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 →

L.A. Womxn Artists of Color reflect on Womxn’s History Month: Part 1

by Tom Nguyen

For Womxn’s History Month, I wanted to check in with womxn artists of color in Los Angeles who are doing important work in our communities of color and immigrant diaspora, advocating for social justice and using their artistry and voices to uplift, educate and empower.

Alice Bag, Dj Sizzle Fantastic, Faith Santilla, Gingee, Klassy, Jumakae, Maya Jupiter, Sri Panchalam of Doctors & Engineers, Xochi Flores of Los Cambalache — These radical womxn of color are outspoken and fearless in their arts & advocacy, and through their artistic expression and activism, have been tireless in their fight to smash systems of oppression and the patriarchy. I asked each of these powerful, radical womxn of color to reflect on these 3 questions:

– As you reflect on Women’s History Month, #MeToo movement and the current political climate, what do you feel are the most important issues facing you, both individually and collectively as a community?

– As a radical womxn of color and artist, how do you express and/or address these issues in your art & activism?

– What advice do you have for young womxn or advice you wish someone had given you?

I am so grateful for their time and willingness to share their insight, their work, and their inspiring advice for young womxn. There are many more amazing artists I hope to hear from too, so this is the 1st of what will be a continuing series.

If you know of an inspiring Los Angeles artist of color, who is speaking truth to power, through their artistry and activism, please send them my way in the comments below.

Alice Bag:

“I feel the need to combat the extreme misogyny and xenophobia coming from the White House. When you have a president that considers talk of grabbing women by the genitals acceptable, he’s setting the tone for the nation. There have also been numerous reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault, against him. I will call these allegations for legal reasons, not because I have any doubt of their veracity, especially since he has at times, boasted publicly of his actions. When you have that flagrant disrespect for women coming from the very top, it’s bound to affect what others, especially those who support Trump, view as acceptable behavior.”

“I think we need to resist, organize and provide a vision for a future where women are seen, heard and respected as equal members of society.”

“Aside from doing all the things that many of us do to push back, in terms of protesting, letter writing, making calls to representatives, etc. I volunteer with Girls Rock Camp. Helping young girls harness their power in their formative years is extremely satisfying. It makes me and everyone involved in these programs very happy. When I feel anger and dissatisfaction, I channel some of it into my music. In the past few months, I’ve released several songs that have helped me express my feelings post-election. The first one was Reign of Fear”, which is a call for resistance in which my band-mates and I get to shout “We reject your reign of fear!”. Midway through Trump’s first year in office, I needed a song that reminded me to take time to focus on the positive things in my life because I was feeling overwhelmed by the daily barrage of negativity coming from Washington. I also wrote a song called “Blueprint” about taking ownership of the structures we create. Whether we’re working on ourselves, our communities or our world, we are architects who have the power to create what we imagine.”

“Love yourself, treat yourself with kindness and compassion, give yourself positive affirmations. Nurture in yourself what you want to be able to share with the world.”

Photo by Greg Velasquez

Alice Bag is a singer/songwriter, musician, author, artist, educator and feminist. Alice was the lead singer and co-founder of the Bags, one of the first bands to form during the initial wave of punk rock in Los Angeles. The Alice Bag Band was featured in the seminal documentary on punk rock, The Decline of Western Civilization. Alice went on to perform in other groundbreaking bands, including Castration Squad, Cholita, and Las Tres. She has published two books, including the critically acclaimed memoir Violence Girl in 2011 (Feral House) and the 2015 self-published Pipe Bomb For the Soul, based on her teaching experiences in post-revolutionary Nicaragua. Alice’s work is included in the Smithsonian exhibition, American Sabor. Alice’s self-titled 2016 debut album received critical acclaim and was named one of the best albums of the year by AllMusic. Her second album, Blueprint, was just released in March 2018 on Don Giovanni Records. Upcoming event: Saturday, April 7, 2018, Alice Bag Record Release Party at The Echo.

Dj Sizzle Fantastic:

“As an undocumented queer womxn, the most pressing issues that continue to affect the lives of my community and by extent, mine, are rooted in xenophobia, racism, misogyny, displacement, borders, and family separation. Sadly, the current administration encompasses and uplifts said issues in its daily operations. Giving that much more power to rogue agencies such as ICE/Border Patrol/Police a.k.a Polimigra, and the government as a whole, the power to continue to further oppress and criminalize the bodies of womxn of color, immigrants, queer folks, and black and brown youth.” 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 →

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 →

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 →

Review: Princess Nokia, Afro-Nuyorican feminist rapper, defiant and proud at sold out LA show


