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 7-13


by Tom Nguyen

With all that’s going on this week, I still consider it a “quiet” week before all the free summer concerts everywhere start to kick into full gear! Support the homies this week: one of my newest favorite bands Earth Arrow, Sister Mantos, Nancy Sanchez CD release party, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Quetzal, Sin Color and La Junta, and the Brazilian music community is joining forces to put on Choro and Afro-Roots and Funk + Forró Dance Party. Another Brazilian band Boogarins are here, plus we’re giving away tickets to Los Cafres and Locos por Juana with Tropico Modular, a Palenke Soultribe side project. Hola Mexico, one of my favorite film festivals, and Mixed Remixed, the largest celebration of interracial, mixed race experience in the nation, are happening in downtown, as well as many more great cultural and outdoor events all over SoCal, like Dia de San Juan Puerto Rican festival in Long Beach, CicLAvia from Glendale to Atwater Village, Playboy Jazz FestivalLA Pride, the many art walks & more!

MUSIC

Earth Arrow, Sister Mantos, Oscura Luna +dj Selvatica
The Offbeat (Highland Park)
Wed. June 7, 9pm, Free, 21+
One of my newest favorite bands, Earth Arrow…socially conscious and defiant, unabashed and fiery, watching them perform is what one friend described as “what it must have felt like being in radical Oakland in the 70s!” They describe themselves as “a Los Angeles Afro-cuban hip hop based band focusing on reviving ancient african and indigenous rhythms and dance .Earth Arrow is a reflection of the fire that burns in the hearts of all who live in colonized lands across the world. A pioneer of indigenous blues sounds, they set out to defy expectations and explore new realms of emotional intensity while incorporating modern hip hop and jazz sabor. Ancient and modern, the guitar licks, piano solos, and percussions hail from the ancestors and channels their visions for the future. Humbly playing to spread truth, justice, and light over the lands. The 6th sun is here.”

Boogarins w/ Jjuujjuu
Bootleg Theater
Thu. June 8, 8pm, $12-$14, 21+
Boogarins’ Fernando “Dino” Almeida and Benke Ferraz began playing music together as teenagers in the central Brazilian city of Goiânia– recording psychedelic pop in their parents’ gardens, filtering their country’s rich musical history through a very modern lens.

Nancy Sanchez: American Novio CD Release
Resident (Downtown)
Fri. June 9, 8pm, Free, 21+
Its finally here! I am so excited for this release of my new album American Novio. I am so grateful to all the musicians, Eugene Toale and Mares Entertainment for making this happen. Come celebrate this release along with our friends El Haru Kuroi and DJ Glenn Red.

Brazilla presents: Choro and Afro-Roots
Zebulon LA (Frogtown)
Fri. June 9, 9pm, $15, 21+
Braziilla is a blessing to protect the musical legacy of the Brazilian diaspora into Los Angeles. Brazilla is a collective of musicians and artists involved with music. Most of us are Brazilian although not all. Our mission is to protect and expand the influential legacy of our mother culture in all its diversity and radically. Continue Reading →

Despite injury, Gabriel Garzón-Montano shines at Troubadour 


Story and photos by Johan Moreno

The day before his sold out show at The Troubadour, Gabriel Garzón-Montano sent this message out on his Twitter account: “I think I fractured my left foot. I was having fun shaking my ass for you guys, but I’ll be on crutches or sitting for these shows. Alas.”

Los Angeles holds a special place for Montano. His latest release, “Jardín,” was imprinted by Highland Park’s Stones Throw Records and has been in heavy rotation on KCRW, which has raised his profile. But besides a set of Stones Throw showcases and an album release show at Amoeba Music, this was his first official headlining show in Los Angeles.

However, Montano’s injury did not stop him from performing an electric set in front of an eager crowd at the intimate West Hollywood venue. And yes, he even found the energy to groove around for a few songs. Continue Reading →

Cambodia meets Mali: Dengue Fever and Tinariwen at the Fonda Theatre

Story and Photos by Ruth Tesfai

I first remember hearing about Tinariwen when I was studying abroad in London. My friend was raving about them and was upset that he couldn’t get tickets to their show. I was curious but didn’t bother checking them out until 3 years later. I remember thinking, “I’ll probably regret this.” And I did. Because they’re good…REALLY GOOD. And so began my love affair with Malian music. It’s similar but different. Foreign but familiar. In what seemed like divine intervention, they performed live in my city a couple months later. It was an incredible night. Their music truly transcends time and space – it’s a spiritual experience. Hassan’s energy on stage is pure joy. Abdullah’s skills on the guitar, fire. And you can’t forget their percussionist, Said. His drumming moved everyone into a trance! Though that night was perfect,  the band was missing their lead and founder, Ibrahim Ag Alhabib. He chose to stay back home for the U.S. tour for undisclosed reasons. I was bummed but wished him well and hoped he would rejoin them for a future tour. Continue Reading →

3 Ecstatic Nights of African Virtuosos: Salif Keita, Noura Mint Seymali, African Guitar Summit


by Tom Nguyen

This past month, we were treated to not one, not two, but THREE nights in a row of world-class musicianship from Africa and her diaspora! In recent years, there have been a lot of international acts cancelled at the last minute due to visa issues, especially from Africa. In this even tougher climate of strict travel bans affecting many musicians, like at the recent SXSW festival, it just seems incredibly fortuitous to have so much great African talent visiting Southern California in one week: Salif Keita at the Belly Up in Solana Beach, Noura Mint Seymali at Caltech‘s Beckman Auditorium in Pasadena, and African Guitar Summit at the Aratani Theatre as part of the annual Aratani World Series in Little Tokyo.

