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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Ambassador of peace

Ho Lan uses art, music to brighten lives

Ho Lan, who operates Ho Ho Teriyaki in the basement of the Flour Mill, isn’t afraid to pull out her little ukulele and play a song Wednesday. She’s a lifelong artist and musician who displays her artwork at the restaurant. You can see a youthful Ho Lan on YouTube performing on television in Taiwan. (Jesse Tinsley)
Jennifer Larue

Ho Lan’s motivation comes from the desire to spread peace. Whether she’s singing, playing the guitar or percussion, composing a song, painting or even conversing with a friend or stranger, peace is at the core.

“If I influence someone even a little, I am happy,” she said.

Ho Lan grew up in Puli, Taiwan. In a home filled with music, Ho Lan and her nine siblings reached for musical instruments like other children reach for toys. Her instrument of choice was the guitar. At 16, she took lessons for a few months and then studied on her own. “I practiced 5 to 6 hours a day for about three years,” she said. At 18, she was teaching music at an elementary school.

Inspired by the mountains and natural beauty of Taiwan, she studied Chinese brush painting for a few months at one of the many temples on the island. Using ink made of charcoal or pine, she re-created the beauty she saw on sheets of rice paper. “Like anything, it takes practice,” she said, “I practiced for many hours.”

Her career as a performer began after she answered a want ad for a musician to play with a television band similar to the bands that back up late night talk show hosts in America. Standing before a group of men, Ho Lan played her guitar, whistled, yodeled, and belted out a tune in her signature low voice. “They were whispering to each other and laughing a little,” she explained. “The joke was on me; I had no idea they did not hire women.”

Though she didn’t get the job, she was invited to participate in a talent competition and she won. That led to many gigs at nightclubs and other public forums.

In 1974, she immigrated to Spokane where her sister lived. As she waited for her husband to arrive in America, she was given the opportunity to perform at Expo ’74, which led to more performances in the area. She also traveled to perform, recorded an album, “Echo from Deep Valley,” and taught painting to nuns and students at Spokane Falls Community College. “I’ve taught many places but it’s been so long,” she mused.

In 1988, she and her husband opened Ho Ho Teriyaki in the Flour Mill. Her paintings decorate the small restaurant, as does a “peace pole” with the words “May Peace Prevail on Earth” written in different languages.

She doesn’t paint as much as she used to, but she continues to write songs including the piece “Spokane.” “After 9/11, I saw that people were so sad and angry. We are all children of the sun, children of the light, children of God,” she explained, “I wrote the song with the intention of making people happy.”

Two versions of the song are on YouTube, accompanied by photos of Spokane. You can also find Ho Lan performing with the Tap Dancing Grandmas on YouTube as well as “Happy Yodeling (by Ho Lan.)” Her newest song, “Freedom,” describes living as an art and that chaos and confusion will always play a part. “It’s yin and yang,” she said.