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 →

Chicano Batman: Pizza Party for Fans & New Single to celebrate their Aug. 28 Homecoming show!

Don’t worry if you missed out–I asked about their new single for you.

Chicano Batman. From right to left: Gabriel Villa, Eduardo Arenas, Carlos Arevalo, and Bardo Martínez.

Chicano Batman. From right to left: Gabriel Villa, Eduardo Arenas, Carlos Arevalo, and Bardo Martínez.

by Amanda Wang

(LOS ANGELES) — It’s August 18th, a bright Tuesday on the Westside. For SoCal band Chicano Batman, the year has had in store for them the spoils of Coachella and opening for Jack White. Next up is a grand homecoming on August 28th as headliners at the El Rey. Though they’ve just wrapped up their tour with Alabama Shakes, Chicano Batman celebrates by throwing a humble kickback with pizza for their loyal Angeleno fans.

Pictured with Jack White.

Pictured with Jack White. Photo: David James Swanson.

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Mario Garcia’s new book preserves Chicano Movement history with powerful testimonials by activist leaders

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Photo by Sonia Fernandez

(PASADENA) — It’s a little after 7PM on August 4th, a Tuesday. In the second story of the Vroman’s Bookstore, overlooking Colorado Boulevard, the murmur of a crowd would distract from the selection of gifts and stationary, and the children’s classics and colorful toys.

Before a curtain in Vroman’s signature green is Professor Mario T. Garcia, praised as the “premier historian of the Chicano movement,” here to sign his latest book, and the turn-out is such that more chairs would be a legal fire hazard. Amongst the community are elders with heads of hair long turned white, and spirited little ones, giddy and restless throughout the proceedings. Latecomers lean against the shelves and the stairwell. A member of the crowd cries, “Viva Pachuco!”

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Film crew tweet slanders East LA community center upset about Eva Longoria’s Low Rider film

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by Tom Nguyen

What is it with film crews working in our downtown and East LA communities lately? I live in Boyle Heights where there have been film notices taped outside my building and late night filming multiple times this past month. On Thursday night, while I was helping a woman spread the word on Twitter regarding a security guard who harassed her on a downtown location for Hand of God, I came across this tweet from Film Crew L.A., a film crew union:

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Now, full disclosure, I know many people at Eastside Café, an autonomous, progressive community space in El Sereno, which is very committed and invested in the community, offering classes, workshops and socially conscious events. It’s where one of my favorite East LA bands, Las Cafeteras, got their start (and so named after the center) and I was last there on May 14th for a Free West Papua event. Since that time, I hadn’t known about this sign nor the movie, Low Rider, being filmed in the area. I forwarded the tweet to Eastside Café’s Facebook page, which quickly replied that they would write a response to this. I then tweeted some East LA media and community members for their thoughts: Continue Reading →

Floricanto Center and Danza Floricanto/USA: Bringing Together East Los Angeles’ Artistic Communities

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by Katie J

Under bright strings of papel picado and colorful twinkling lights, an eager crowd mills about in the lobby of The Floricanto Center for the Performing Arts. The Center’s director, Gema Sandoval, softly glides through the crowd, smiling and welcoming the chipper guests. A warm and motherly soul, Gema has a history of bringing together families, artists, and diverse communities in the Los Angeles area. Tonight she has invited everyone for the 13th annual Fiesta del Dia de los Muertos performance, put on by her floricanto company. While the dancers prepare themselves in the dressing room, Mr. Sandoval ushers guests to their seats in the Center’s intimate theater space. The audience settles in, their excited chatter dimming with the lights, as Gema takes the stage to introduce the dancers and the company’s history.

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Gema and her husband, Frank Sandoval, are founding members of Danza Floricanto/USA, the oldest existing professional Mexican folk dance troupe in Southern California. “We started as an affirmation group,” Gema fondly recalls, “until we realized we were artists!” She chuckles to herself as she says this, and one can’t help but break into a smile with her. A lifelong educator, Gema has a gentle guiding spirit. She is a smaller woman with a calm demeanor, but within minutes of speaking to her, her matriarchal strength is obvious. Equally apparent is her deep love and respect for the art of dance, particularly folklorico (a collective term for traditional Latin American dances that emphasize local folk culture).

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Cry Now: Film set in Boyle Heights Premieres July 26!

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by Tom Nguyen

Cry Now, a new film directed by Alberto Barboza and produced by Cinético Productions, is premiering Saturday, July 26, 9:00pm, at the New Filmmakers LA Film Festival. The romantic feature film follows Vincent, an LA street artist, who falls in love with Luzy, a tattoo artist. Set in the culturally rich neighborhood of Boyle Heights, it’s great to see the eclectic Chicano music and arts community we love so much featured on the big screen for wider audiences!

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John Carlos De Luna: Life Lessons of Boyle Heights Artist on Dressing Well and Staying True to Yourself

© Ricky Briseno

© Ricky Briseno

If you’ve been to Eastside Luv Bar in Boyle Heights for Subsuelo, Ecléctica, or any of the nightly libations there, you will no doubt have been greeted by a dapper, finely dressed gentleman by the name of John Carlos de Luna. It wasn’t until I’d been coming to ESL for a while that I started to strike up conversations with John and realized there was a lot more to John than just being the door guy at one of my favorite joints.

Besides our mutual experiences of escaping the corporate rat race and our dislike for pretentious hipsters who find their way to East LA, there are many reasons why John thinks you should always look your best and other inspirational thoughts about his upbringing and pursuing his artistic endeavors to both sustain himself and his community in Boyle Heights. Watch the photo essay on him by Rafael Cardenas, another talented Eastside denizen you probably have seen at ESL, and enjoy my interview with John.

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