*Los Angeles -The weekend of January 17th-19th is designated as Martin Luther King, Jr., Day Weekend. There are events scheduled all across the United States to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Locally, The Music Center marked the occasion with a special musical performance that Promote Peace, Harmony and Understanding. This special performance, part of the dynamic cultural program, World City was held outdoors, in the W.M. Keck Children’s Amphitheater of the Walt Disney Concert Hall at The Music Center. The featured performers were Samite and H’SAO.
Barbara Leonard, Senior Director, Programming, welcomed the large diverse crowd of families to the 12th Season of World City. Mrs. Leonard stated “World City has showcased performances from 150 different countries, representing 80 different cultures. She was excited to introduce the artists to the captivated crowd, the first World City performance of the New Year.
The program got underway with a fun, engaging set by Samite, who is a funny storyteller. Renowned musician Samite was born as raised in Uganda, where his grandfather taught him to play the traditional flute. Samite is known for his smooth vocals accompanied by various instruments, Kalimba, Marimba, Litungu (Kenyan harp), and various flutes. The crowd serves as a choir as Samite engaged the crowd with some call and response throughout his set on the tunes “Kambu,” “Awgeu,” “Mwatu,” “Ani Oyo,” “Esawayo,” and “Waterfalls.” Samite was the subject of the PBS documentary Song of the Refugee and is founder of Musicians for World Harmony, an organization dedicated to helping musicians around the globe promote peace and understanding through their music.
H’SAO, is a Montreal-based band originally from Chad. They have travelled the world delivering electrifying performances and developing a musical signature that spans several genres. They were happy to be in beautiful, sunny, Southern California, compared to the 21 degrees below back home in Canada. They shared with the crowd an example of their high-octane energetic performances. I was reminded of some the earlier doo wop groups, as H’SAO, defined by the strength of voices and impressive a Capella harmonies demonstrated on their two opening tunes “Baba,” and “Kouman-Moulo-Muolo.” They added guitar on “Fatima.” The group incorporated their instruments, Caleb (guitar), Mossbass (bass), Izra (keyboards), and Dono (drums), throughout the next two tunes “Allah ni ke oywa” (meaning Do You Hear Us? A question directed to God), and “La vie est belle (Show us You are Alive). Their harmonious a Capella voices was showcased again on “Ngoursarob,” and “One Love” which was a fitting tune for Martin Luther King, Jr., Day Weekend. This was truly an unforgettable performance by H’SAO as they shared a splendid set of Afro-fusion, Afro-jazz (gospel, soul, R&B, reggae and Chadian music). H’SAO has toured to Europe, African, Asia, Australia and the Americas, notably playing for the Queen of England on Canada Day. H’SAO’s 2013 album Oria, addresses universal themes of Peace, Social Justice, Religion and Love.
Two world renowned visual artists complimented this performance of World City. Dr. Craig Woodson has a Ph.D. from UCLA in music with a specialization in ethnomusicology, music education and musical instrument technology. In 1976, he founded Ethnomusic, Inc., a world music education consultancy, that presents multi-cultural instrument making, educational concerts, school programs and professional development. Dr. Woodson led hands on art program, whereby families were taught how to make a miniature Kalimba instrument.
Dale Guy Madison is an artist, educator, writer, actor, filmmaker and nationally recognized doll making designer. As a former host for the QVC Network, he produced and hosted the first all Afro-Centric programming at QVC, creating his first line of dolls to complement the original costumes he designed for his African storytelling company. Umoja SaSa! Madison has toured the country winning awards for his dolls in black doll shows and has exhibited and taught doll workshops at William Grant Still Museum and The Village of Ed Gould Plaza.
World City-discover rich cultural traditions from around the globe right at The Music Center. World City brings internationally acclaimed artists representing a kaleidoscope of cultures and art-making workshops.
World City at The Music Center is supported in part by The Jill & Curtis Kaufman Fund, Macy’s, Sue Tsao, and The Kenneth T. & Eileen L. Norris Foundation, KCRW, NBC4, and Telemundo T52.
For more information about World City and other programs and events, visit musiccenter.org or call (213)972-4396.
Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based writer, music reviewer and photographer. Contact him via: [email protected].