Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra Electrifies at the Belly Up!


by Tom Nguyen

Last night was an incredible show by Antibalas at the Belly Up in Solana Beach. My first time at this beautiful and historic venue was just last year, to see Salif Keita, and let me tell you a secret I’ve quickly learned: if an act is playing both in Los Angeles AND at the Belly Up, it’s worth the drive for me to see them here, because the sound is incredible and the stage is low, up close and intimate!

And in fact, why not see acts twice? After boasting to a gentleman next to me, that we’d driven 2 hours to be here, he told us he’d driven 3 hours from Moorpark! Brett says Antibalas is a “2 show band” — meaning if they play 2 shows in the area, it’s worth the drive, and he’s seeing them again at their Saturday Los Angeles show at The Regent!


I made the drive with Vanna Mae Art and DJ Glenn Red, who’s been coming to the Belly Up since 1996. We got there in time to catch the last few songs of Here Lies Man, a psychedelic rock group fronted by Marcos Garcia (Chico Mann) and whose percussionist Rich Panta, we know quite well from Very Be Careful. Chico Mann is also the rhythm guitarist in Antibalas, but with Here Lies Man, he gets to really showcase his vocals and rock guitar solos — it’s an audacious mix of what he calls “Afro Rock….What if Black Sabbath played Afrobeat?”   Continue Reading →

3 Powerful Videos premiere on International Women’s Day: Ruby Ibarra, La Misa Negra, Nakury

by Tom Nguyen

If you know what’s good for you, you’ll watch these videos that premiered on International Women’s Day 2018 and smash the patriarchy!

“US” – Ruby Ibarra, featuring Rocky Rivera, Klassy, Faith Santilla

Rapper Ruby Ibarra is joined by fellow Bay Area MC Rocky Rivera, Klassy from Echo Park and Los Angeles spoken word artist Faith Santilla for an explosive anthem on Pinay pride. Rocky Rivera says of of the video, “So proud to add my perspective on what it means to be PINAY. We are many shades of militant and we are not your FETISH. I hope lil bby Pinays look at this video and feel proud.” Ruby Ibarra recently played an amazing show at the Bootleg Theater to celebrate her debut album Circa91, and Faith Santilla and Klassy performed last week at AF3IRM LA‘s annual International Women’s Day rally & march (peep my live video).

“Dueña de Mi” – La Misa Negra

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Bombino Drops 1st Single off New Album “Deran” and plays Zebulon LA on July 17!


by Tom Nguyen

Tuareg guitarist and singer-songwriter Bombino from Agadez, Niger just announced his next album Deran, being released May 18, 2018, and you can listen to the new addictive track “Tehigren” and pre-order the album below.

The song is a fusion of Tuareg rock and reggae, which he likes to call “Tuareggae”: the first half in a slower reggae drum and bass, and then it finishes with his frenetic, blistering and masterful guitar riffs. According to a JamBase interview, Bombino says “The song is about my own struggle with being on the road all the time, away from my home. It is a nostalgic song, remembering the beauty of my home.”

The album was recorded in Casablanca, Morocco, and he has also announced summer tour dates in support of the new album. Bombino will perform at Zebulon LA on Tuesday, July 17th, 2018, and tickets go on sale Friday, March 9th. Be sure to get yours, because Zebulon LA has been booking incredible artists of the African diaspora and the show will sell out fast!

Weapons of Mass Creation’s song ‘Hard to Admit’ addresses sexual abuse in our own communities

by Tom Nguyen

In an era where we have a president who got elected despite boasting about “grabbing p*ssy”, it’s been heartening to see at least some powerful men in entertainment and politics finally having to answer for sexual violence as women bravely come forward. I hope the media attention, national dialogue, and women sharing their #MeToo stories results in real policy changes and legal protections in every workplace against people using their powerful positions to sexually exploit others.

Besides the rich and famous though, where is the much needed spotlight and attention on the sexual harassment, domestic abuse, and violence that is happening everyday in our own communities? Julia Franco, of Weapons of Mass Creation, sings poignantly about her own struggles against sexual harassment in their latest video “Hard to Admit”.

