Guide to Dia de los Muertos 2018 in Los Angeles & Surrounding Areas

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by Tom Nguyen

Here’s my roundup of Dia de los Muertos in and around Los Angeles. As I repeat every year like my first guide, please learn about and honor this respectful celebration of departed loved ones, an important tradition that goes back to indigenous roots, and not turn it into another culturally appropriated Cinco de Mayo.

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. Events below are ALL AGES and FREE, unless otherwise noted. Continue Reading →

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 →

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 →

Guide to Dia de los Muertos 2016 in Los Angeles

roflbot(1)
by Tom Nguyen

Here’s our roundup of Dia de los Muertos in and around Los Angeles. As I repeat every year like last year, please learn about and honor this respectful celebration of departed loved ones, an important tradition that goes back to indigenous roots, and not turn it into another culturally appropriated Cinco de Mayo.

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. Continue Reading →

East LA Interchange: Diversity of Boyle Heights is a History Lesson for the Nation

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Xavi Moreno in East LA Interchange. © 2015 Photo by Chris Chew/Bluewater Media.

by Tom Nguyen

Boyle Heights, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, is so much deeper than how the community has often been portrayed. In Hollywood films, it’s the Latino community with intractable gangs glorified by graffiti along the concrete of the Los Angeles river, massive freeway interchange and bridges connecting it to downtown. When Boyle Heights makes mainstream news nowadays, it’s either in reference to a gang shooting or impending gentrification. What has been largely forgotten and what the documentary “East LA Interchange” seeks to restore and rightly celebrate, is its rich history of being LA’s most racially integrated and welcoming of communities. The history is one of a poor community of color that has historically been ignored or pushed aside according to the whims of those in power but it has always fought back. From coalition building by its different minority residents to elect the first Latino to LA City Council to the student walkouts against unequal education, the community has a long history and pride in resistance and empowerment.

Narrated by Danny Trejo, the film is the 9 year culmination of extensive research by filmmaker Betsy Kalin, with archival footage and interviews with historians and current and former residents, including notable people like will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas, LA Councilmember Jose Huizar and playwright Josefina López of CASA 0101 Theater. The film starts with the unprecedented global migration occurring in the early 20th century from upheaval and war, that resulted in immigrants from all over the globe finding their way to Los Angeles. Continue Reading →

‘Bad for the Community’ explores Gentrification in Boyle Heights Now and In The Future

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by Tom Nguyen

Friday, April 15 was the opening night of “Bad for the Community”, a new play at CASA 0101 Theater in Boyle Heights, written by Josefina Lopez and Oscar Arguello and includes “the voices for and against gentrification.” Many in this community, where I live, are in a state of active vigilance against anything resembling gentrification and the topic has even made the international news like The Guardian‘s recent coverage on the activist groups confronting outsiders.

The first act moves us through many familiar settings here in Boyle Heights: from 2 women (Rachel Gonzalez and Ronni Valentine) on the Gold Line discussing how they unintentionally contributed to gentrification as artists wanting to liven up the neighborhood, to a mariachi player (Ray Rios) lamenting that no one pays for songs anymore in Mariachi Plaza. We then meet a couple, Esteban (Gabriel Guillen) and Sol (Rachel Gonzalez), just trying to survive on their meager pay, long hours and sharing one car, in a neighborhood clearly changing faster than they can cope. Continue Reading →

Week’s Highlights: March 16-20

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by Tom Nguyen

IMG_5626Wednesday, March 16, sister trio A-WA from Israel enthralled the packed crowd at The Echo with their Yemeni folk music. Tair, Liron & Tagel Haim (originally known as The Haim Sisters and not to be confused with another sister trio Haim) grew up in a small village Shaharut in the southern Israeli Arava Valley. Since childhood, the girls have been singing traditional songs passed down from their Yemeni grandmother. The love and protest songs of women in the Yemeni-Arabic dialect have been passed on as an oral tradition. Continue Reading →

Boyle Heights Urban Garden seeks Community Support in Dispute with Landowning Hospital

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Story by Oscar Bautista and Tom Nguyen
Photos by Oscar Bautista

IMG_0061For the past 15 years the non-profit Proyecto Jardin has been serving the community by creating an urban oasis in what was an empty lot on Bridge St. in Boyle Heights. Over the years, Proyecto Jardin has transformed this plot of land into a community garden blossoming with fruit, herbs, and vegetables, all grown by volunteer community members. After this long stewardship, Proyecto Jardin is being removed from overseeing the garden after the landowner, neighboring White Memorial Medical Center (WMMC), has denied them the option to renew their lease and has ordered them to vacate the garden by January 31.

WMMC had initially offered Proyecto Jardin the option to stay for a final 6 months in 1/3rd of the lot (the other 1/3rd to be used by WMMC’s advertising and marketing department to re-brand the garden, and 1/3rd to be used by 2 unnamed non-profits) as well as instruction how to observe its Sabbath Policy in the garden (WMMC is a Seventh-day Adventist organization). 

Proyecto Jardin replied with a counter-offer of sole use for another 5 years without religious restrictions that it believed better served its diverse community of various faiths. Expecting further negotiation from that point, Irene Peña, Proyecto Hardin’s Executive Director, was surprised that the counter-offer was flatly rejected and WMMC gave Proyecto Jardin a 30 day notice to vacate the community garden it has built and called home for the past 15 years.

According to Peña, WMMC will allow the garden to remain, but will take away the community leadership which has been vital to making the community garden what it is today. She is now asking the community’s support and help in getting the word out and mount public pressure on WMMC to change their stance and come to a win-win solution for all parties. On Saturday, January 30, Proyecto Jardin will hold a community gathering from 9am to 3pm.
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 →

The Arcs, new project by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, plays first live show at Espacio 1839 in Boyle Heights (Full video)

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by Tom Nguyen

I found out yesterday afternoon a new band The Arcs was going to have their first live performance at Espacio 1839 in Boyle Heights that very evening…and not just any new band…one formed by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Now disclaimer: I haven’t listened to The Black Keys since ohhh 2010 but hey I live a few blocks away from Espacio 1839, and I’m not above being a curiosity seeker, especially when a new hipster band decides to premiere at one of Boyle Heights’ bastions of anti-gentrification. How does that even happen? Well apparently El Oms, an artist and good friends with Espacio 1839, did the artwork for The Arcs’ upcoming music video for the song Put a Flower in Your Pocket. The night was a celebration of the completion of the video, which will be released next Friday August 14.

IMG_7642 Continue Reading →