Abstrakto: The New Sound of Los Angeles

IMG_0225by Lilly Flor del Valle

(HOLLYWOOD)– What could be more fun than hanging out at the Blind Dragon listening to the fresh musical stylings of Abstrakto, live? Well, not much. Abstrakto is the new music project from multi-Grammy winning lead singer and trumpeter from Ozomatli, Asdru Sierra, and actor/producer Balthazar Getty. The self-titled debut album, released under Getty’s independent label, Purple Haus, is a musical experience with a heavy noir cinematic feel. One of their songs, “Amar A Todos” will be featured featured in Robert Rodriguez‘s “Matador” TV show on El Rey Network in an upcoming episode.

I had the opportunity to speak with Sierra and Getty to learn about how this duo came to be. You’d think these well-known musicians met at an awards ceremony, recording studio, or maybe through their networks but they met at their kids’ school. Soon after meeting, Sierra was invited to collaborate on the critically acclaimed album “Solardrive” produced by Getty, also released under Purple Haus. Their creative collaboration began a friendship that would lead to the creation of Abstrakto in late 2013.

Sierra’s songwriting and instrumentation along with Getty’s classic “producer/reducer” talents ties everything together to become Abstrakto. The group recognizes the importance of the Raza demographic and plan to focus on reaching them through various ways: movies, commercial placements, touring and collaborations with different artists. They’ve already worked with Bomba Estereo!

Getty describes himself as a “producer/reducer” because he pushes people to their full potential to extract the absolute best sound. Sierra can record a trumpet solo, numerous times and Getty will pick the track with the best take. His wide skill set made it possible for Getty to direct and act in the music video for Abstrakto’s “Marcando Paso” and even designed the artwork for the album cover.

For Sierra, this is the most cinematic and personal album he’s recorded to date. The songs contain a range of themes inspired by Shakespeare along with capturing moments of the human experience. As a Mexican immigrant growing up in Los Angeles, Sierra’s music breaks down stereotypes with hopes to inspire generations to continue breaking down barriers of misrepresentation in the media.

The highlight of thIMG_0232e night came when Abstrakto took the stage and performed tracks from the album. As the trumpet filled the room, nobody could stay seated. Getty held it down on the turntable for Sierra to take flight. Abstrakto, two guys with a vision and the sound to match.

Black Cowboys in Compton: Help Preserve their Legacy!

by Tom Nguyen

I just learned from a KCRW interview about a community of cowboys in Compton that is dying out. LA’s agricultural roots are still alive in the most surprising places. In the middle of the urban landscape of Compton, sits a community where people are allowed to ride horses in the streets and it’s one of the few neutral zones where youths from different gangs can set aside their differences. The cowboy club there has taught a lot of kids how to ride horses, to help keep them off the inner city’s mean streets. Unfortunately, with the ever increasing urban sprawl, this way of life is quickly disappearing and so too is the cowboy culture.

After a stable named the “Hill” burned down mysteriously a few years ago and the cowboys lost their main meeting place, the club has been in rapid decline. Documentary filmmaker Brett Fallentine has been documenting their way of life and attempts to rebuild the stable as a way to preserve their heritage. It’s a unique and forgotten part of LA history that can be traced to the Black cowboys on the American frontier and deserves to be told. But time is running out for his film titled Fire on the Hill!

Fallentine is funding the film with a Kickstarter campaign that only has until Saturday, March 21 to raise the last $10,000 needed! On the campaign page, Fallentine writes, “Everyone has a preconceived notion of Compton and South Central LA. I certainly did when I first met the Cowboys. Let me tell you that this film destroys all your expectations of this area, its people, and its heritage.” I just made a pledge and I hope you will too and please help spread the word by March 21!

Selma: MLK’s Powerful Bio-Epic Opens in LA in advance of Millions March Protest


by Tom Nguyen

I caught an advance screening of Selma at Hammer Museum last Tuesday and it was a full house. I gave my extra ticket to someone who had waited 2.5 hours in line after a long drive from Orange County. There was a similar over-capacity crowd when it screened at the AFI Fest and the film has already picked up major awards, as it is poised to sweep the country, when it opens today on Christmas in select cities and nationwide on January 9. All the attention is justified. With the nation embroiled in nationwide protests against police brutality in black communities, there could not be a more timely and much-needed film right now for us to reflect on how far we’ve come as a country, but also how little has changed for many of us in communities of color.