Weapons of Mass Creation are outspoken in their music and one of my top local bands to watch — they sing about police violence, racism, and gentrification happening in our marginalized communities. And in “Hard to Admit”, Julia says on top of all the issues she has to contend with as a woman of color, self-care doesn’t mean hugs and kisses in a safe space…it means carrying mace and always being on guard against men in her own communities.

So let’s address and challenge the sexual harassment, misogyny and toxic masculinity that happens everyday in all the spaces we occupy. Women have been doing the work and leading the charge. Men, we need to step up and be accountable for our actions as well as challenging men around us when we see abusive behavior, and not being complicit and silent. Get involved and support the work of these organizations in our communities: Peace Over Violence, Justice For My Sister Collective (Julia’s older sister Hilda Franco is involved with JFMSC), AF3IRM, and TheRealTalkProject, which currently offers a self-paced course on how to be a better male ally.

Weapons of Mass Creation performs tomorrow Saturday, November 11, at Tropicália Music and Taco Festival, and “Hard to Admit” is the first of a series of live performances shot at Sanctuary Sound, a grassroots DIY community and performance space in downtown Santa Ana. Amidst the rapid gentrification of the area, the space is so vital and essential: “Sound is a safe space for dangerous sound. In the state of our communities the main stream considers our arts of expression dangerous. But this is not the reality. Our working class communities find amazing creative and ingenious ways to create expression from our experiences using art, music, dance and the power of power of our words.  Our mission is to give our communities a space to create and build their skills so they may be prepared to benefit from then in the world that is consistently taking from them.” Continue Reading →

Tropicália Music and Taco Festival: Eclectic Global Music with Free Tacos November 11!


by Tom Nguyen

[UPDATE: Set times have been released and are posted at the bottom of this article.]

For a first time festival debuting this Saturday, November 11, Tropicália Music and Taco Festival at Queen Mary Park is as ambitious as they get in LA’s crowded music festival landscape. I mean who programs Norteño (Los Tigres del Norte) with 90s R&B (Ginuwine)…and throws in free tacos for everyone?!? That’s bold! Offering up such a bilingual and multi-generational lineup of music is a breath of fresh air for a music lover like me, who’s tired of bland, vanilla lineups catered for a white audience (lookin at you, Coachella) than for Brown, Black and immigrant folks with musical palettes that know no borders and yearn with nostalgia for our parents’ music.

True to its name, the festival features Latin alternative darlings Chicano Batman, heavily influenced by Brazil’s Tropicalia movement, as well as Os Mutantes, the esteemed psychedelic rock group from that very era. Cumbia fans will savor Sonora Dinamita, Celso Piña and Very Be Careful, and some of my favorite bands and DJ collectives will be representing LA’s eclectic music scenes I love so much: Buyepongo, Las Cafeteras, The Buttertones, Cuco, Chulita Vinyl Club, Funky Sole, Dub Club, Low End Theory, Scam and Jam. The late addition of Mexican rock legends, Cafe Tacvba, cements an already stellar lineup of Latin acts that includes reggaeton royalty Ivy Queen, and Colombian American pop princess Kali Uchis.

The festival is organized by the same folks who manage The Observatory Orange County, a venue that regularly features hip hop and other upcoming talents on its main stage and smaller stage, The Constellation Room. They’ve curated quite an eclectic lineup of hip hop acts: Goldlink, King Krule, Madlib, Sango, Smino, Phoney Ppl, Weapons of Mass Creation.

Swoon to the soulful voices of Jhené Aiko, Jorja Smith, Jessie Reyez as well as timeless songs by 60s soul and R&B legends The Delfonics and Brenton Wood. There are more venerable acts too: Wanda Jackson, the Queen of Rockabilly still performing at 80, 70s Spanish singer Jeannette, and Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King, whose 80s hit “Love Come Down” I’m going to be singing along at full force!

Here are some of the acts I’m looking forward to seeing for the first time and the set times for the festival: Continue Reading →

What does being an Afro-Latino band mean? My favorite LA bands in their own words


by Tom Nguyen

Seems like folks really enjoyed my last blog on 6 upcoming Los Angeles Latin Alternative bands to watch, so I wanted to follow up with my favorite Afro Latino bands, heating up dance floors all over SoCal with their tropical rhythms (in alphabetical order): Buyepongo, Changui Majadero, El Santo Golpe, La Chamba, QUITAPENAS, Tropi Corillo and YANGA.

