Tomas Benitez on Quetzal

This year we're asking our musically and culturally inclined friends to write our evening programs. Here's Tomas Benitez on Quetzal. 

The Chicano Movement enjoyed a revival in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s due in large part to the resistance to the immigrant bashing Prop. 187 in California and the Zapatista Revolution in Chiapas, Mexico. For a 1970’s Chicano dinosaur like myself, it was an inspiration to see a new generation of young Latino students and activists take to the streets and mobilize to advocate for their community and people.

At the vortex of all the ‘reborn’ self-empowerment and assertion of ethnic identity was a wave of cultural artists and performers. Painters, dancers, poets and writers, comedy troupes and teatristas all convened to reflect the spirit of the times. But it was the bevy of new musical groups who seemed to best define the new wave of creativity, and none more so than Quetzal.

Fresh from their sojourn to Chiapas, they returned to East L.A. with a sound that was forged from folkloric traditional styles and their own genius. The second floor hall at Self Help Graphics & Art was a beat up, very under-lit, acoustic nightmare of a venue, but they took that stage and brought the light with them, filling the room with their infectious music and songs of love and liberation. It was a magical time and place to witness and remember, as they invented a musical thread that wove together several generations of people across nations, cultures and borders.

Like the ancient Mexican god Quezalcoatl, they went away for a period, promising to return one day. And indeed they did, coming back with a fury. As they matured their music got even better, like a fine wine, with their success culminating in earning a Grammy in 2013. Yet even today the still have the vitality, soul and spirit of their roots and culture in each song in their repertoire, having now become the masters, as well as mentors to the numerous other bands who build upon what they started. And in the true artistic spirit to never stop creating the new, their path has led them on a long, wonderful journey, still with the promise that the best is yet to come.

Tomas Benitez is the former Executive Director of Self Help Graphics and nowadays writes and lives in East Los Angeles.


Lunch Box Series 2014

Take a mid-day break from what you're doing and come hang with us for a noon time concert. Bring something to nosh on or pick something up from our plaza vendors or down the hill neighbors at Grand Central Market. The weater is perfect, so what are you waiting for?!

Friday, July 18 @ noon // Chop and Quench

Friday, July 25 @ noon // Vardan ovsepian Chamber Ensemble

Wednesday, July 30 @ noon // We  Will Rock You (from our friends at the Center Theatre Group)

Friday, August 1 @ noon // Les Triplettes de Belleville (open rehearsal)

Friday, August 8 @ noon // DJ Nu-Mark

Friday, August 15 @ noon // Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate

Noon show parking

We highly recommend finding alternate parking for our Friday noon shows, as daytime parking at California Plaza will run you $38 or more! Here are some other options:

1. Go Metro. Exit at Pershing Square and leave by the North stairs leading to 4th and Hill streets. Destination Discount: Show your Tap card at Johnny's Pizza for a free soda with your purchase.

2. Eat at George's Greek. They validate California Plaza parking for $3 for the first 2 hours.

3. Park at Grand Central Market. If you pick up lunch from a vendor in the market, they'll validate for 1 hour parking. After 1 hour it's $2 every 15 minutes, $10 max.

4. Park at Joe's Auto Parks for $15


Marco Werman on Chop and Quench 

This year we're asking our musically and culturally inclined friends to write our evening programs. Here's Marco Werman on Chop and Quench, Fela and the 69 Los Angeles sessions.

It seems that the Fela cultural moment in the US has been humming ever since Sahr Ngaujah portrayed the Afrobeat innovator in the Broadway music Fela!  But to really dig down to the root of what Fela Kuti is all about, you’ve got to go back to the late 1960s, and Fela’s time in Los Angeles.  For him, it was a discovery of musical synthesis – his own Nigerian juju music, John Coltrane and James Brown to name just three key influences – as well as politically empowering voices like the Black Panthers.  At the crux of that residency in the US came the ’69 Los Angeles sessions, a series of dates at a struggling nightclub called the Citadel de Haiti on Sunset Boulevard.  Grand Performances takes you back to those early heady days when Anikulapo Kuti was still the colonial-branded “Ransome Kuti,” but things were already changing radically.  Chop ‘N Quench takes the part of Fela’s band Koola Lobitos; and in an extraordinary bit of curation, Sahr Ngaujah reprises his alter-ego of Fela.

Marco Werman is the host of PRI's THE World

See Chop and Quench play a history-making live performance of the "69 Los Angeles Sessions" for free on Friday, July 18 @ 8pm. Click here for more info.


