championship at amateur night at the Apollo in November. Look out for our video and interview of him.


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