Recent reviews of “Mei Mei, A Daughter’s Song”:
“This piece leaves standard storytelling practices in the dust. Dmae’s production values are topnotch. She also uses a combination of interview tape and dramatization to tell the story and she manipulates the sound with effects. The effects make the story musical and dreamy. And the effects add meaning that the words alone may not be able to communicate. Independent producer Dmae Roberts produced “Mei Mei, A Daughter’s Song” in 1989. It was cutting edge then and it is cutting edge now.”
With the exception of WNYC’s Radio Lab and specials from Hearing Voices, there is very little on public radio that tickles the ears. It wasn’t always that way. Up until about the 1990’s, public radio took chances. Stations experimented and aired risky and unusual work right along with the tried and true.
But, today, much of the programming, aurally speaking, is pretty drab and staid. In fact, I’d say there’s a good chance very few public stations would play the piece featured on this Saltcast because of its non-traditional and artistic approach to production and storytelling — even though it was lauded when it first hit the air twenty years ago.
Independent producer Dmae Roberts produced “Mei Mei, A Daughter’s Song” in 1989. It was cutting edge then and it is, unfortunately, cutting edge now.
-Rob Rosenthal, Salt Institute’s Saltcast Podcast http://www.prx.org/pieces/49659-27-mei-mei-a-daughter-s-song
This piece, I believe, may be amongst that small number of programs that are recognized by name, by reputation. Beautifully produced it is, movingly written, but the parts that moved me the most were those short glimpses of the mother daughter relationship during their interview sessions – I wanted more, and then thought that they were so skimpy on the ground perhaps because of the very lack of communication that is a central theme of the program. So thin because perhaps there just wasn’t more tape. Because mother and daughter have stopped speaking to each other. It’s a lovely tale that serves both to show the unlimited stretch of radiophonic techniques and also because it resonates with anyone who has a love-hate relationship with a family member. Mother and daughter are divided by culture, by history, by changing times – they live parallel lives of dreams and hopes for the other, knowing they can never be the fulfillment of the other’s projection. But in the end, they love each other because there’s no choice.
-Dheera Sujan, PRX Review, Radio Netherlands, 2007 http://www.prx.org/comments/12192
“Brilliant piece that stands on its own. Mei Mei is a classic that I’ve listened to many times and still enjoy. In my humble opinion as just an ordinary listener, this is possibly the best audio work that has ever been recorded.”-Listener Review, PRX 2006
“As a radio show producer, it is rare, that I am able to offer my listeners
a story that immerses them in another world and culture fully and powerfully.
I had been waiting for a chance to air “Mei Mei: A Daughters Song”
on the national radio show I produce because I wanted my listeners to
experience a story in a three dimensional way. Dmae Roberts tell her story as a daughter and then creates two levels of her mother’s story through interview, spoken word and sound. This layered telling creates the complexity of the story and pulls the listener into the swirl of emotions and revelations. There are few stories I know of that do this in radio and I was thrilled to share it with the listeners of my national program, The Story. It is a radio movie with the listeners creating the images and helping to complete the story.”
The Story (re-broadcast Mei Mei in 2012)
American Public Media and WUNC
‘Just Remember,” says a voice of the young seeker, “this isn’t about me.” But of course, it is: How could an autobiographical reminiscence not be? Portland writer D. Roberts’ “Mei Mei, A Daughter’s Song” is a time-traveling tone poem about generations, cultural gaps and the hope for reunion.” Bob Hicks, The Oregonian newspaper, 1991
“Roberts’ rich presentation of sound and storytelling is at once intimate and complex. The stark opening of “Mei-Mei”–a “click” and the tape is running–Roberts speaking over the sounds of a horns and children’s voices of busy street in Taiwan. She is on a trip with her mother, revisiting the homeland, seeking broken ties. We slide into a young woman’s tale about a girl out gathering firewood, who hears singing in the woods and follows it. There are 30 seconds of the “cloch-cloch” of drum sticks, a breathy flute and unintelligible voices. Her mother speaks in broken English: “. . . my parents sold me twice . . . for 20 yen . . . I don’t know, they need money. I don’t have a feel . . . nothing I can do about it. . . .” Again, Roberts herself, both interviewer and translator: “I’m the only human being on earth who understands everything my mother says.”
Roberts slips from frame to frame with great artistry, from intimate monologue to storytelling, from re-enactment of a conversation at a kitchen table to an interview. She employs a range of sound gestures in her work–a chorus, solo instruments, whispers, foreign voices. Like a modern Scheherazade–invoked in Calvino’s memo on quickness–she tells her story within a story within a story, manipulating continuity, making us eager to know what comes next.”
-Sue Schardt, Executive Director of the Association of Independents In Radio
Read more about Dmae on AIR here: The Inside Story
In a miniature version, Roberts’ radio play, “Mei Mei: A Daughter’s Song”, which won the 1989 George Foster Peabody award for Broadcasting Excellence, exhibits “ethnographic feminism” in a manner less antagonistic to the Other than Kingston and less melodramatic than Tan, resulting in a moving story that lingers in the air long after it’s gone….(read more)
-From the textbook “Immigrant Subjectivities in Asian American and Asian Diaspora Literatures by Sheng-mei Ma