Jordan Peimer on Cesària Evora and Quantic 

A mixtape created by Quanitc for Magnetica Sodade, Lost and Longing, Perdio e Sodade.

Saudade is one of the most famously untranslatable words. It carries a sense of bittersweet sadness and longing and often refers to people or places that have been lost and will likely never be seen again. The emotion is so pervasive that Brazil even has a holiday devoted to it. In all parts of the Portugese-speaking world, one says, “Tenhos saudades....”  or “I have saudade of you” as a way of saying I miss you.  In a sense, saudades is a very specific kind of feeling of the blues. It has been speculated that the word developed as an expression of homesickness for people and places during the era of Portugese exploration of the New World.

Eventually one of the places heavily trafficked by the Portugese were the ten islands of Cabo Verde or Cape Verde. About 350 miles west of Senegal, the small nation is neither Cape nor Green. Discovered in the mid-fifteenth Century, the islands became a natural stopping point for slave traders plying the waters of the Atlantic. The islands’ population is largely the descendants of slaves and their captors. An independent nation since 1975, Cabo Verdeans celebrate their creole (or Kriol) heritage seeing themselves not just as a hybrid of Portugal and Africa but also as the meeting ground between Europe, Africa, and the Americas. They too have inherited this feeling of Saudade which in Kriolu, the local patois, is known as Sodade

If there is one kind of music inexorably linked to Cape Verde, it is the morna, a somewhat melancholic but lyrical song that exemplifies the sense of sodade. Of course the greatest voice of the morna and perhaps the most famous Cape Verdean is the incomparable Cesária Évora. Discovered when she was already in her forties, Évora rose to international superstardom making all who heard her long to know more about her culture and the mornas and coladieras (the Cape Verdean style which is faster and more upbeat ) she was singing. Perhaps her most famous song is "Sodade", in which the feeling which pervades most of her music, is used to describe a longing for both a person and a place--for the time they had together.

Two and a half years after her death at age 70, Évora still looms large in Cape Verde; she smiles on posters and T-shirts and her music drifts from bars, restaurants, and residences. This is her place and the people are happy to remember her and her music; they are almost drawn to those memories by forces greater than themselves This is not to say that she was by any means the only great musician the country produced. The reality is music quenches the parched landscape and it is sung out by some incredibly talented voices. 

Tonight’s concert marries the legacy of the great “Barefoot Diva” to the incredible talent of musician and producer Quantic (William Holland). Quantic is, hyperbole aside, nothing less than a master of contemporary music, effortlessly blending styles and creating not pastiche but something uniquely his own. Since Cesária is gone and will never be experienced again, I can imagine no one better than Quantic and the extraordinary guest artists to recontextualize the gift which she left us. Tonight, as we remember Cesària, her absence is a presence among us and we know that only Quantic and the musicians can help slake our feelings of Sodade. 


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.


Cesaria Evora and Minnie Riperton 

This weekend we're all about remixing and reinterpreting the powerful sounds of two incomperable female icons. Quantic will take on the music of the Cape Verdean Barefoot Diva, Cesaria Evora, and The Decoders will reimagine the soulful sounds of Minnie Riperton.

Here's the down and dirty versions of why you should join us for this girl power-fueled weekend. 

Friday, July 11 @ 8:00pm

Who: Magnetica Sodade
Song Sample: Youtube / Spotify 
Street cred: It's the multi-talented Quantic along with Thalma de Freitas, Maria de Barros and more
Why you won't want to miss out: You'll get a little bit of Cesaria Evora and a little bit of music from Quantic's new release- the best of both worlds. Quantic will also perform a 20 minute mix of hand chosen Cape Verdean vinyls during the intermission, something he's never done before!

Saturday, July 12 @ 8:00pm

Who: Adventures from Paradise: A Tribute to Minnie Riperton 
Song Sample: Youtube / Spotify 
Street cred: It's L.A.'s own, The Decoders plus an awesome lineup of guest artists including Kimbra, Moses Sumney, Coco O, Amber Coffman and more (we could go on... and on)
Why you won't want to miss out: Did you read above guest artists names we dropped?! This is just going to be a magical evening of Minnie Riperton's music. 


This summer, we're proud to partner with our down-the-hill neighobors, Grand Central Market to offer you pre-made picnics. We've made it easy: simply order online, and pick up at Grand Central Market on Saturday! Orders must be placed by 4pm on Saturday, July 12. 

Click here to check out the delicious offereings from Roast to Go, Horse Thief BBQ and Valerie Confections.