Claudia Bestor, Director of Public Programs at the Hammer, gave an impassioned introduction to the film. She lamented that the depicted events occurred only 50 years ago and not only are racist attitudes still troubling our country but they seem even more overt and bold during this Obama presidency. Bestor struck a positive hopeful note saying the film is “a great reminder that Americans used to know how to organize muscular mass movements for social and economic justice and we can do this again…this film is coming at a perfect time to show us and remind us how it’s done.”  As grassroots activists prepare for Millions March LA this Saturday, Dec. 27, inspired by the massive marches in NYC, the film is a potent reminder the power of mass movements for social justice and political change.

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Soca Star Bunji Garlin Heats up a Cold LA Night at Sonos Studio

Story by Tom Nguyen
Photos by Kevin Rhone

16048791865_9e0eb045bc_zIt was a cold night in LA last Tuesday at Sonos Studio, but that didn’t matter to Bunji Garlin, the Soca star from Trinidad, who stopped in the middle of his first song, to command the crowd to come right up to the stage. “This is the official way to do it…now we’re gonna do it like we’re back home in Trinidad!” That was all it took for the crowd to get fired up the rest of the evening and it got hot and sweaty real quick in the small, intimate studio! Many who came bundled up, quickly threw off their layers, as they danced nonstop to his infectious tropical songs, bouncing and swaying to every verse and beat. Fans already familiar with his music sang along to his popular dance anthems like Carnival Tabanca and Differentology (the hit song from the album of the same name), with many dressed in beautiful Carnival costumes and waving Trinidadian flags.

Garlin, with his confidence and charisma, and the infectiousness of his music, has elevated the Caribbean island’s feel-good Soca music to new global popularity as one of the freshest sounds in dance music the past couple of years. On the day of his show, Rolling Stone, which has hailed him as  “America’s first Soca pop star”, announced his album #6 of the 20 Best EDM, Electronic and Dance Albums of 2014. Making waves globally and already well-known in Miami and NYC, Garlin came to showcase his take on Soca music to the LA crowd and he was kind enough to let us ask him a few questions.

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KCET Putting LA and World Music on the Map with 2 New Weekly Programs

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by Tom Nguyen

As KCET, the nation’s largest independent public TV station, celebrates 50 years, they continue to be a leader in bringing great cultural programming to Southern California with 2 new series: Artbound Presents Studio A and Border Blaster. Artbound Presents Studio A is an original music series showcasing Southern California artists and bands and is a rare opportunity for many emerging LA artists to get television coverage to a national audience. The series presents both an uninterrupted musical set, as well as interviewing the artists about their influences from cultural, historical and geographical perspectives. Border Blaster brings cutting edge music from around the world, by presenting a curated collection of music videos, in collaboration with independent music labels and artists. Viewers can also participate by voting for their favorite videos online and create user-curated mixes to be broadcast. Both series are a great way to discover new music, representing the diversity of talent from Southern California and the global music scene.

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Krar Collective: Review and Interview

by Tom Nguyen

I just saw Krar Collective at Rosalind’s Ethiopian Restaurant last night, their 2nd of 3 shows in LA this weekend. The trio, based in UK, combines traditional Ethiopian music with modern arrangements and an electrified krar (lyre), that adds a rock sound. They’ve been called The White Stripes of Ethiopia and last night, they showed us why!

Rosalind’s is a longtime popular restaurant in Little Ethiopia, with a great menu and wonderful hospitality. Krar Collective started the night slowly, to give people a chance to dine and soak in their sounds. Every few songs, lead singer Genet Assefa would disappear to change into one of many colorful traditional outfits and perform Eskista (or Eskeseta), the traditional Ethiopian dance, involving vigorous, rhythmic shoulder and chest movements! It’s said to be an inspiration behind the Harlem Shake, and midway through their set, Assefa started playfully coaxing people one on one to join her on the dance floor.

