Week’s Highlights: March 16-20

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by Tom Nguyen

IMG_5626Wednesday, March 16, sister trio A-WA from Israel enthralled the packed crowd at The Echo with their Yemeni folk music. Tair, Liron & Tagel Haim (originally known as The Haim Sisters and not to be confused with another sister trio Haim) grew up in a small village Shaharut in the southern Israeli Arava Valley. Since childhood, the girls have been singing traditional songs passed down from their Yemeni grandmother. The love and protest songs of women in the Yemeni-Arabic dialect have been passed on as an oral tradition. Continue Reading →

Pico Union Project Unites Community through Faith, Music and Outreach

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Story and Photos by Oscar Bautista

Located on the corner of Valencia and 12th, near the middle of the Pico Union district, the local non-profit organization Pico Union Project (PUP) stands tall in a community as diverse as its members. No matter what your background, PUP is proud in welcoming any and all members of the community looking for a space of inclusion and respect, a basis of their core Jewish values that they actively promote.

“We’re a multi-faith community space based around the idea of using arts to promote bridges between different cultures, different faiths, different communities,” said Jason Chu, Chief Storytelling Officer at the Pico Union Project. “There’s a Jewish community that makes this home. There’s actually the first women’s mosque in America…in the Muslim community, that is controversial, but they make their home here.” Continue Reading →

BMI’s Posada en Rosa Showcases Emerging Latina Voices and helps St. Jude Children’s Cancer Research

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Alih Jey and Mitre

Story and Photos by Oscar Bautista

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Chongo Head T-shirts

The Gibson showroom in Beverly Hills housed a great lineup of emerging Latina singer/songwriters this holiday month. Hosted by Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI)’s Latin division, Posada en Rosa brought together amazingly gifted female artists, as well as community vendors to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Along with the music, attendees were treated to pastries from local SoCal small enterprises Mi Kaffe and Viva Los Cupcakes. Chongo Head T-shirts, a family business started by 14 year old Soraya Gonzalez, showed off amazing T-shirt concepts she designs with her father.

Proceeds from the night’s sales were donated to St. Jude, whose representative Odette Gutierrez took the time to educate us about the global organization’s history of improving children’s cancer survival rate from 20% to 80% today. She thanked us in gratitude, saying since they are primarily funded through donations and children’s cancer research is less funded than adult cancer research, every effort counts and is appreciated!

The main draw for the night was the showcase with five great performances by some of Latin America’s young emerging singer/songwriters. Artists for this night included Mexican singer/songwriters Anna Sophia, Vanessa Zamora, Alejandra Alberti, Cuban singer/songwriter Ilza Rosario, and Dominican singer/songwriter Alih Jey who was accompanied by fellow BMI artist Mitre. Continue Reading →

Interview with Hayokaht: Defiant and Conscious Experimental Jazz in LA’s Eastside

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Story and Photos by Oscar Bautista

With belting horns and driving rhythms, Hayokaht is one act coming out of East LA that is bringing back jazz to the communities it calls home. Using the technical and chaotic styles of free jazz, while still venturing into new territories of sound, this group takes its audiences on a ride through the eclectic cultures of its members.

Playing as a quartet, Bryan Diaz (tenor sax), Angel Hernandez (alto sax from Buyepongo), Michael Ibarra (bass from El Haru Kuroi), and Harout Gulesserian (drums) form a powerhouse group of talented artists that tempt the edges of jazz to find their unique sound.

IMG_0047 With a residency at Eastside Luv, you shouldn’t be surprised to find a packed house every first Wednesday of the month as Hayokaht entertains a crowd of fans. It was especially packed this first Wednesday of December where people came out to support Hayokaht by donating to help them towards their first EP.

After seeing their performance first hand I quickly understood why the bar was bursting at the seams. Soul baring and never missing a beat, Hayokaht mixed the wild improvisation of free jazz and the dark setting of L.A. life into a great live set.