Now, I’m not an ethnomusicologist…I’m not qualified to give you an academic lecture on what makes each of these bands different, from which cultures and regions of Latin America they derive their music, and so on. What I do know is I’m a sucker for percussion and tropical beats, and music like this gets me into a non-stop frenzy on the dance floor!

But beyond that, I’d rather you hear from the musicians themselves, to let them tell you in their own words what their band and their music is all about. And let’s talk about labels again…”Afro Latino”…it seems like everyone wants to throw that term around these days. African descendants and roots in Latin America have been so historically unacknowledged, and in Los Angeles, there’s a tight knit community of bands reclaiming and honoring African contributions that bleed deeply through their music.

Because Afro-Latino heritage has been so suppressed and unacknowledged in home countries and communities here in LA, I wanted to know what drove each band’s interest in this music and why they think there are so few musicians of Afro-Latino descent in LA. I wanted to especially hear from some of the bands who’ve used their music and platform to highlight anti-blackness in Latino communities and to work towards more solidarity between Black and Brown communities. Folks in these bands are passionate about their music and its history, but also willing to talk frankly on heavy issues that go beyond the music. I want to thank each of them for their time and make sure you catch them at one of many upcoming shows: All of them are playing free shows, with 3 of them at Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles starting this weekend and 2 of them at South LA Power Fest on September 2nd! Continue Reading →

So you love Chicano Batman. Here’s 6 more amazing LA indie bands to watch.


by Tom Nguyen

LA’s underground Latin indie and rock scene is the most vibrant and explosive I’ve seen in years. Sure, Chicano Batman put the scene on the map and kudos to them…Coachella twice and 3 back-to-back sold-out shows this September wow! They’re such the hip, in-demand darlings right now, eager fans chased them to their cars after their performance to an over-capacity crowd at One Colorado in Pasadena this summer. I see posts on Facebook like a 60-something white CSULA professor gushing about playing their music to her class and wondering why her Latino students hadn’t heard them yet…so I had to ask her besides the Johnnie Walker commercial she saw, can she name any of the many talented and unique bands with Latino musicians playing amazing music in LA right now? Nope.

So Chicano Batman bandwagoners, take note. It took them nearly a decade of playing before the white mainstream music industry noticed, and LA Weekly recently wrote a great piece about LA’s Latin alternative music continuing to break down barriers, thanks in large part to visionary promoters like Viva Presents and Qvolé Collective. The thriving multicultural scene can be summed up by Qvolé’s motto…The Future is Latin. So in addition to great acts promoted by Qvolé like Buyepongo, Brainstory, Cutty Flam, here are six upcoming independent bands I think you should check out: Earth Arrow, Sin Color, The Altons, Twin Seas, Weapons of Mass Creation, Welfair. Continue Reading →

This review, just like Sevdaliza, is better late than never

by Cindy Ly Rozas

Sevdaliza, the Iranian born Dutch musician, dancer and visual artist that’s mesmerizing the music world with her unique avante gard glitch pop, performed her first U.S. show to a sold-out crowd at the Echoplex in Los Angeles this past Monday night. Originally scheduled for an earlier March date, Sevdaliza’s imminent L.A. debut was delayed by the administration’s travel ban, which directly affected nationals of seven muslim majority countries, including Sevda Alizadeh’s native Iran. The travel ban, which went on to inspire the track Bevin, was one way for Sevdaliza to transform her frustrations and disappointments with our current state of affairs into art.

Sevdaliza is actually really great at transforming. She transformed from child refugee to star basketball player on the Dutch national team. From then, only 4 years ago, Sevdaliza transformed herself into a producer and musician, DIY’ing every aspect of her career so far. Just this past April, she transformed the release of her first full length album, into a surreal visual experience; “ISON” manifested in physical form.

It’s hard for any international artist to tour the U.S. without a full length album behind them, but Sevdaliza could have totally done it solely based on the strength of her singles and EPs she’s been steadily dropping since 2014. Industrial R&B with a futuristic aesthetic.

