Wednesday
Oct292014

WOMEX 2014 picks

3 days, 5 stages and some tired feet later, we're back in L.A.! Now, in no particular order, here are our five standouts from WOMEX

Ethiocolor

Shoulder shaking was in full effect with Ethiocolor. Like their name says, they're a traditional Ethiopian band with dancers, costume changes and enough energy to power the city of Santiago.

Lula Pena

We love a bumping dance beat just as much as the next guy, but  Portugal's Lula Pena's smokey voice was the perfect pallet cleanser.

Batida

The Angolan/Portuguese group, Batida mixed electronic rhythms with classic Congolese beats for a major dance party with cool visuals to back them up. For their last song they handed out whistles to the audience. If that doesn't say party, we don't know what does.

Guayo Cedeno & Coco Bar

If you need a soundtrack to a Latin spaghetti psychedelic western, it'd be Hondorus' Guayo Cedeno. His trio was tight, but it got even better when Garifuna (Afro-Caribbean roots, with West African rhythms, a Latin lilt and flavors of reggae and calypso) musician, Aurelio Martinez joined. 

Mariza

Fado (Portugese singing, renowed for its expressive and profoundly melancholic character) singer, Mariza gave a vocally stunning performance after accepting the WOMEX 14 Artist Award.



And no surprise, we also saw some of our Grand Performances alums Baloji, Troker (we ran into them in the conferene hall), the El Gusto Orchestra and Nortec Colletive's Bostich + Fussible turn in killer sets.

Thursday
Oct232014

WOMEX 2014

Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Hola from Santiago de Compostela!  Some Grand Performances' staffers are here to soak in the sights and sounds of the annual WOMEX (World Music Expo). Every year, WOMEX is held in a different European city; this time around, it's in north west Spain right above Portugal. 

WOMEX is made up of presenters (like us), artists, agents, managers, media, and more. For the next week, we'll wander the conference trade floor during the day and dance through some of the best world music showcases at night. What makes them the best? Well, more than 800+ bands apply to showcase but only a select few get asked - so we know we're going to hear the good stuff! 

The showcase concerts are where we get to discover new music to maybe bring to Grand Performances (DakhaBrakha was Leigh Ann's WOMEX find in 2011). It's also a great opportunity to see some of our old favorites presenting new music. We'll make sure to say 'hi' to Baloji, Bostich + Fussible and the El Gusto Orchestra for you. 

Stay tuned for more! You can follow our journey on Instagram @grandperfs #gptravels 

 

 

Wednesday
Sep102014

A weekend of dance

It's our last weekend of shows and we're going out dancing.

Friday, September 12 @ 8:00pm // India Jazz Suites: Fastest Feet in Rhythm

Kathak and tap dance meet and battle on the dance floor.

Saturday, September 13 @ 8:00pm // Rosanna Gamson, WIFE, Sheetal Gandhi

Modern dance from three of L.A.'s leading lady choreographers. 

Tuesday
Sep092014

xo, Joel 

We asked our PR and Marketing Intern, Joel to reflect back on his summer with us, and this is what he had to say.

Words cannot express my gratitude for the opportunity to work with Grand Performances this summer. As a recent graduate with a degree in public relations (PR), I was very nervous to jump into the job market and begin my professional journey and development. I wasn’t completely sure of what to expect when I started with Grand Performances. Previously, I had experience pitching and writing on behalf of consumer, corporate and entertainment clients. However, PR for a non-profit organization that aims to provide world music and artists to a diverse audience of Angelenos is something that I had never attempted. It was a challenge that I eagerly accepted and I flourished doing. I had the opportunity to gain substantial press coverage in the Los Angeles Times and work with reporters from NPR, KCRW, Billboard Magazine and many others. This was a rare opportunity that is definitely unique (and I really despise the use of that word) to Los Angeles.

With the help of the amazing staff, I quickly learned the logic behind the programming for the entire season, which helped me prepare and gain publicity for each show through out the summer. More importantly it taught me the most valuable lesson of the summer: No matter how much someone thinks they know about music and art, they will never know everything. There will always be room to discover, flourish and grow in the arts.

It’s important to give back. Most people don’t think that it takes money to make art, but it does and artists deserve to be paid to create the beauty that they exude into the world. Often artists are solicited to do free events and donate their time to charities. However, they have bills just like the rest of us.  Grand Performances pays their artists well and then presents them to Angelenos for free, relying on sponsors and Red Bucket donations. My summer with Grand Performances was made possible with the support of Supervisor Gloria Molina and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission Internship program.

