Author Archives: Dulani Wallace

The Most Honourable Edward Seaga:
The TVD Interview

Reggae Golden Jubilee: Origins of Jamaican Music, 50th Anniversary features 100 of Jamaica’s most significant hit songs. The importance of this collection is not to sell units but to emblazon Jamaican music as a major brand of the nation. Released by VP Records, this compilation, which features greats such as Desmond Dekker, Bob Marley, and Yellowman, also marks the 50th anniversary of the island nation’s independence from the British Empire.

Handpicked by ex-Prime Minister, the Honourable Edward Seaga, each song on Jubilee is a musical roadmap of Jamaican music, from ska and rocksteady, to roots and dancehall. To Mr. Edward Seaga, the term “reggae” is as much a misnomer as it is a generalization. He personally played a key role in the development of the Jamaican music industry. Mr. Seaga selected the tracks, wrote the package liner notes, and added foot note annotations.

We were very humbled to have the former Jamaican Labour Party leader take a moment to chat amid preparations for Hurricane Sandy.

Tell me about your pre-political days, as a music producer, and the beginnings of popular reggae.

Well, after I graduated from Harvard, I went back to Jamaica to do an anthropological study of the folk culture on Jamaican society. It’s what the British call the Jewel society. I didn’t really know too much about the other. I decided I wanted to cross “the bridge” to the folk society to learn about it.

I learned about [Jamaican folk] music as well as all the aspects of their society. I published an album through Folk Police Records. It was a commercial effort.  I went out to become a producer by setting up a plan. This happened at the same time Jamaican popular music was beginning to emerge in a sense that there were Jamaican composers and Jamaican singers.

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This Vinyl Earth:
A 3D LP Made in Japan

I hate to burst your sphere… but if you thought that lapis lazuli globe you scored on eBay was something, let the sound of the earth bend your ear. 

Over the last four years, designer Yuri Suzuki travelled the world with a recording device and unique vision that became the most original translation of sound you have ever heard. Equally unimaginable is the product the Japanese designer created: a three-dimensional vinyl LP pressed with the recordings, harnessed like a scale model of the earth. As the record spins, the needle plays the distinct music of the world; it was henceforth named The Sound of Earth.

Filmmaker Alice Masters depicts the artwork in a short film.

Though visually arresting, this project falls somewhere between an exhibition and iteration. Suzuki apparently worked on the idea as part of beta phase software that would be smart enough to map record sounds on to the 3D surface. With the help of Tokyo-based engineers, he developed a spherical track-cutting machine that brought life to the project.

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TVD Ticket Giveaway:
Beats, Bass and Brau at UHall, 10/18

On Thursday, October 18, Fort Knox Recordings and DC Brau present a Beats, Bass and Brau. This special event will showcase two UK producers, some DC all-stars and a brand new specialty drink called the “Grand Citizen.” This show goes down at U Street Music Hall.

Aside from our local favorites Fort Knox Five,  Thunderball, and DJ Slant, Bailey and Boca 45 will bring the funk from the Queen’s land.  From London,  former BBC 1Xtra radio station host Bailey has parlayed his deft ear and personality to drum ‘n’bass regality. A resident and events host at Metalheadz ​(a pioneering drum ‘n’ bass label)​, Bailey has toured the world heavily over the past twenty years (and here in DC).

Though Bailey gained footing in the drum’n’bass scene, he’s spent the past 10 years recording tracks for labels including C.I.A, Roni Size’s Full Cycle, and A Guy Called Gerald’s Protechshon.

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The TVD Interview
and Giveaway:
Easy Star All-Stars at Howard Theatre, 10/7

“One of the reasons I got into reggae is because it made sense to me, lyrically.”Michael Goldwasser.

Nearly ten years of cutting-edge reggae tribute albums bring the Easy Star All-Stars to the forefront again. In August, the release of ​Thrillah ​hit stores and web. A rhythmic nod to the Michael Jackson’s earth-shattering, 29× platinum album Thriller​, Michael Goldwasser and the Easy Star All-Stars reconstruct the polished production into something irie. They will perform with The Aggrolites at the Howard Theatre, this Sunday October 7th.