First up was a relaxing road trip south to see legendary Salif Keita. He only had this show and another in San Francisco announced, with a pending Los Angeles date that never materialized. We left Los Angeles in the afternoon to make sure we avoided rush hour traffic for the hour and a half drive down to the Belly Up Tavern and let me tell you, it was well worth it!

It was my first time at the Belly Up, a live music institution in San Diego county since 1974! Unassuming on the outside, and gorgeous the moment you step in, its half moon shaped high ceiling recalls its origins as a US Navy prefabricated building during World War 2. From the friendly staff, to its polished wood bars, floors and stage, to its walls adorned with art work of generations of musicians who’ve played, there is a welcoming and unpretentious vibe here as well as an aura of storied musical history in this intimate venue. DJ Glenn Red, of Afro Funke and La Junta, who I carpooled with, recalled his early formative years in the 90s as a music lover and concert goer, seeing Erykah Badu and many others there, before they became big stars.

The King Salif Keita is here!!! @bellyuptavern ???

A post shared by EnClave.LA (@enclavela) on

Continue Reading →

Top Cultural Events in Los Angeles: March 15-21


by Tom Nguyen

Top shows this week: La Chamba‘s fundraiser show, Chico Mann & Captain Planet album release show, Ethio Cali‘s tribute to musicians who recently passed on: David Axelrod, Leon Ware, Doug Lunn, and hang player Manu Delago. Julieta Venegas, Gaby Moreno and Jungle Fire are playing in OC. Indigenous rapper ALAS & more are performing a benefit for Casa Solidaria del Sur and a very rare opportunity to see Shardé Thomas and the Rising Star Fife & Drum Band, playing fife & drum blues, a vanishing tradition directly descended from African slaves. Get your boogie on with Dinamita, Chulita Vinyl Club, Discostan, Chester Whitmore and The Floor Improv.

Last chance to see Confessions of an Arab Woman, and Chicanas, Cholas y Chisme’s Su Frida Calo at CASA 0101 and The Cruise at LATC open this week. March 16 is the anniversary of the killing of Latasha Harlins, and California African American Museum will have a discussion with Latasha’s aunt and original members of Black Lives Matter. Transgender activist and immigrant Bamby Salcedo will speak at CSULA followed by a screening of Raising Zoey. Mexika New Year at Mariachi Plaza, Native American Festival in Long Beach, A Week of French Language Cinema at Theatre Raymond Kabbaz, Santa Monica Airport and Montebello art walks.

MUSIC

La Chamba Go Fund Me Launch Party
La Cita Bar (Downtown)
Wed. March 15, 9pm, $10, 21+
After all these years, we’re finally dropping our full length album. It has been a struggle and a long road- we are done tracking and mastering 13 songs. We’ve made this far, but need your help to get our album entitled “Ecos De La Selva” finallly replicated and packaged. Please spread the love by helping us raise funds for our first full-length album. La Chamba W/ Zapoteca Roots (Deeply Rooted Sonidero Cumbia) & Dj Fresko
Dj Glenn Red, GetDown Collective DJS
Continue Reading →

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO PREMIERE: ‘New Day’ by Cuicani a much needed message of positivity right now


by Tom Nguyen

We’re in very dark times right now in this country and there are very few Los Angeles bands like Cuicani who are as embedded in our most affected communities and advocating for them on a daily basis. They not only bring light to social justice issues with their music, but all of them are on the front line as music and arts educators working to inspire youth from K through 12th grades.

Along with last year’s release of their debut double album, Now and Then, Cuicani have been releasing music videos that highlight each of their singers, as well as the social issues that each song addresses. “For Them Now” featured Misa Della calling for black and brown unity in response to injustice and police brutality. Marlene Beltran-Cuauh honors our indigenous people and reminds us the importance of protecting our Mother Earth with “Mama”.

“New Day” is the third and final video in this series and shows the lighter side of Cuicani. Tony Sauza is front and center on vocals and guitar and the Northeast Los Angeles native explains, “the song embodies the joy and hope that comes with new beginnings, despite living in difficult and challenging times.”

Rounding out the Cuicani Collective are Caitlin Moss on drums and John Northup on bass and the video follows the band through various parts of LA and the cultural spaces they inhabit. It’s a reminder that it’s okay to take a break from our daily struggles in these uncertain times and remember what’s important. Self-care, friendship, music…our camaraderie with each other will help keep us strong, positive and with the strength to keep fighting for each other.

So enjoy the video, check in with each other, and look for Cuicani’s next performance Wednesday, March 8, at Eastside Luv Bar in Boyle Heights, with The Altons, as well as a new single to be released in late March.