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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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!

 

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Weekly Highlights: Daymé Arocena, Quantic and Songhoy Blues

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by Tom Nguyen

TOO MANY superlatives to describe Daymé Arocena, the talented Cuban singer and composer who graced us with her presence last Monday, March 28 at CFAER: Incredible, charismatic, glowing, powerful, humorous, magnetic. I had chills during so much of her set and I definitely wasn’t alone…everyone in the room was enthralled by her.

Daymé let us know she was playing a different set than her usual…much more rumba faithful to the documentary Havana Cultura Rumba Sessions: La Clave, the very thorough documentary on the history and current state of rumba music and dance in Havana, that was screened before the show. With clave in hand and an excellent band backing her, including LA’s beloved Lazaro Galarraga on congas, she took us on a soaring journey of Afro Cuban rumba and jazz with her powerful voice.

Daymé Arocena is not just a traditional Afro-Cuban singer. She does so much experimentation…her rendition of Ella Fitzgerald’s Cry Me A River with just clave and congas accenting her voice was such an eccentric and unique Afro-Cuban take on a soulful classic. In fact, she told us she was trying new compositions that very night. So bold, so confident! She always humored us between songs and got playful towards the end of her set with a very funky Don’t Unplug My Body. Thanks to Docta Sez for capturing some of her greatness!

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Weekly Highlights: Denim Day Launch, StartupDTLA + Street Vendors, REDCAT, Cuicani, La Santa Cecilia and Buika!

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Courtesy of Peace Over Violence

by Tom Nguyen

Last Monday March 22, Peace Over Violence had their official launch for Denim Day, an annual campaign to raise awareness on rape and sexual violence. Patricia Giggans, executive director of Peace Over Violence, founded Denim Day in 1999 in response to a rape conviction that was overturned by the Italian Supreme Court because the justices did not believe the rapist could remove the victim’s tight jeans without her assistance and consent.

Following that verdict, women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim and to protest the ruling. Giggans was inspired by their actions to create Denim Day as a yearly day on a Wednesday in April to wear jeans and highlight the prevalence of rape and sexual assault and the rape culture that further punishes survivors with victim-blaming and shaming. The slogan and message is There is No Excuse and Never An Invitation to Rape and this year’s Denim Day is Wednesday, April 27.

The festivities took place at MOCA in downtown and began with a powerful rendition of Til It Happens To You by Acasola, a co-ed acapella group from California State University, Northridge. The song was Lady Gaga’s tribute to rape survivors at Oscars 2016.

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Center for the Arts Eagle Rock: A Hidden Gem among LA’s Vast Landscape of World Music Venues

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Story by Tom Nguyen

Covering the eclectic world music scene here in LA can be a daunting task because there are so many venues, of all sizes, spread across this sprawling region. First, there are the many summer series like Grand Performances in downtown, the Levitt Pavilions at MacArthur Park and Pasadena, and Skirball Cultural Center and Santa Monica Pier on the West side, to bring world acts here for free. Then, if the artists can fill larger venues, there are many campus/cultural venues like UCLA’s Royce Hall, CSULA’s The Luckman, SMC’s The Broad Stage, CSUN’s VPAC, JACCC’s Aratani Theater, Theatre Raymond Kabbaz, CSULB’s Carpenter…that’s a lot of driving I’ve done crisscrossing LA county to see shows! Not to mention all the venues where well established acts play (El Rey, Troubadour, Hollywood Forever’s Masonic Lodge, The RegentHollywood Bowl, Walt Disney Concert Hall, etc.)

But what about emerging and lesser known acts who come to LA for the first time? This is where things drive me crazy! Artists (and their managers/bookers, if they have one) often don’t know the lay of the land here in LA, underestimate how big LA is, and often have few connections here to know the friendliest places to play. Because many bands don’t have a huge fan base in LA yet, hearing about talented visiting new bands is really difficult unless you’re subscribed to every possible newsletter and checking every venue’s calendar every week (which is what I try to do and one of the reasons why I started EnClave.LA to track as many world music shows as I can).