Glimpses of the jazz masters such as Sun Ra and Charles Mingus can be heard in their performance giving homage to the artists who molded free jazz. That’s not to take away attention from the amazing musicianship carried by all four member of the group – each providing their own flavor to the Hayokaht sound.

After their set, I got to speak with these new torches bearers of L.A. free jazz to find out more about how they came together, as well as how they connect to the community through music. Continue Reading →

Echo Park Film Center: Empowering Community through Affordable Filmmaking

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Story and Photos by Oscar Bautista

We all have stories to tell, no matter what our backgrounds are or what experiences we have had. It’s what makes us individuals and brings us together as people. Though we live in this world of constant social traffic, it doesn’t mean every voice has that platform and it especially doesn’t mean that every story is heard.

That’s why when I recently visited the Echo Park Film Center (EPFC) I was relieved to find a space and community dedicated to changing this state of communication. Walking through the busy cross street of N. Alvarado and Sunset, you may not even see it, but this hidden space is where individuals give back to the communities they call home.
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Highland Park community members march and speak up against Gentrification while LA Councilmember Gil Cedillo hosts a Jazz festival

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Story and Photos by Katie J

(Highland Park) — “Gente Si! Gentrify NO!” A chanting crowd gathered at the York and Figueroa intersection, underneath the American flag and afternoon sun. “Here, take one.” A small child handed her friend a sign reading ‘Our Future! Our Fight!’ as she clutched her own, which proclaimed ‘I Love My Community.’ “Start them young, huh?” One mother said to another, as both laughed. The feel of family, unity, and neighborly love buzzed through the air. But there was a distinct, strong undercurrent of urgency — this was not a casual gathering. The individuals from across Los Angeles that came were there to fight, to speak their piece, to be heard. To support one another in the battle against the many-tentacled monster of gentrification. Organized by NELA Alliance, BKR Gang and Drug Intervention Program, Eviction Defense Network, and concerned residents and local business owners, the day’s march and resource fair were a direct response to growing threats within a rapidly gentrifying Highland Park.

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A little after 4PM, NELAA organizers called for everyone to circle up. Pastor Wayne Turner of BKR gave a rousing cry for unity in these difficult times, for neighborly support and outreach. “The Highland Park homeless population has grown almost 20%,” he said. “When the city cuts our resources, our problems only get worse.” Next, organizer Arturo read a piece he’d prepared, which asked everyone gathered to remember the roots of this fight. “Our ancestors walk with us… every step we take we honor the earth… we are a people of the river, of these hills.” As he spoke, organizer Melissa translated into Spanish. “This march is over 500 years old… let’s speak some truth to those that deny our existence.” A member of the Brown Berets spoke next, explaining that the Berets were there to help with crowd control, and asked that marchers remain on the sidewalks. “The police will look for any little reason to intervene, to stop us.” Miguel, another organizer, ended the short speeches and began the march with a powerful chant that overtook the crowd “Si se puede! Si se puede!” which continued as the crowd headed down Figueroa. “Si se puede! Our streets!” Continue Reading →

Black Cowboys in Compton: Help Preserve their Legacy!

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by Tom Nguyen

I just learned from a KCRW interview about a community of cowboys in Compton that is dying out. LA’s agricultural roots are still alive in the most surprising places. In the middle of the urban landscape of Compton, sits a community where people are allowed to ride horses in the streets and it’s one of the few neutral zones where youths from different gangs can set aside their differences. The cowboy club there has taught a lot of kids how to ride horses, to help keep them off the inner city’s mean streets. Unfortunately, with the ever increasing urban sprawl, this way of life is quickly disappearing and so too is the cowboy culture.

After a stable named the “Hill” burned down mysteriously a few years ago and the cowboys lost their main meeting place, the club has been in rapid decline. Documentary filmmaker Brett Fallentine has been documenting their way of life and attempts to rebuild the stable as a way to preserve their heritage. It’s a unique and forgotten part of LA history that can be traced to the Black cowboys on the American frontier and deserves to be told. But time is running out for his film titled Fire on the Hill!

