L.A. Womxn Artists of Color reflect on Womxn’s History Month: Part 1

by Tom Nguyen

For Womxn’s History Month, I wanted to check in with womxn artists of color in Los Angeles who are doing important work in our communities of color and immigrant diaspora, advocating for social justice and using their artistry and voices to uplift, educate and empower.

Alice Bag, Dj Sizzle Fantastic, Faith Santilla, Gingee, Klassy, Jumakae, Maya Jupiter, Sri Panchalam of Doctors & Engineers, Xochi Flores of Los Cambalache — These radical womxn of color are outspoken and fearless in their arts & advocacy, and through their artistic expression and activism, have been tireless in their fight to smash systems of oppression and the patriarchy. I asked each of these powerful, radical womxn of color to reflect on these 3 questions:

– As you reflect on Women’s History Month, #MeToo movement and the current political climate, what do you feel are the most important issues facing you, both individually and collectively as a community?

– As a radical womxn of color and artist, how do you express and/or address these issues in your art & activism?

– What advice do you have for young womxn or advice you wish someone had given you?

I am so grateful for their time and willingness to share their insight, their work, and their inspiring advice for young womxn. There are many more amazing artists I hope to hear from too, so this is the 1st of what will be a continuing series.

If you know of an inspiring Los Angeles artist of color, who is speaking truth to power, through their artistry and activism, please send them my way in the comments below.

Alice Bag:

“I feel the need to combat the extreme misogyny and xenophobia coming from the White House. When you have a president that considers talk of grabbing women by the genitals acceptable, he’s setting the tone for the nation. There have also been numerous reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault, against him. I will call these allegations for legal reasons, not because I have any doubt of their veracity, especially since he has at times, boasted publicly of his actions. When you have that flagrant disrespect for women coming from the very top, it’s bound to affect what others, especially those who support Trump, view as acceptable behavior.”

“I think we need to resist, organize and provide a vision for a future where women are seen, heard and respected as equal members of society.”

“Aside from doing all the things that many of us do to push back, in terms of protesting, letter writing, making calls to representatives, etc. I volunteer with Girls Rock Camp. Helping young girls harness their power in their formative years is extremely satisfying. It makes me and everyone involved in these programs very happy. When I feel anger and dissatisfaction, I channel some of it into my music. In the past few months, I’ve released several songs that have helped me express my feelings post-election. The first one was Reign of Fear”, which is a call for resistance in which my band-mates and I get to shout “We reject your reign of fear!”. Midway through Trump’s first year in office, I needed a song that reminded me to take time to focus on the positive things in my life because I was feeling overwhelmed by the daily barrage of negativity coming from Washington. I also wrote a song called “Blueprint” about taking ownership of the structures we create. Whether we’re working on ourselves, our communities or our world, we are architects who have the power to create what we imagine.”

“Love yourself, treat yourself with kindness and compassion, give yourself positive affirmations. Nurture in yourself what you want to be able to share with the world.”

Photo by Greg Velasquez

Alice Bag is a singer/songwriter, musician, author, artist, educator and feminist. Alice was the lead singer and co-founder of the Bags, one of the first bands to form during the initial wave of punk rock in Los Angeles. The Alice Bag Band was featured in the seminal documentary on punk rock, The Decline of Western Civilization. Alice went on to perform in other groundbreaking bands, including Castration Squad, Cholita, and Las Tres. She has published two books, including the critically acclaimed memoir Violence Girl in 2011 (Feral House) and the 2015 self-published Pipe Bomb For the Soul, based on her teaching experiences in post-revolutionary Nicaragua. Alice’s work is included in the Smithsonian exhibition, American Sabor. Alice’s self-titled 2016 debut album received critical acclaim and was named one of the best albums of the year by AllMusic. Her second album, Blueprint, was just released in March 2018 on Don Giovanni Records. Upcoming event: Saturday, April 7, 2018, Alice Bag Record Release Party at The Echo.

Dj Sizzle Fantastic:

“As an undocumented queer womxn, the most pressing issues that continue to affect the lives of my community and by extent, mine, are rooted in xenophobia, racism, misogyny, displacement, borders, and family separation. Sadly, the current administration encompasses and uplifts said issues in its daily operations. Giving that much more power to rogue agencies such as ICE/Border Patrol/Police a.k.a Polimigra, and the government as a whole, the power to continue to further oppress and criminalize the bodies of womxn of color, immigrants, queer folks, and black and brown youth.” 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 →

Quetzal’s new Album Quetzanimales and 20 year Anniversary Celebration!

