Rocky Dawuni and Afro Funké Celebrate the African Diaspora With Africa Rising

Rocky Dawuni by Bil Zelman

The too often-used tactic of describing a musician by comparing them to another musician of years past is typically a lazy maneuver that fails to properly individualize the modern artist from their legendary counterpart. However, there is plenty of merit in the repeated comparisons critics have made over the years between Bob Marley and Ghanian reggae/highlife artist Rocky Dawuni. Without the spark of Marley’s music that lit the creative fire within a young, impressionable Dawuni, there would be no Africa Rising.

Africa Rising is the conclusion of the Ford Summer Season at the Ford Theatres, a series of music, dance, theatre and film events scheduled from May through October. The final event at the venue will feature music by Dawuni with Ethiopian-influenced ensemble Wondem, led by multi-instrumentalist Dexter Story; Congolese-Belgian singer Marie Daulne of Zap Mama; and DJs Jeremy Sole and Glenn Red.

Read the rest of my story at LA Weekly.

Posted in Music, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Schools Not Prisons: Buyepongo and Ceci Bastida Rally Against Mass Incarceration


Singer-songwriter Ceci Bastida has long championed political and social causes such as immigrant rights, the Zapatista movement and various issues concerning her native country of Mexico. Her most recent foray into activism, however, is undoubtedly her most personal.

This Saturday in Oxnard, she will be one of a handful of artists to perform a free, all-ages show in support of the Schools Not Prisons Arts & Music Festival tour, which promotes safe communities via voting, political activism and non-violence among community youth, with a focus on funding schools and educational programs while fighting against “zero-tolerance” policing of students that ultimately funnels many of them into the United States’ massive prison system.

Read the rest of my story at LA Weekly.

Posted in Festival, Latino, Music, News, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Finally, a Celebration of Afro-Latino Music That Doesn’t Ignore Hip-Hop


Kahlil Cummings is one of many performers scheduled at AfroLatino. Photo by Safiya Dawuni.

The sounds and rhythms of West African drums, the sharp slaps on the djembe and the cavernous thumps on the dunun, will echo and bounce out of the recently reopened John Anson Ford Theatres and off into the hills surrounding the Cahuenga Pass this Saturday, Sept. 10. Those drums will mark the first lesson of many in a two-hour session about the long history of musical collaboration between the African and Latino diasporas that continues today in Los Angeles.

“AfroLatino – A Celebration of the African and Latino Diasporas” is a dive into understanding the Afro-Latino identity with an ethnomusicological twist. Numerous artists from L.A. and beyond will trace the history of African people in the Western hemisphere through the impact and influence of their music.

Continue reading at LA WEEKLY.

Posted in History, Latino, Music, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Hollywood Forever Cemetery Presents 17th Annual Dia De Los Muertos Celebration

Hollywood Forever Cemetery’s Dia De Los Muertos celebration, the largest Day of the Dead celebration outside of Mexico, returns for its 17th edition.


This year’s theme is “El Arbol De La Vida/The Tree Of Life,” with a focus on sculptural traditions of the town of Metepec near Toluca de Lerdo.

Music this year will be provided by:

Julieta Venegas


Alejandro y Maria Laura


Mariachi Flor De Toloache

Here’s my rundown of last year’s event, which celebrated the culture of Mexico’s indigenous Huichol people, visited by 40,000 people and featured musicals artists Lila Downs, Xavier Quijas Yxayotl, Huichol Musical, and others.

More info at

Posted in Art, Festival, Latino, Music, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arsenal Net Three Past Chivas in International Friendly [photos]

Arsenal of England toured the US this summer for a number of pre-season matches before the start of the 2016/2017 Barclay’s Premiere League. The Gunners defeated their opponents, Chivas de Guadalajara, 3 – 1 at the Stubhub Center, home of MLS side LA Galaxy.