I asked Goldwasser—mastermind, producer and the son of a rabbi, to give me a little backdrop on what I think is the core of reggae: spirituality and the link between Judaism and Rastafarianism.

Goldwasser starts, “A lot of Bob Marley’s lyrics and Dennis Brown’s lyric are translations from the Jewish bible. It totally makes since because ‘rastafari’ is steeped in Jewish scriptures. A lot of the lyrics from Marley are from the Tehillim [Psalms] with his own interpretation. When I reason with my Rastafari brethren, we can talk about [the Jewish-Rastafari connection] because we have a shared vocabulary.”

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The TVD Interview
and Ticket Giveaway:
Congo Sanchez with Thievery Corporation at the Fairgrounds, 9/15

Congo Sanchez is like the polyrhythm of the Washington, DC music scene. He is well-versed in world music and sounds and a fan of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti. He is studied in percussion, symphonics, and electronica. Sanchez is a favored go-to producer for dance bands and international music ensembles. In addition to releasing his own work, the wunderkind contributed to The Empresarios’ Bestia EP, Funk Ark’s From the Rooftops, and Thievery Corporation’s Culture of Fear. In April, Congo Sanchez’s EP, Vol. 1, was released on ESL Music.

This Saturday, September 15th, you’ll get a chance to hear him perform with Gogol Bordello, Michael Franti with Spearhead, Thievery Corporation and others at the Fairgrounds, near Nationals Park.

Sanchez is thoughtful young man with a crafty, DIY approach to music-making. We chatted about Afrobeat, the vinyl record industry, and how he came of age in the DC post-funk movement. He reminisced on cultivating his musical roots while a college student in Indiana. “I’ve always been attracted to music and playing music and learning how to re-create the sounds I’m listening to. As a student I got a lot of experience under my belt as far as playing in the orchestra and certain jazz settings.”

When Sanchez got back to DC, he began producing beats and tracks with his college bandmates for demos. He laughs, “I developed a little addiction to the studio and started to get my hands dirty, focused on recording. I got into producing by doing demos, experimenting with my band to get better gigs.”

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TVD Ticket Giveaway: John Legend at DAR Constitution Hall, 10/22

John Legend leads by example. Behind the boyishly handsome face is a mind bent on leadership. The son of a seamstress and a veteran National Guardsman, Legend was homeschooled as a child and nurtured his musical talent then. As an adult, the nine-time Grammy winner has taken the philosophical layer of classical soul and made it part of his mission.

Last weekend, on his Facebook page, Legend announced he’s heading on tour this fall. The tour kicks off on the east coast, and he’ll be making a stop in DC at DAR Constitution Hall on October 22nd!

Tickets for the show will go on sale this Friday, Aug 17th, at 10 AM through Ticketmaster, but we’ve got your chance to win a pair of tickets before you can even buy them.

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TVD Recommends: Tropical Boom featuring Empresarios and more at UHall, tonight, 7/3

Tonight, July 3rd, at the U Street Music Hall, will mark the day when Latin, dub, reggae and funk get shaken up to the tune of Tropical Bass.  The lineup, led by the Empresarios, also features Poirier, Boogat, Alma Tropicália, and more!

Coincidentally,  Empresarios will see the release of Volume EP today, the same day as the show.  The EP features “Rompan Fila,” a folksy Latin tune with articulate brass harmonies and a dub riddim.

Playing alongside them this evening is Alma Tropicália​, a psychedelic ’60s-era folk pop group who draws inspiration from Os Mutantes.  Having performed at the Hall before, Alma Tropicalia will keep the crowd footloose and energetic.

