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 →

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.

Weekly Highlights: Mbongwana Star, Ibeyi, Bombino, Imarhan

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by Tom Nguyen

It has been an incredible April month for LA fans of music from Africa and its diaspora, as many new bands performed for the first time here, as well as returning favorites. After I saw Songhoy Blues (read my previous review), I was looking forward to seeing Mbongwana Star from the DRC, a new band with former members of Staff Benda Bilili.

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A lot of Staff Benda Bilili fans like myself were saddened to hear of the band’s acrimonious breakup but according to a Guardian interview, Yakala “Coco” Ngambali and Nsituvuidi “Theo” Nzonza have not wasted any time dwelling on it, as they take their music to a whole other level with Mbongwana Star. The music is raucous, energetic and full of the infectious soukous dance rhythms Congolese music is known for. Add to that the hard-charging electric guitar riffs and drums, and you have a combustible, unstoppable dance party! Here’s a taste of what went down at The Roxy:

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Continue Reading →

Top Picks for NYE 2016 in Los Angeles!

15 Film Picks (5)
by Tom Nguyen

When I’m considering where to spend New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles, I look for 3 things:

  • Great live bands or dance music we typically cover on this site.
  • It won’t break the bank (Some free, most under $40).
  • Whether big or small events, I’m looking for good vibes, not pretentiousness.

If you’re looking for the same, here are my recommendations (in order of cost) all across LA: Downtown, Silver Lake, Hollywood, Mid City, Santa Monica and Long Beach: Continue Reading →

IT’S CARNIVALLLLLL! Caribbean Carnival heats up LA with J’ouvert, Soca and Hollywood Parade!

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by Ruth Tesfai

In college, a dear friend turned me on to Reggae and Dancehall and I fell in love. Two years later, the Caribbean nightlife in London turned me on to Soca and it was a wrap. Coming from Los Angeles, I had little exposure to these styles of music and upon my return, I was very disappointed to find barely anything here! Depressed more like! Fast forward to a couple years and seemingly out of nowhere, LA has become a major carnival player! On June 27th, Los Angeles will be celebrating its 4th Annual Hollywood Carnival and it looks to be bigger and better than ever!

Continue Reading →

Hollywood Bowl Summer Season Picks!

JanelleMonae Who doesn’t love the iconic Hollywood Bowl, the premiere outdoor summer venue in LA? There’s something for everyone from an eclectic lineup of global talent from different genres, to great jazz and classical music. On top of that, it sits up near the picturesque Hollywood Hills and is one of the only venues where you bring your own food and wine and enjoy a picnic with your favorite music under the stars! I’m especially a big fan of the KCRW-sponsored World Festival concert series there each season! The Hollywood Bowl Summer season starts Sat., June 14 and runs through Sun., Sep. 28 and here are my picks: Continue Reading →

Selah Sue and Bushwalla at El Rey Mon Aug. 26!


Here’s a tip for discovering new music from abroad before it hits US shores — get to know travelers or even host one in your home! It was 2 years ago, I was taking a Belgian CouchSurfer named Julie on a surf trip during her summer internship in LA. While listening to music during the car ride, I joked that I never heard of any good music coming from Belgium. Being a musician herself, she personally took offense, plugged her iPod into my car radio, and proceeded to school me…in the ways of Selah Sue

Wow I was immediately hooked from the opening guitar riff and her distinctive voice and cadence as she sings and raps in a blend of soul and reggae. I immediately drove home and youtubed her, finding this live performance very early in her musical career:

How does such a young girl with piercing blue eyes from a small Belgium town channel such ragga soul and command such emotional depth? Coming from a non-musical family, a music career was far from any of her thoughts as a teen. Learning to play acoustic guitar at 15, Selah Sue simply wanted to write songs as a way to deal with her teenage anxieties. “I had all these worries and depressions that I wrote down, it was a way of structuring my thoughts,” she writes on her bio. Many of her songs touch on her insecurities and coming out of her shell through her music.

And the rest is destiny: playing open mics in high school and posting her music on Myspace garnered her an instant growing fan base and offers from music producers, which she rejected early on because she wanted to write and sing her own songs. Selah Sue saved the songs she wrote as a teen, like Raggamuffin, for her self-titled debut album released in 2011. Julie left me a copy before she returned to Belgium and I’ve had it on repeat ever since.

Selah Sue writes songs like an old soul, influenced by the funk, soul and reggae rawness of her idols Lauren Hill, Erykah Badu and Bob Marley. Her stage name is in homage to Lauren Hill, whose daughter is named Selah.

I’ve also read she’s a very private person. I finally got to see her live at last year’s UCLA Jazz and Reggae Fest which I believe was one of her first performances in the US. After her set, as she walked offstage to the artist area, I and another “early adopter” who knew her music screamed at the top of our lungs “SELAH SUE” to get her attention and motioning her to come over. I think we were too eager and scared her away, as she shyly retreated away. She played acoustically that day without a backing band and she’s at her most introspective and vulnerable on songs like Mommy, when it’s just her and her guitar.

I’m really looking forward to seeing Selah Sue again and seeing how quickly she’s matured as an artist at just 24 years young on a sky-rocketing trajectory. You may have already heard her voice and not known it.

I know I’ll be ready tomorrow for my spoonful of Selah Sue’s intense soul-baring music tomorrow at the El Rey Theatre., with Bushwalla, the self-proclaimed Original Gangster from Cleveland. It’s an all ages show at 8pm and tickets are just $17.

Reggae Pops 70th Birthday Party March 22!

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Hey cool kids! Everyone’s idol and beloved grandfather figure, Reggae Pops, is celebrating his 70th birthday next Friday, March 22 at Arena! If you’re a creature of LA’s reggae, house and latin music and dance scene, chances are you’ve seen Pops out on the dance floor, giving you no excuse not to be shaking your booty too! To many of us, Pops is the real Most Interesting Man in the World and you know you’re at a cool event when Pops esta en la casa! Thanks to my obsession with filming everywhere I went in LA, I actually have video of when I first met Pops back in 2008. It immediately occurred to me we both had 2 things in common: we both love to dance and we both have eyes for the ladies…HA! The Man is my Inspiration! And I’m not alone! Continue Reading →