beau williams

Beau Williams, Star Search winner, performs R&B at Leimart Park Festival

*The Vision Theatre Back-lot once again served as the host site for the 4th Annual Leimert Park Village African Art and Music Festival. The event celebrated the diverse African diaspora inLos Angeles, with music, art, poetry, childrens and teen activities, ‘Leimert Park After Dark,’ and much more. Several thousand people spent most or all of their Labor Day Weekend at the three Day Festival, September 1-3, 2012.This year’s theme was “Leaving a Legacy.”

The Leimert Park Group started the festival four years ago so that the city can celebrate the rich African and African-American history and vibrant culture in the heart of the African-American Community; historicLeimertParkVillage.

Ramona Stevens returned to the festival to serve as Mistress of Ceremonies, and to serve up some uproarious funny observational jokes. In keeping with African tradition, each day of the festival featured an opening ceremony to bless the grounds and honor the ancestors who have come before us. Several local African drum and dance troupes paraded around the perimeter of the festival grounds. Jai Jae Kambasa African Drumming provided the Opening ceremonies for the festival on Saturday, September 1st.

The Urban Ballroom Dancing and West Coast Urban Ballroom Gents demonstrated some nice dance moves such as the Jazzbox, Calypso, Cha-cha and basic walk. Some members of the audience were invited onstage for dance lessons. Classes are available around town. Google search Urban Ballroom Dances for more information.

Each day at noon, the festival featured a Spoken Word and Comedy Showcase. A.K. Toney, and Cayenne & Sho, recited some original gems. Awet Teame from Eritrea contributed to our appreciation of comedy from an international perspective. The Mooney Twins, Darryl and Dwayne, are professional comedians/satirists who delighted the crowd with some thought provoking, conscious raising humor. They stepped up their game with some fresh material from the recent news headlines that kept us laughing out loud all weekend.

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Neo-soul group, Ngozi Flux, delivered a set of soulful sounds from the City ofBrotherly Love,Philadelphia. The crowd and I were into their soulful sounds on the following tunes “Lifeline,” “Post Boat,” “Forward Maavan,” “Inside You,” “Beautiful,” and “Electric Relaxation.” The members of the band consists of Everett Saunders-guitar/vocals, KP Tyler-vocals, Ashley Phillips-guitar/vocals, Michael McFadden-bass, Jordan Rippe-keyboards, and Alan Toka on drums.

Miss Harmony 'Love' Bailey

Miss Harmony ‘Love’ Bailey (Scroll down to watch her performance)

Harmony Bailey is an amazing young vocalist who thrilled the audience with her vocal stylings and age-defying maturity during her brief two-song set. The first tune was “Almost There,” and her final tune was an original uplifting tune entitled, “You Can Make It.” After her set, she put on her Entertainment Journalist Hat to interview her fellow performers.

Spoken word/hip-hop artist Medusa made a return engagement to the festival to lay down some original lyrics with Mix Mistress at the control panels of the turntables. The festival attendees were captivated with her lyrics on “Medusa,” “Know Thyself,” “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life,” and she closed with “I Got My Mommas Hustle.”

X-Man performed “The 24th Letter,” a thumping bass solo to open for Saba, Saba, Saba Saba fromUgandarocked the festival with some original music from Uganda; with a fusion of African beats and reggae on “Wansi Wagulu,” “Harambe” with Jamaican vocalist Edi and “Babuze/Tujjababya.”

N-Circle, (formerly The Full Circle Band) featuring T.C.Moses, and Andre Delano, played a tight set of classic R&B tunes and contemporary smooth jazz tunes to close out day one of the festival. Guest were invited to extend their enjoyment of the festival by visiting the various venues inLeimertParkVillagefor “Leimert Park After Dark.”

Sunday, the festival got under way with Traditional African Drumming. FM Radio KLIQ – streamed live from the festival on September 2nd and Monday, September 3rd. Early arrivals to the festival were led in an hour long Yoga session taught by Kali Sampson; Yoga Instructor and Wellness counselor.

The Poetry and Spoken Word Showcased got really deep with the poetry recitations provided by Marsalis and Alice The Poet; followed by another hilarious round of comedy of The Mooney Twins.

Sankofa Sunday is a solemn remembrance to show respect to those who have transitioned since last years’ festival.

Harmony Bailey returned to perform again to the delight of the audience. Popular vocalist and Star Search Winner, Beau Williams, wowed the crowd with some classic R&B tunes during his crowd pleasing set. He performed superbly on “Your Love is Lifting me Highter,” “The Greatest Gift from God to Man Is a Women,” “Try a Little Tenderness,” “I Love You For More Than Sentimental Reasons,” “Darling You Send Me,” “Love Train,” and “A Change is Gonna Come” as an encore.

Azar Lawrence is another amazing jazz saxophonist fromLos Angeles. Mr.Lawrence and his group with internationally known drummer Alfonse Mouzon provided some refreshing straight-ahead jazz on this cool Sunday afternoon. They performed “India,” “LA Bossa,” and “Summer Soulstice.” The band consisted of Azar Lawrence-sax,Alfonse Mouzon on drums, Trevor Ware-bass, Onaje Murray-vibes and Munyungo Jackson on percussion. Wadada closed out day two of the festival with an energetic set of infectious reggae grooves. “Leimert Park After Dark” continued into the late evenings for people who wanted to extend their enjoyment of the festival.

I returned for the final day of the festival on Monday, September 3rd to go on an adventuresome, spiritual journey with Nasambu and the Mystic Nomads. This tight band fired up the festival with a high octane, electrifying set of original tunes that had the audience dancing throughout their set. Their infectious set list consisted of “Amandla,” “Mystic Nomads,” “Other Shore/Siri,” “Chunga Maisha,” “Jua,” and “Pesa” from their debut CD Activate Africa.

Kamasi Washington & The Next Step Band, and The Pan African People’s Arkestra entertained the crowd with some originals and jazz standards during their respective sets.

The festivals’ Cultural Marketplace was bursting at the seams with unique, one of a kind fine art including paintings, art, quilts, wood carvings and authentic African artifacts. The Marketplace also featured women’s hats, dresses, purses, shoes, jewelry, T-shirts, and more.

The 4th Annual Leimert Park Village African Art and Music Festival was a fun-filled outing for the entire family and community. The Leimert Park Group has continuously established the festival as the premier “go to” event for Labor Day Weekend in Leimert Park Village.

The 4th Annual Leimert Park Village African Art and Music Festival sponsors include Union Bank, the office of Los Angeles City Council President Herb J. Wesson, Jr., 10th District Council member, the office of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, 2nd District, Pucker Up Lemonade, McDonald’s, Superior Grocers, Caremore, Professional Products Unlimited, Inc., Curls Unleased, Piccolo Books, Community Build, Inc., The Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Pacifica Radio Station KPFk 90.7, and KLIQ Radio.

Ricky Richardson is a Southern California-based writer, music reviewer, and photographer. Contact him via: [email protected].