Here’s a short list of notable shows I’ve seen just to give an idea how scattered across the LA map and under the radar these shows can be: Ibeyi at Hotel Cafe, Hollywood. Oumar Konate at Witzend, Venice (now closed). Vieux Farka Touré at Los Globos. Fatoumata Diawara at Pomona College (Pomona???) Alsarah & the Nubatones at The Virgil. Benyoro at The Mint. Laura Mvula at The Bootleg. Systema Solar and The Very Best at The Roxy. Bunji Garlin at Sonos Studio (now closed). Krar Collective at Rosalind’s in Little Ethiopia. Lira at Downstairs at Fifty Seven (which was an amazing venue expertly curated by Jonathan Rudnick before it suddenly closed). Omar Souleyman at Jewel’s Catch One (closed and recently opened as Union), Baladino at Pico Union Project (btw they return there this Thursday). Just following where ATASH will play next in LA is a guessing game: The Mint → Ebanos CrossingJTMFSilverlake Lounge → ???

cfaerAlmost half of those small venues I mentioned aren’t around any longer which testifies to LA’s competitive and changing landscape of music venues. So let me add another venue to the mix that quickly won me over last week: Center for the Arts Eagle Rock (CFAER). If you’re a fan of the community-driven Eagle Rock Music Festival, you have them to thank for it. They produce the yearly event and have a sparse calendar of events that I’ve checked off and on the past few years. I hadn’t been there since a Dorian Wood show years back but last week, I returned there to see one of my favorite artists SK Kakraba and opening band Dhara World Music. 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 →

Top Picks for NYE 2016 in Los Angeles!

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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 →

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 →

Here’s our Guide to Dia de los Muertos 2015 in LA and a word about Cultural Appropriation

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by Tom Nguyen

Dia de los Muertos is upon us as the weather in LA finally starts to feel a little bit like Fall! As I repeat from last year’s post, as the holiday gains mainstream popularity, cultural appropriation seems inevitable as more and more people “discover” the holiday. I consider myself part of that problem since I myself was discovering Dia de los Muertos as a more culturally deep alternative to commercialized Halloween. As a person of Asian descent who’s called out racist stereotyping in other costumes and cultural events around LA, I am trying to educate myself where the line is between cultural appreciation vs. cultural appropriation when it comes to this tradition as well.

So please know that I publish this list of Dia de los Muertos events in support and respect of the communities, the artists, the musicians, the cultural organizations and the small businesses, who work so hard to preserve and celebrate the roots and traditions of this important time of year. For people new to this holiday, please ask this question yourself and don’t be afraid to ask people in the community: how do I participate in this holiday in a respectful manner?

The first step to genuine cultural appreciation is to educate yourself on the tradition’s history and significance to the communities where it originates. Get to know the community and issues that affect people in it, beyond just donning face paint for your entertainment one day a year. If I can extrapolate further, don’t just enjoy black traditions of music and dance and not care about #BlackLivesMatter. Don’t just enjoy the great LA street food and not care about poverty, lack of opportunity and criminalization of undocumented immigrants. Don’t just wear a coolie hat in Chinatown and not care about why there’s a Chinatown in the first place. So please keep this in mind and I hope to see you at one of these great Dia de los Muertos events!

By no means is this list complete — there are so many great Dia de los Muertos events all over Southern California, I couldn’t possibly list them all. For a more complete list, check out this one. Events below are all ages and free, unless otherwise noted. (Click on each event to jump to more information and scroll down for a list you can print):

Sat, October 17

Fri, October 23

Sat, October 24

Sun, October 25

Mon, October 26 – Fri, October 30

Thu, October 29

Fri, October 30

Sat, October 31

Sun, November 1

Mon, November 2

Wed, November 4

Fri, November 6

Sat, November 7

Sun, November 8

EnClave LA guide to Dia de los Muertos 2015

2nd Annual Supersonico Fest brings Latin Alternative Legends to the Hollywood Palladium

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Andrea Echeverri, lead singer of Aterciopelados

Story and Photos by Oscar Bautista

Last week the Hollywood Palladium hosted the second annual Supersonico music festival. This event held together one of the best collections of Latin Alternative and Chicano artists to grace the ears of LA audiophiles.

The day long show was a beautiful mix of indie, rock, hip-hop and electronica all courtesy of some of the best Latin acts of today. Taking up two floors of the Palladium, artists would switch back and forth from the main stage, which housed the larger bands, to the second floor balcony where the DJs performed.

What was exciting to see was how quickly the crowd of close to 4,000 would embrace this transition of music. The bopping and crowd-pleasing energy from artists like Mariachi El Bronx and Chicano Batman quickly turned into a bumping nightclub, once the bass of DJs like Mr. Pauer, Chancha Via Circuito and Dengue Dengue Dengue! began to fill the Palladium’s walls. Continue Reading →