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What went down:

Quetzal had a listening party for their new album Quetzanimales at Espacio 1839 and an engaging Q&A on July 2, 2014 about the concept of the album. They discussed how the challenges and struggles of the urban animals in their songs are really symbols of our own trials happening now in our communities.

There was a lot of great dialogue about issues of gentrification and encroachment upon Boyle Heights as well as a reminder of the importance of actually taking the time to stop and get to know your own community and life and inhabitants that maybe we are too busy overlooking.

Continue Reading →

Interview with Marisa Ronstadt

Photo by: Chicano Soul (Art Meza)

I first saw Marisa Ronstadt performing as a vocalist in the tight knit son jarocho community, with members of Grammy-winning East LA band Quetzal. Little did I know at the time, that she was at an exciting juncture in her life: having just become a new mother and successfully crowd-funded her first debut album, entitled Blueberry Moon, after her newborn daughter.

It wasn’t until her album release party on June 1st at Eastside Luv Bar, in Boyle Heights, that I discovered her last name is not coincidental — Marisa comes from the distinguished Ronstadt family which includes her legendary cousin, singer Linda Ronstadt and father,  television host Jose Ronstadt, who was there to support his accomplished daughter on her big night. Well, Marisa is a tremendously talented and sultry singer and songwriter in her own right and she really had me and the entire crowd from the very first song, the very soulful pop song Sweetest Memory. Her whole album lyrically is a personal, intimate portrait of her life here in Los Angeles since she moved here from Arizona and musically is an homage to so many of her influences from soul and R&B to latin ballads and modern pop. Here are some excerpts from my interview with Marisa and the full audio interview below!

Continue Reading →

Bombazo Fandango: A Unique Music Event of the People and For the People!

Courtesy of Richard Estrada

At the 4th Annual Bombazo Fandango on Saturday night February 8, 2014 we were told and shown that there is a reason some music lasts throughout the centuries, and other music can’t seem to make it through a decade. Afro-Puerto Rican Bomba and Son Jarocho from Veracruz, Mexico are both musical forms that stand the test of time. Why? Because this isn’t just music for the sake of music. This music is about community! Both are fusions of African, indigenous, and Spanish influences. Not only are the influences cultural, they are historical and at the same time timeless since many of these communities are still experiencing some of the persisting consequences brought about by colonization, slavery, and oppression. This music uplifts, this music resists, this music is why our peoples persist! Continue Reading →

Luna Lovers Premiere and 10 Reasons why I Love Las Cafeteras

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It was quite a party at Las Cafeteras Luna Lovers premiere party last week. La Santa Cecilia, Maria del Pilar, Irene Diaz and La Chamba Chicha Cumbia were in the house and big shout out to John Cantú and crew for their work on the gorgeous video and Mucho Musica and Vincent Price Art Musuem for hosting the event open to the community. It was great to see how far Las Cafeteras have come…it reminded me of the reasons I dig them so much, not just as a band but a fine group of decent, hardworking and dedicated people. Enjoy their Luna Lovers video at the end of the list!

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10 Reasons why I love Las Cafeteras Continue Reading →

Cambalache Fiesta with Grammy winning Quetzal Sunday April 21

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Just got back from Quetzal‘s performance at the Central American Resource Center and Cesar Castro of Cambalache was playing with them. Son Jarocho is traditional folk music from Veracruz, Mexico combining elements of indigenous,  African and Spanish influence and there is a big camaraderie and collaboration within the thriving Son Jarocho scene in Los Angeles as well as with Veracruz, where Cesar Castro is from. Today, Quetzal will join them at their celebration of reaching their Kickstarter goal to crowd fund their first and long awaited album! They will also be joined by Banda de Santa Ana and other special guests. It’s fun and free for the whole family and will be at the new Floricanto Center in East LA (4232 Whiteside St., Los Angeles, 90063). Continue Reading →

Las Cafeteras SXSW Tour Kick-Off Party @ Los Globos

sxswI don’t like to call myself a super-fan of any band, because there are just so many great talents of different genres that I enjoy here in LA. However, if you ask me which band I consistently see again and again without fail, it’s Las Cafeteras, and on Wednesday, February 27, they are having a kick-off party at Los Globos for their SXSW tour. Continue Reading →