I met many people during my time here, but it was not just the professional contacts that moved me to appreciate this internship. It was the woman who collected perfectly good desserts people left behind after a fundraising event to give to the homeless on her bus ride home to Compton; the woman who came and danced alone on her birthday who lives nearby; and the man who told me what he thought about each artist after every show he attended. Grand Performances creates not just a place to showcase music, but a place that creates compassion and community. It’s downright spellbinding

I am leaving this internship with a much greater respect and appreciation of art that the average person could not understand without first experiencing it the way that I have this summer. From visual to performing, I have had the opportunity to further explore and gain perspective behind the programming, hard work and dedication of the teams across L.A. who curate and host productions and galleries that infuse the city with vibrancy and life.  It is an honor to now know the wonderful people who work tirelessly to provide one-of-a-kind experiences at Grand Performances. Everyday I am blown away by their generosity and dedication to providing the community with FREE live music that caters to a diverse community. Every show was a different world and every evening I had the opportunity to meet the wonderful people who attended these events. 

I will truly treasure the time I’ve spent here this summer, come back for next seasons diverse and eclectic program and I will definitely donate.

*This internship was funded in part by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.

Wednesday
Sep032014

Jordan Peimer on DakhaBrakha and Carmen Rizzo 

 

This year we're asking our musically and culturally inclined friends to write our evening programs. Here's Jordan Peimer on DakhaBrakha and Carmen Rizzo.

If you’re reading this blogpost, you rank among the most adventuresome audiences in the city. Friday, September 5th’s shared program between CARMEN RIZZO, L.A.-based electronic musician / producer and Ukraine’s DAKHABRAKHA, a behatted folk quartet, will be one of the most musically memorable evenings which you’re likely to encounter. At first glance, you might not think electronica and folk would have anything in common, but I expect that tonight’s musical dialogue will be rich and exciting.

            Los Angeles audiences hardly need an introduction to CARMEN RIZZO. His work as part of Niyaz ranks among the finest world fusion projects to come out of this or any city. His solo career has only recently been his major focus and he has released a handful of albums and an EP, each strongly compelling. In addition, he has produced, engineered, programmed or remixed artists as diverse as Alanis Morissette, Coldplay, A.R. Rahman, Paul Oakenfold, Perry Farrell, and Michael Nyman. I personally love his effortless mix of acoustic and electronic sounds, and feel that he is one of the few musicians who can make the acoustic sound electronic.

            Less well known in Los Angeles are DAKHABRAKHA whose name we are told means Give/Take in “Old” Ukrainian. How does one describe their sound? I’ve seen the words Trance, Jazz, Chaos, Punk, and dozens more used to describe them. Nothing really prepares you for their unique sound. Or their hats.

            Their mixture of ethnic and contemporary sounds is absolutely singular, and comes from a region which is not widely represented on the traditional world music circuit. Just about two years ago, DakhaBrakha took WOMEX (World Music Expo) by storm. Since that time they have barely stopped touring. This particular edition of WOMEX was held in Northern Greece and was filled with music from Central, Southern, and Eastern Europe. From Roma to polyphonic singing, I think my coterie of programmers and music aficionados, including Grand Performances’ esteemed Leigh Ann Hahn, and I all felt as though we knew what to expect as we moved from concert to concert. But with a voice that could only  have come from Rocky & Bullwinkle’s Arch nemesis Natasha Fatale, a young woman pushed me a flyer for a Ukrainian band at me and ordered, “You zee diz!” I said that we planned to see little bits of everything. She said, and I will never forget this: “Goh urhly. Iz bezt to azk provezional.” For the next hour we laughed about this strange encounter.

            When the three women and one man walked on stage, it wasn’t clear whether they were wearing hats or whether they had Bride of Frankenstein hairdos. We kept making snarky jokes until they started. It was like NOTHING any of us had ever heard. Their sound was an almost shocking mixture of tribal music, polyphonic singing, and a relentless driving rhythm. I can still remember that Slavic sense of sadness propelled by both the singing and the folk-painted cello sweeping us all away. Somehow both melancholic and uplifting, DakhaBrakha music is mystical in an almost religious way. Frankly, I felt that the sounds could have felt at home around a fire in a gathering of pre-Christian hunter/gatherers on the steppe. Their show brought me to a state in which I felt that I had witnessed something absolutely primal and tears were streaming down my face.

            After just a few songs we made a mad dash to go get their albums before those all disappeared. Since that time, I have seen DakhaBrakha twice more in other cities and found a fourth album. I even sat through Prairie Home Companion (my least favorite public radio show) in order to hear both their sets. One wonders what the fine folk of Lake Woebegone thought of the Ukrainian wonders and their unique headgear. Wikipedia tells me there is a fifth album, and I hope they have it with them on tour. Considering just how much they have been on the road, they might be sold out. Maybe they even have hats!  Run now to the concession stand —“Iz bezt to azk provezional!”

Jordan Peimer is the Vice President & Director of Programs at the Skirball Cultural Center hosting a wide range of roots and world music, including the Sunset Concert Series, now entering its 18th summer. Beginning on October 6, 2014, Peimer will be the new Executive Director of Art Power! in San Diego.