Interview: Brazilian Carnaval’s 17 Year History and Celebrating 100 Years of Samba this Friday!


by Tom Nguyen

When I got a second chance to go back to college in OC at age 32, I joined the Pan American Latino Society, and some members took me to my first Brazilian Carnaval in 2007. Never had I experienced such an exuberant cultural affair. I was totally immersed and swept away by the sights, sounds and open hearts of the Brazilian community, and I’ve been trying to document cultural events throughout Los Angeles ever since.

I got a chance to interview Patricia Leao, founder of Brazilian Nites Productions, which has faithfully put on an authentic Brazilian Carnaval in Los Angeles the past 17 years and reminisce some more on its history, leading up to the latest edition this Friday, Feb. 24, at Teragram Ballroom, celebrating another milestone: 100 years of Samba!

EnClave.LA: Congratulations on 17 years! I’ve been going to your Carnaval for a decade now! My college friends in OC took me to my first Carnaval in 2007 when you had it on the Queen Mary. It was really my first introduction to not only the Brazilian community but ultimately to sparking my passion for covering LA’s diverse and rich cultural scene.

Brazilian Nites: Wow! This is nice to know Tom! A lot of times (most of them), the reward is exactly this…people like you becoming a follower of the culture of Brazil, as part of what we planted. And I agree, LA has an amazing diverse and rich cultural scene that is very authentic.

EnClave.LA: I know it’s a big labor of love each year for you and your team.

Brazilian Nites: Yes, it is! I take great pride in making it as authentic as possible.

EnClave.LA: What have been the highlights for you these past 17 years and why is it important to you to keep this tradition going in LA? Continue Reading →

Interview: Low Leaf, spreading her artistic wings with her biggest show yet with 13 piece ensemble


by Tom Nguyen

[UPDATE: Low Leaf’s release party has been rescheduled to Friday, February 10. Go here for the latest show info.]

Low Leaf is having her album release show, her most ambitious show yet, this Friday, December 16, at Center for the Arts Eagle Rock and amid rehearsals with a 13 piece ensemble, was gracious enough to speak with us [Interview has been edited and condensed for brevity and clarity].

EnClave LA: I first saw you play solo at The Mayan in 2014 and this year, I saw you play an amazing set with a band at Eagle Rock Music Festival (ERMF). From starting solo to now playing with 13 people, how did this all come about?

Low Leaf: I’ve always wanted to play with a band. It was just always hard for me to find the right musicians so I figured I would just continue to grow as an individual artist and that eventually I would find the right people to play with. This year, I started playing with the people I’m playing with now and I can’t believe it’s December already, because we started playing together in January and we’ve grown together a whole lot.

The drummer [Tom Kendall] came to my first sound bath in 2015…he kept coming to the sound baths…we became friends because he jammed with my boyfriend [Zeroh] and he mentioned that I was looking to start a band. He was super excited at the idea and actually is the person who found all the musicians for me because he really understood my music so he’s a big part of why I have the band.

EnClave LA: Your set at ERMF was amazing! I think even for someone their first time listening to your music, there’s such a spiritual, healing dimension to it. And especially this latest album, Palm Psalms…what is the journey and story of this album?

Low Leaf: I feel like these songs started to be written in late 2014. I did quite a bit of touring so whenever I was home, I would record these sketches. The raw idea at the time was to make some songs that were in the singer/songwriter format that all had the same unifying thread about love within and seeking truths with divine guidance and just songs I felt could be a seed of light for people that were searching for answers.


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Interview: Sin Color’s next show Sin ColOrquestra breaks musical boundaries with DIY Ethic and Orchestral Collaboration

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Photo by SandraFlores.net

by Tom Nguyen

If you haven’t seen Sin Color yet, you’re missing out on the prodigious talents of two teens, Crisia Regalado and David Aquino, from South LA, who are creating pop music defying labels and impressing new audiences with their constantly new collaborations and experimentation. I caught up with them recently for an interview about their latest all-ages show this upcoming Friday, May 27, at Tropico De Nopal, called Sin ColOrquestra.

EnClave.LA: What’s the idea behind this show?

Crisia: The idea is to bring together different disciplines and to collaborate and to bring a different touch to all of our compositions and our songs. And to add dancers to help us paint the story which we’re trying to convey.

EnClave.LA: What’s the story and the message you’re trying to tell?

David: Sin Color is all about just being open and constantly changing everything. Whether it’s people or sounds or ways of writing or anything, we always want fresh things. We get bored easily.

Crisia: We’re all about risking everything.

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Interview with Sandra Lilia Velasquez: From Pistolera to her new genre-defying project SLV

SLV Press Photo Duo Floor_photo credit Shirley Rodriguez

photo credit Shirley Rodriguez

by LillyFlor del Valle

(BOYLE HEIGHTS) — If listening to great music is your thing, Eastside Luv is definitely the place to visit. You can always count on top of the line musicians and this time Nancy Sanchez and SLV rocked the stage. The lineup for July 9, 2015 featured Sandra Lilia Velasquez and Sean Dixon‘s musical project SLV. Their debut EP, Dig Deeper, was produced by legendary bassist Meshell Ndegeocello. Velasquez is also the founder of the band Pistolera and Dixon is the drummer for the experimental electronic band Zammuto. Their debut album This Kind was released this past May. I had a few moments to speak with Velasquez about the project and even found out that we’re both from San Diego.