Continue Reading →

More than just a Free Summer Events List! 2017

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by Tom Nguyen

Let me be frank: I’m not a fan of these lists of free summer concerts all the big publications and cool kids come out with every year, for many reasons:

  1. Like how do you call yourself the “The Ultimate List” when you’re missing great free events like Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks in Leimert Park, Central Avenue Jazz Festival in South LA and Watts Towers Day of the Drum (that’s in its 136th year???) just to name a few. I’ll tell you why: These folks who deign to be authorities on Los Angeles either don’t step foot in communities of color or don’t care to include POC events.
  2. Then just because you have events in POC and immigrant communities doesn’t make it a culturally relevant and genuine event. Chinatown Summer Nights for example: seeing KCRW DJs spinning for a bunch of hipsters wearing Chinese coolie hats like a costume, while the neighborhood of mostly immigrant and poor folks is gentrifying, makes me want to puke.
  3. Yes there’s a lot of great free concerts bringing in great international acts as well as featuring local talent…Grand Performances, Skirball Cultural Center and Levitt Pavilion (kudos to Spaceland for their curation this summer!). But if you only focused on free free free, you’d miss out on other venues and nonprofit orgs like Hollywood Bowl, Ford Theatres, JACCC, MOLAA putting on amazing shows.
  4. Not every worthy band gets selected to play these free summer concert platforms, so I think it’s important to support our local bands during the summer as well as amazing visiting acts coming through.
  5. Where are the cultural and community festivals? Where are the film festivals? Again with those free lists…it doesn’t take a genius to just look at a bunch of calendars and compile them into a list. But if you’re not interacting and participating in communities of color and immigrant diaspora, you’re going to miss events like Hollywood Carnival, Nisei Week Japanese Festival in Little Tokyo, Cambodia Town Film Festival in Long Beach, 21st Annual Feria Agostina de Los Angeles in MacArthur Park, and so much deeper appreciation and awareness of the diversity of LA.

So if you only care about free concerts, read no further, and don’t even bother with those other lists…just go to socalsummerconcerts.com. I don’t know who puts that calendar together but it’s very convenient. Now if you do care about a wider range of summer events in LA, and you do care about supporting both local bands and venues who work hard to put on cultural relevant and important shows, then welcome. I spent a good week initially putting this list together and I will never call it a complete or ultimate list…I will continually add to the list as I hear of more events. And if you want a reminder of more awesome upcoming events as well as ticket giveaways to many of these shows, subscribe to our newsletter!

Our Cultural Picks for Los Angeles: June 14-20


by Tom Nguyen

Folks, I decided last night that this will be my last weekly curated list of events. I’ve been putting out this list, without fail, week in and week out, holidays or not, illness or not, since 2011…first within the Couchsurfing.com Los Angeles forum to help travelers get a deeper sense of LA, then on my humble first blog, and finally here the last 4 years.

It was never really widely read and that’s ok…I don’t do this for any popularity and I’m so grateful whenever I meet someone who’s been following my site and is a fan of my curation of LA’s cultural scene. Focusing on under-acknowledged, vibrant and rich happenings in LA’s communities of color and immigrant diaspora will always be my passion and labor of love.

However, the sacrifice that it’s entailed…never being able to go out on Mondays and Tuesdays to devote hours and hours of weekly research until 5am, is starting to take a toll on my well-being, as I also juggle my startup company CultureGap.LA, a people of color and immigrant company, passionate about promoting the cultural arts all over SoCal.

So friends, it’s time for me to hang up my cultural hat here. Thank you so much for the folks who’ve supported my work! After I put out my list of summer events later this week, you can still find me most active on our Instagram and Facebook, subscribe to our newsletter for ticket giveaways, and if you love to write about the arts, can shoot decent pictures and want to attend shows, shoot me your resume and writing samples to tom at enclave.la. Peace out and enjoy the Summer!

MUSIC

The Altons Present: Final Summer Of Luv
Eastside Luv Bar (Boyle Heights)
Wed. June 14, 8pm, Free, 21+
So all things must come to an end and why not end it with a BANG.
Join us wednessday June 14th for the final night of our East Side Luv residancy. We will be joined by some good friends . Vinyl Frontier Crew spinning all night!

Teebs
The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (Little Tokyo)
Thu. June 15, 6:30pm-9:30pm, Free, All ages
Spaceland Presents x MOCA | The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles x Alpha Pup Records Present: Teebs at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA + Milo (Rapsmith), Josef Leimberg, (DJ) NOBODY Continue Reading →