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San Francisco Chinatown seniors welcome in the Lunar New Year with rap

Members of the Grant Avenue Follies, a senior cabaret dance troupe based in San Francisco's Chinatown, collaborated with rapper Jason Chu on the Lunar New Year song "That Lunar Cheer."
IW Group
Members of the Grant Avenue Follies, a senior cabaret dance troupe based in San Francisco's Chinatown, collaborated with rapper Jason Chu on the Lunar New Year song "That Lunar Cheer."

A cabaret dance troupe of elders from San Francisco's Chinatown has released a rap track and video celebrating ​the Lunar New Year.

That Lunar Cheer, a collaboration between the Grant Avenue Follies and Los Angeles-based rapper Jason Chu, hippety-hops into the Year of the Rabbit with calls for food, family and fun.

"We've been through a couple challenging years and we want to wish everybody a happy new year as well as making sure that it will be a peaceful and healthy new year. That is very important to us," Follies co-founder Cynthia Yee told NPR. "We have customs that have to be followed, such as cleaning the house before New Year's Day to sweep away all the bad luck and welcome the new."

The video was was funded by the AARP, a nonprofit interest group focusing on issues affecting those over the age of 50.

No strangers to hip-hop

The 12 members of the Follies, aged between 61 and 87, might be steeped in tap dance and the songs of the 1950s and '60s. But they are no strangers to hip-hop.

That Lunar Cheer is the group's third rap track to date. The Follies' song protesting violence against people of Asian descent, Gai Mou Sou Rap (named after the chicken feature dusters that Chinese parents traditionally use around the home, and also use to spank naughty children), has garnered nearly 90,000 views on YouTube since debuting in May 2021.

Follies founder Yee said she feels a connection to the hip-hop genre.

"What better way to express ourselves is through poetry, which is a song with rap," she said.

Their dedication to the art form impressed rapper Chu, who wrote That Lunar Cheer, and has a strong background in community activism as well as music.

"These ladies are strong and feisty and creative," Chu told NPR. "Getting to collaborate with them is exactly the kind of art I love making — something that highlights culture and community in a way that's fun and empowering."

Yee added she hopes the song exemplifies the values of the Year of the Rabbit: "Mostly very quiet, very lovable, very fuzzy-wuzzy, and of course all about having lots of family," she said. "The Year of the Rabbit is about multiplying everything, whether that's children, grandchildren or money."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Chloe Veltman
Chloe Veltman is a correspondent on NPR's Culture Desk.