Band leader Temesgen Zeleke showed off his mastery of his unique electric krar, playing sharp, complex riffs, with Grum Begashaw providing the strong punch of the drum lines, that steadily worked the crowd up off their chairs. Their songs are long, typically 6-8 minutes, and like a kettle simmering over a flame, you’ll be rewarded for your patience as the songs build up and boil over with infectious rhythms and beats and loud crescendos. By the end of their amazing 2 hour long set, they had the whole house jumping, clapping and clamoring for more! Amazingly, after they ended at midnight, Krar Collective simply asked for a 10-minute break before resuming a SECOND set!

In attendance last night were Marco and Miriam of Help A Life Foundation, a non profit to help Ethiopian orphans. Mark your calendar for their fundraiser African Hallow’s Eve Soiree next Sat. Oct. 25.

Krar Collective’s last show is tonight Sat. Oct. 18 at 10pm at Rosalind’s and come hungry and open for both the delicious food and music. It’s like going to a family restaurant that just happens to have an amazing band from Ethiopia via the UK, to serenade you over dinner and then get you to work off the calories at the end of the night. Like Zeleke says in our interview below, learn some Ethiopian dance and it’s better than going to the gym. Watch the last song of their 1st set below and read our interview!

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Brazilian Day San Diego Sept. 7! Brazilian Day Los Angeles postponed until 2015!

by Tom Nguyen

(Update 9/2/14Brazilian Independence Day Celebration in Hermosa Beach has been moved to Saturday, September 6, 2014.)

While the traditional end of summer for many is Labor Day weekend, for me the beautiful summer wasn’t over until the joyous celebrations of Brazilian Independence! I would look forward to a double dose of celebrations with both Brazilian communities in LA and San Diego. Alas, this year’s Brazilian Day Los Angeles festival has been postponed until 2015, due to a cut in funding and a rise in the cost of having it at the La Brea Tar Pits. However, the new leadership for the festival, which has taken place since 2006, has high hopes for finding a new location in 2015.

The much larger Brazilian Day San Diego on Sunday, September 7, touted as the biggest Brazilian Festival on the West Coast, attracts over 50,000 people each year and is always worth the drive down from LA! Blocks of Pacific Beach are closed on Garnett Avenue for the free, all-ages festivities and parade, and the friendly, energetic Brazilian community embraces everyone in the fun!

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Our Hot LA Picks for Valentine’s Week!

Valentine’s Day is a week away: You haven’t made plans yet? Or you’ve got no one to spend it with? Or maybe you’re just not buying into the whole Hallmark Holiday hype? Well, there’s something for everyone leading up to Valentine’s in LA…at least for those of us looking for more than just a once-a-year-gesture. If you’re looking for something with more cultural substance, worldly stimulation, and plenty of gyrating & sweating on the dance floors in our romantic city, look no further. Here are our recommendations, LA lovers….so relax, don’t put this much pressure on yourself….(take a date or find one at Irene Diaz‘s show and more!)

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LA’s 1st New Year’s Eve at Grand Park was Huge!

(UPDATE 1/2/14: Please help Daedelus find his lost/stolen gear after his set! Reward/No questions asked!)
Los Angeles has never had a large New Year’s gathering, seen in other large cities like New York City’s Times Square…that is until last night! If the Grand Park wanted to be *the* go-to destination for the night, by sheer numbers, they exceeded their wildest expectations. In their first year of operation, the Grand Park has been putting on great events throughout the year to establish itself as a central free outdoor space unifying Angelenos. Last night’s success not only vindicated their vision, it probably caught them a little off-guard with the massive turnout! Continue Reading →

New Year’s Eve Parties in LA: Our Picks

(UPDATE 1/1/14: Happy 2014! Last night at Grand Park was incredible…18,000 people in downtown LA! We’ll have a review and video of the 3D projection up shorty but until then, enjoy the pics and also ones from the Brazilian party on the West side.)
We like our New Year’s Eve parties to be more intimate affairs with friendly crowds of Angelenos. We’re not going to be paying a king’s ransom to be at an obnoxious, uptight venue. Most importantly, we love events that celebrate the culture and diversity of our communities, offer great music and dance and are family friendly. Here are our recommendations for NYE, along with some interviews with the organizers to give you a good sense of what sets them apart as well as what they have in store for 2014. We don’t list events that we wouldn’t attend ourselves and we’ll be covering quite a few of them that night! Hope to see you at one of these, and wherever you celebrate New Year’s Eve, have fun, drink and drive responsibly, and thank you for visiting our new site this past year! Continue Reading →