Lilly: What does SLV mean?

Velasquez:  They’re just my initials. I thought Sandra Lilia Velasquez was too long.

Lilly: How did you and Sean Dixon meet?

Velasquez: He has a rehearsal studio in Manhattan, I started renting out his studio space for my other band Pistolera and over time I shared with him music that didn’t in fit with Pistolera. I knew he was also a composer so I invited him to add to the songs, which he did. It wasn’t planned and I’ve always wanted a song writing partner.

Lilly: How does that dynamic work? Continue Reading →

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 →

Vusi Mahlasela Interview: On Tour with Hugh Masekela to Celebrate 20 Years of Freedom

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by Tom Nguyen

Two of South Africa’s musical icons and freedom fighters, trumpeter Hugh Masekela and singer/guitarist Vusi Mahlasela, will take to the stage together Saturday, March 14, 2015, at Walt Disney Concert Hall.* Their 20 Years of Freedom tour marks the first time the two legends will be collaborating and playing together on one stage and is a special celebration of 20 years of democracy after the end of Apartheid. Vusi, known as “The Voice” back home, gave us a candid interview why remembering this history is as important and relevant as ever to generations in both of our countries.

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Vusi Mahlasela and Hugh Masekela (Photo Credit: Dana Yavin)

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Vanessa Zamora and the Search for Happiness in Hasta La Fantasia

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Vanessa Zamora at Gypset Magazine and Cosmica Artists showcase at 333 Live

by Cindy Ly

Vanessa Zamora says she has never considered herself a shy person, yet her beginnings as a performer were clouded with a lot of self-doubt and fear. Singing in front of mirrors and behind closed doors, nobody in Vanessa’s family knew she sang, and she kept her talent a secret until she posted her first YouTube video; a cover of Bill Wither’s “Ain’t no Sunshine.” Encouraged by positive feedback from her family and friends and a nudge from Carla Morrison, a musical madrina of sorts, Zamora started posting her own original songs; a mix of confessional nostalgia with quirky plucky acoustic guitar.

The foundation for Vanessa’s musical talent was laid during her childhood, taking piano and guitar lessons as an 8 year old in Tijuana. As she grew older, she distanced herself from music but never completely; while at school in Guadalajara, she kept herself involved in performance-like activities, taking lessons in acting and musical theater. “I did everything but music,” she says, laughing, until one day she told herself, “‘Ya no te hagas pendeja!’” [“Stop playing stupid!”]

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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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Soca Star Bunji Garlin Heats up a Cold LA Night at Sonos Studio

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Story by Tom Nguyen
Photos by Kevin Rhone

16048791865_9e0eb045bc_zIt was a cold night in LA last Tuesday at Sonos Studio, but that didn’t matter to Bunji Garlin, the Soca star from Trinidad, who stopped in the middle of his first song, to command the crowd to come right up to the stage. “This is the official way to do it…now we’re gonna do it like we’re back home in Trinidad!” That was all it took for the crowd to get fired up the rest of the evening and it got hot and sweaty real quick in the small, intimate studio! Many who came bundled up, quickly threw off their layers, as they danced nonstop to his infectious tropical songs, bouncing and swaying to every verse and beat. Fans already familiar with his music sang along to his popular dance anthems like Carnival Tabanca and Differentology (the hit song from the album of the same name), with many dressed in beautiful Carnival costumes and waving Trinidadian flags.

Garlin, with his confidence and charisma, and the infectiousness of his music, has elevated the Caribbean island’s feel-good Soca music to new global popularity as one of the freshest sounds in dance music the past couple of years. On the day of his show, Rolling Stone, which has hailed him as  “America’s first Soca pop star”, announced his album #6 of the 20 Best EDM, Electronic and Dance Albums of 2014. Making waves globally and already well-known in Miami and NYC, Garlin came to showcase his take on Soca music to the LA crowd and he was kind enough to let us ask him a few questions.

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Interview with Atash: Mesmerizing, Rebellious World Music…From Texas! Playing LA Sep. 28!

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by Tom Nguyen

Atash, an amazing band from Austin, comes to play Los Angeles on Sunday, September 28, at The Mint, and I’ve been addicted to the music on their new album Everything is Music from first listen. They play an original blend of Persian, Middle Eastern, Indian and African rhythms that truly transcends boundaries and I was astounded such a rich, exotically vibrant sound was coming out of Texas of all places!

Well, I had a chance to talk to Roberto Paulo Riggio, the musical director of the 9 member collective and he gave me a fascinating education! Read on about how rich a musical tradition and epicenter Austin, Texas is, for attracting musicians from around the world, their long journey to forming Atash around the pivotal moment of 9/11, and how their music is anything but traditional!

Inspired by mystical Sufism, their music is uninhibited and unafraid to blend and arrange traditional music in new richly layered textures and sounds. Most of all, their mesmerizing music and rebellious lyrics are about bringing people together in the spirit of peace, love, and celebration!

Listen to the song Talangor (Flick!) as singer Mohammad Firoozi recites a poem by Sufi mystic Rumi and read our interview with Atash!

I am not white, I am not black
I am not a follower, I am not a leader
I am not a slave to religion
      I am not as they have said I am
      I am not as you have heard I am
You are the one
You have been seeking your whole life
You are the world itself
You are the moment of love itself

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