Interview: GNL Zamba, Godfather of Ugandan Hip Hop, his Black Panther inspired Freestyle and forming duo NSIMBI with his partner

by Tom Nguyen

I met GNL Zamba and his partner, Miriam Tamar, outside a show in 2016, where they introduced themselves as being new to L.A. and thanking me for cluing them into the global music scene with my site. Little did I know that GNL Zamba is Uganda’s most well-known hip hop artist, and having never mentioned his background to me, my mind was blown 2 years later when he dropped this hot freestyle this past April!

So you know what they say…the real geniuses are the ones who don’t have to say much, but when they do, y’all better listen! And trust me, I’m listening now! Here’s an interview with GNL Zamba on what exactly Lugaflow is, how love led him to Los Angeles, and forming NSIMBI, a new duo, with his wife, Miriam Tamar.

EnClave: For folks outside Uganda and in LA who don’t know, can you tell us about Lugaflow and the hip hop scene in Uganda. How long have you been rapping and what got you started?

GNL Zamba: Uganda’s music scene is very vibrant and has been for a while but that wasn’t the case for hip hop. It wasn’t mainstream, with little respect and coverage. It wasn’t considered a favorite until 2008. That is when the game totally changed. I released an album called Koyi Koyi (Riddles of Life), which became the most colossal hip hop album in Uganda’s industry. The album was under the theme of indigenous pride (Lugafow), the album used traditional chants and which made the rhymes fun and relatable. I told stories of growing poor in Kampala. The genre got its new life from the Koyi Koyi album. I became a household name with fans of all ages and the sponsorships from corporate partners helped me cement Lugaflow (indigenous language flow) into an urban movement. My first concert that year had over 12,000 people at Kyadondo rugby grounds. Something that was unprecedented for a hip hop MC before. I was overjoyed.

EnClave LA: What brought you out here to Los Angeles?

GNL Zamba: Music, Film and a girl! I often reply haha! I met my partner in Uganda almost 6 years ago; she had been working to rebuild the post war community in northern Uganda. She had just ended her work and was transitioning into music when we met. We both loved culture and were both looking for a new voice to express ourselves and the community. We worked on edutainment songs for organizations under the ministry of health to sensitize the youth about safe sex and began performing on stages together.

We were in the middle of making a super band when a personal tragedy forced her to she move back to the states. I was hesitant to join her because I loved my Ugandan life and didn’t want to trade it. I visited often and saw her whenever I had a chance to perform in the U.S.A. Until I decided to get an 01 Visa and give L.A. a try. Now we are releasing our first project together as a hip hop world fusion duo in a few weeks. It will be called NSIMBI. Continue Reading →

EnClave’s Guide to Los Angeles 2018 Summer Events & beyond

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by Tom Nguyen

[Last updated: July 9, 2018] So Facebook broke my events calendar on this site. Long story short, I used to painstakingly and manually populate the calendar one event at a time, until there was a way for me to automatically import Facebook events directly to the calendar. If folks don’t know, there’s just one person behind this whole site (me!), and it was such a time saver. Well, in response to its recent data privacy scandal, Facebook closed up its system and I can no longer do that. So, no more calendar!

But calendar or no calendar, I’ve always loved putting out an annual list of summer events. What I noticed about other sites is they always put out a list of free summer concerts, or an “ultimate” list of summer events, that always excluded so many events in communities of color and immigrant diaspora — immigrant communities are still invisible in this global city.

So this is my list, and it doesn’t just focus on the free…there’s many nonprofits and other great performing arts venues putting out great cultural programming that shouldn’t be ignored just because you have to pay. Plus, not all worthy artists get selected for a very limited set of free summer concert series, so please support our hard-working local artists, visiting artists, grassroots producers and community organizations putting on events, on their own dime!

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 culturally relevant and important shows, then enjoy. I spent a good day initially putting this list together and I will never call it a complete or ultimate list…This list will be updated on a weekly basis, as I find out more events throughout the summer. I’ll also go back and add highlight videos from my Instagram so you can see what you missed out on! (If you’re not following me on Instagram, you should…many events and last minute announcements are only posted on Instagram these days…the millennials don’t use Facebook anymore!). 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!

Thank you to organizations and event producers like Hollywood Bowl, Ford Theatres, Grand Performances, Pasadena Playhouse, Brazilian Nites, Nance Arte Productions, Go As If Productions who pay me and my street team CultureGap.LA to promote their shows and get featured here on my site — thank you for helping to keep the lights on and this labor of love going! If you have a worthy event that you would like featured on this list, my site, newsletter and social media, contact me. I hope to see you at a stage this Summer into Fall (aka L.A.’s late summer!).

[JUN]    [JUL]    [AUG]    [SEP]    [OCT]

Interview: Juli Kim of The Artist’s Platform on The Friendship Concert this Sat. April 28!


by Tom Nguyen

This Saturday, April 28, 7:30pm, is The Friendship Concert, a performance of music, dance and culture, at Aratani Theater in Little Tokyo, to commemorate the LA Riots. The concert will showcase an eclectic array of artistic talents from diverse communities. Here’s the lineup:

  • Houman Pourmehdi on Daf Frame Drum.
  • Aerial Piece by Nick Loui.
  • Reach Sister’s contemporary dance piece.
  • Celeste Lanuza’s Mexican/Fusion choreography with live music.
  • James Mahkween’s African/Fusion work.
  • USC Instrumental duo from Doctorate department playing an Original composition by Michael Kim-Sheng, an emerging composer.
  • Juli Kim’s Korean Classical/Fusion dance piece.
  • Tashara and Queala from Lula Washington Dance Company.
  • Los Angeles Children’s Community Youth Choir led by Sun Joo Yeo.
  • The Flintridge Singers directed by Steve Hill.
  • Artist Entrance Dance Company premiering “Trajectory”.
  • Paco & Yolanda flamenco piece juxtaposed with Korean Five drum dance then continued on to Taiko Drum’s finale.

I had a chance to speak to Juli Kim of The Artists’ Platform (TAP), who is organizing this huge ensemble performance.

EnClave.LA: Tell us about The Artists’ Platform (TAP) and why you think it’s so important to bring so many different performers from different communities as well as school children to perform?

Juli: Thank you so much for giving me a chance to introduce our nonprofit organization, The Artists’ Platform. Our nonprofit organization was founded last year to recognize the need to support the efforts of emerging artists. On November 6th, we hosted our Inaugural Concert, which highlighted an eclectic array of artistic talents, showcasing diverse genres from diverse communities. As Founder and President of this organization, I can proudly say that our first concert was a great success.  Continue Reading →

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

Continue Reading →

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 →