Below are a few shots from the game. All game photos are at my Flickr album.

chivas_arsenal_002 chivas_arsenal_004

chivas_arsenal_008 chivas_arsenal_017

chivas_arsenal_021 chivas_arsenal_026

chivas_arsenal_030 chivas_arsenal_033

chivas_arsenal_034 chivas_arsenal_037

chivas_arsenal_040 chivas_arsenal_044

chivas_arsenal_047 chivas_arsenal_054

chivas_arsenal_056 chivas_arsenal_060

Posted in Football (soccer), Sports, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Nothing Is More Political Than Fantasy: A LACMA Q&A With Guillermo Del Toro


Famed fantasy/horror director/novelist Guillermo del Toro has had a lifelong obsession with monsters. His obsession can be seen in his impressive collection of art, books, posters, statues, busts, and other memorabilia lovingly stored and curated in what he calls Bleak House, a personal museum and creative shrine closed to the public and only accessible by a personal invitation from the man himself. del Toro, however, has decided to give fans a tiny peek at his collection through a new exhibit at LACMA.

Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters features nearly 500 objects from del Toro’s vast collection in his first museum retrospective.

“This exhibition presents a small fraction of the things that have moved me, inspired me, and consoled me as I transit through life,” said del Toro. “It’s a devotional sampling of the enormous love that is required to create, maintain, and love monsters in our lives.”

LACMA hosted a preview of the exhibit on Saturday July 30th along with a short Q&A session with del Toro, LACMA director Michael Govan, and exhibition curator Britt Salvesen. Below are a few quotes from the Q&A session with the director as well as a few photos from the exhibit (more at my Flickr).


“This has been quite a journey. It sounded like a good idea a few years ago. I’m not a collector. I’m not a hoarder…because collectors know how the market is, they know how much everything is. They keep their comic books in little bags. They keep their toys neat in a box. I don’t know about that. I play with toys. I have a very promiscuous relationship with all the items from [Bleak House]. Basically, for me, that place for me is a shrine.”


“When I was a child, I was raised Catholic but somewhere down the lines, I didn’t fit with the saints and the virgins and the holy men, so somewhere along those years, I fit in with the monsters. I saw in the creature of Frankenstein by Boris Karloff, I saw a beautiful, innocent creature in a state of grace that was sacrificed by sins he had not committed.”


“I found in these monsters a very moving essence of outsiderness during which I identified fully. I also understood that the world as it was defined…was a complete lie. A complete fabrication. I knew it instinctively. I found that those monsters did not pretend to be something else and they presented themselves, in essence as well as in appearance, in a way that moved me, literally.”


“I think that nothing is more political than fantasy because when a storyteller feels he or she is free from the constraints of reality, they show themselves more fully. Because we can always say…’oh, it’s just a story.’ But it isn’t. I think they tell us something very deep about ourselves. This, I think, the rubicon of where you stand, the defining line, is your view of monsters. If you see my movies over and over again, you will see that I love them. I absolutely love them.”


“Humans, we are pretty repulsive. We are probably only bad because we live in the pretense. We have invented a series of fantasies that we have set socially that are absolutely terrifying like geography, gender, race, you know? These are accepted fictions with which we have managed to separate from each other. The beauty of monsters is that they require our acceptance and our love to survive. They represent- they are patron saints of otherness.”


“The other thing I found as a very young kid is that I was very attracted to horror. Right now I’m 51 and I can say I’m not a horror filmmaker because I am attracted to the forms of horror, to the beauty and the greater poetry of horror but I’m not attracted to the mechanics and the devices of horror. I lie somewhere in between, in a crossroad between horror and fairytale. I think that my movies are fables that have the essence and the beauty of a horror movie.”


“It is very important for me to be here [at LACMA] as a Mexican. Because I am very Mexican. When people say ‘what’s Mexican about your movies?’, I say ‘me!’ We love monsters! This time, the real monsters in our lives are in really finely tailored suits. It’s very important to tell them that we are a diverse and rich community…it is very important for me to say that I am Mexican and that I love monsters.”


“There’s nothing more scary than people who are profoundly ignorant and profoundly certain.”

At Home With Monsters will be on display at LACMA’s Art of the Americas building until Nov. 27th.

Posted in Art, Film, Latino | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Viva Pomona 2016 [photos]

Viva Pomona, the little festival on the border of Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, returned for its fifth edition on July 16th and July 17th. Nearly 50 artists swooped in to the area surrounding the Glasshouse on 2nd/Thomas for a weekend of music and art.

Below are a few photos from the event. The full album, as always, is on my Flickr account.










Posted in Festival, Latino, Music | Tagged | Leave a comment