Fallentine is funding the film with a Kickstarter campaign that only has until Saturday, March 21 to raise the last $10,000 needed! On the campaign page, Fallentine writes, “Everyone has a preconceived notion of Compton and South Central LA. I certainly did when I first met the Cowboys. Let me tell you that this film destroys all your expectations of this area, its people, and its heritage.” I just made a pledge and I hope you will too and please help spread the word by March 21!

Faces of Los Angeles: An International Photographer Shares Angelenos’ Stories through Portrait

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by Katie J

Josh Fassbind recently left one metropolis known for its vibrant international citizenry — Geneva — for another: our own Los Angeles. A professional photographer with years of success in both commercial and fine art work, Josh has made a mark with his special eye for portraits. Combining heartfelt inspiration from his multicultural surroundings with his gift for connecting with those surroundings’ subjects, he created his critically acclaimed project “Faces of Geneva.”

The collection is grand in scope — to amass a portrait and single-word story from one Genevan citizen from every country in the world — yet the individual photographs feel immediately recognizable, almost familiar. The portraits are intimate, but still reserved; the viewer is aware they are only getting a gorgeous glimpse into the wide inner world of the subjects. Seen all together, the photos build a landscape of unique similarities that any citizen of any country would feel kinship with. The project is a beautiful representation of what it is to live within a swirling chorus of cultures, fascinating yet wonderfully ordinary people, all together in a single city that may as well be the entire world.

He describes his goal for “Faces of Los Angeles” as such: “I will photograph and select one person from every United Nations’ 193 countries. Each photograph will be taken in the participants’ chosen location in Los Angeles. Everyone will also have to choose one word that best describes their feeling about LA.”
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Floricanto Center and Danza Floricanto/USA: Bringing Together East Los Angeles’ Artistic Communities

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by Katie J

Under bright strings of papel picado and colorful twinkling lights, an eager crowd mills about in the lobby of The Floricanto Center for the Performing Arts. The Center’s director, Gema Sandoval, softly glides through the crowd, smiling and welcoming the chipper guests. A warm and motherly soul, Gema has a history of bringing together families, artists, and diverse communities in the Los Angeles area. Tonight she has invited everyone for the 13th annual Fiesta del Dia de los Muertos performance, put on by her floricanto company. While the dancers prepare themselves in the dressing room, Mr. Sandoval ushers guests to their seats in the Center’s intimate theater space. The audience settles in, their excited chatter dimming with the lights, as Gema takes the stage to introduce the dancers and the company’s history.

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Gema and her husband, Frank Sandoval, are founding members of Danza Floricanto/USA, the oldest existing professional Mexican folk dance troupe in Southern California. “We started as an affirmation group,” Gema fondly recalls, “until we realized we were artists!” She chuckles to herself as she says this, and one can’t help but break into a smile with her. A lifelong educator, Gema has a gentle guiding spirit. She is a smaller woman with a calm demeanor, but within minutes of speaking to her, her matriarchal strength is obvious. Equally apparent is her deep love and respect for the art of dance, particularly folklorico (a collective term for traditional Latin American dances that emphasize local folk culture).

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Cambodian Music Festival premieres Aug. 3! Interview with Founder Seak Smith


by Tom Nguyen

This Sunday, August 3, is a historic first Cambodian Music Festival at Ford Theatres that is signalling a great blossoming and coming-of-age for the Cambodian community not only here in Los Angeles but across the nation and the world. What started out as one woman on a mission of self-discovery has turned into a first of its kind music festival that is resonating with the Cambodian global diaspora. Seak Smith, founder of the festival, talked to us about the inspiration and significance of this festival and the amazing eclectic lineup of artists. Read our interview below and don’t miss out on this spectacular festival this Sunday because the next one won’t be in LA!

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