Story and photos by Mayda del Valle

Armed with a microphone and a stick of sage, Princess Nokia cast a spell on everyone at her sold out LA show at The Echo. After baptizing the audience with a bottle of water and jumping off stage to crowd surf during her first song, the anthem Tomboy, she stood poised at the edge of the stage dressed in a white sports bra and baggy pants, proclaiming “These are the rules of the show: ladies to the front, all you ally brothers get to the back. That’s right, this is a brown queer space. We don’t do none of that misogynist shit.” And with that the crowd cheered in response, and the women present claimed the space we usually have to elbow and shove our way past men at concerts to stand in. It might be this unapologetic claiming of space for marginalized identities that has led to Nokia’s growing popularity on the underground scene, and the sold out European tour she just returned from. Continue Reading →

Top 10 Picks: Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival 2016

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by Tom Nguyen

The 32nd annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) opens Thursday, April 21, with the world premiere of “The Tiger Hunter”, at Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo, and screens a diverse array of 140 films (34 features and 106 short films) through Thursday, April 28, when it closes with “Pali Road”, at Directors Guild of America.

Here are the Top 10 films I’m looking forward to seeing (in order of appearance at the festival): Continue Reading →

Weekly Highlights: Irene Diaz, Parched at Indian Film Festival, and Best Thing Since new hip hop night

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by Tom Nguyen

Thanks to Irene Diaz and Carolyn Cardoza, I attended my first Sofar Sounds event to see them perform. Sofar Sounds hosts these intimate mini-concerts featuring independent artists in people’s living rooms throughout the world. The all-volunteer event was really well run and the crowd attentive and respectful, about 40 of us all sitting on the living room. Kudos to the homeowner for letting a group of strangers into his home to enjoy a great lineup of 3 artists, who each played about 3-4 songs. Here’s a taste of Irene’s captivating performance with Carolyn by her side on ukulele:

IMG_7309 (1)This Saturday, April 16, Irene and Carolyn will have a video premiere party for the new song “This Cannot Be” at downtown’s Civic Center Studios. They’re putting on this all-ages show by themselves with the help of Elefante Collective and want to make it more than just an intimate music show. There will be snacks, a bar, photo booth by Las Fotos Project and information table by Latino Equality Alliance (LEA) — they want to create a welcoming space for all to share, hear and discuss stories about life, love and hardships in the LGBTQ community. Please come out and support!

 

Continue Reading →

Buyepongo’s Summer Madness Parties in July ends Thursday July 30 with Hip Hop Showcase!

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by Linda Vanessa “Nuves” Tovar

Every Thursday night of July, La Cita has been set ablaze by the musical stylings of Buyepongo (Buye), new weekly featured guests, and by all the moving bodies on the dance floor. Each show different from the last, Buye has dug deep to provide hot rhythms, and a unique blend of sounds. Hailing from Los Angeles, the Buye Boyz have curated a special live musical experience for everyone to enjoy. The Buye Beat is undeniable. Fusing Afro beats, which include (but are not limited to) merengue, punta, and cumbia together, this band knows how to get a party going! Their charismatic love for music and a good time can be heard and seen at every show. Their last musical installment at La Cita is Thursday, July 30th. So if you like dancing, getting sweaty, and  sharing a smile on the dance floor then do yourself a favor because you don’t want to miss their final showcase featuring hip hop artists Olmeca, SETI X, 2MEX as well as  Artos, Canyon Cody of Subsuelo, Sol Collective and surprise guests!

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Exclusive: La Mala Rodriguez on being True as an Artist, Defying Labels and her Love for FEMEN

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by Tom Nguyen

Iconic Spanish rapper La Mala Rodriguez recently performed in LA at the El Rey Theatre, on the heels of a new song and video Egoista from an as yet untitled upcoming album, and I got the chance to interview her the day before. La Mala’s reputation certainly precedes her, as one of the first Spanish-speaking rappers, emerging in the 90s with her signature defiant hardcore rap and being brutally honest in her lyrics about social issues of her generation. Told I only had 5 minutes talk time and scrambling for a last-minute interpreter, I was both excited and extremely nervous to ask the outspoken rapper her thoughts as an artist and a woman MC in a still very male-dominated industry. What followed was a very honest and candid conversation about what inspires La Mala and her craft. She was extremely down-to-earth and put me immediately at ease, even insisting that she try to answer in English as much as she could, to help me better understand her. Thanks to Kimberly Bautista of Artevista Films for facilitating and translating the conversation and big thanks to La Mala for her time, patience and eagerness to talk about a range of topics, from artists who inspire her to her issues with both women and men in the feminist struggle, and the need to move beyond labels and victimization, a conviction that has inspired her to collaborate soon with feminist group FEMEN.

(Interview has been translated with some Spanish phrases left untranslated because there is no direct translation. The full audio of the interview can be found at the end of this transcript.) Continue Reading →