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Angel in the Machine: Disco, Electronica, and Donna Summer

News of Donna Summer’s death last Thursday struck an acute nerve within communities online and offline around the world. While the reaction was obvious, what might not have been in plain sight was Summer’s legacy of style and musical iteration. Her voice simmered within the partygoer’s nightlong urge to dance. With the help of an Italian-born producer, Giorgio Moroder, Summer created a partnership that culminated within a movement that served as one of the great artifacts of the 1970s: disco.

Before the famous NY Magazine “Tribal Rites” article and the “Tony Manero” character who was born of the piece, Donna Summer had already etched herself in nightlife culture. Her songs, most notably those overseen by Moroder, were appropriate for the times. The Seventies sought men, regardless of their sexual orientation, meticulously grooming and preening themselves in jump- and leisure suits. Women found their ground with wrap dresses, tube tops, and mini skirts. What you wore and said was very much like the disco movement: experimental.

Summer’s first album, Lady of the Night, didn’t a make much of splash on US and international charts. But in 1975, Moroder and Pete Bellotte, the Italian producer’s partner conceived a song for Summer, “Love to Love You Baby.” Lyric-wise, the song was very terse, yet the few words used were emphasized with sensual orgasmic moans. Summer’s Amazonian presence and breathy delivery were the perfect ingredients to Moroder’s feverishly sexual electronic high hats and funky loops. “Love to Love you Baby” became an epic romance tune this side of Barry White. On the album of the same name it clocked in at nearly seventeen minutes.

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Jacob Hemphill of SOJA: The TVD Interview and Vinyl Giveaway

According to SOJA’s Facebook page, ?uestlove has canceled his performance this Saturday at 9:30 Club due to a last-minute booking on Saturday Night Live. He’ll be missed. Biz Markie will perform instead, opening for the reggae band. Still, there will be two sold-out shows, this Friday and Saturday. Rootz Underground opens SOJA’s show on Friday (5/18), and Markie sets up shop for them on Saturday (5/19).—Ed.

Jacob Hemphill is a young man with deep, worldly wisdom. He is the lead of Arlington-based reggae band SOJA. Mr. Hemphill took a moment out of his Saturday afternoon to chat with us to talk work, his influences, living in Africa, and Bob Marley.

This year is a big one for the group. They’re in the midst of touring the continental United States, Canada, and Europe, throughout the spring and summer. Also, SOJA’s new album Strength to Survive is receiving rave critic and consumer reviews. Drawing inspiration from Bob Marley’s Survival, Strength is one of their most personal albums.

Tell me how SOJA came to be?

We started playing reggae in middle school and high school, me and Bobby Lee. We did talent shows while growing up. We stuck together. People thought we were good, and here we are!

How did reggae become your music of choice?

We were always into counterculture music. But reggae was the one the spoke for the little guy. I don’t know… it’s attractive. You got all your [other genres] here, and then you have reggae, which talks about people starving, people in the dark. This guy, Bob Marley, was not just talking about what goes on in his neighborhood, but he was talking about what’s going on in the world. We love that.

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Forever “Bustin’ Loose,” Farewell Chuck Brown

Chuck Brown was the metaphysical heart and soul of DC’s funk movement. He took derivative forms of soul music, jazz and R&B to a create a style of funk known as ‘go-go.’ Similar to reggae, go-go music is known, rhythmically, for its laid-back and syncopated groove. Brown stylized the sound with spicy percussion and funky guitar swings. He gave DC a righteous soundtrack.

Brown died yesterday in Baltimore, and fans from Tokyo to Texas responded with a spate of farewells and tributes.

I, personally, never met or didn’t know Mr. Brown. But it was evidenced many times his compassion for his fanbase especially here in DC. He was a homeboy, a native of the District who never stopped getting energized from performing a local venues before touring abroad.

Last month, I spoke to “Sir Joe” Quarterman who performed in battle-of-the-band style contests with Brown and his band, The Soul Searchers, in the 60s. Quarterman fondly reminisced on their musical battles, R&B versus go-go, promoted and broadcast on DC’s legendary WOL radio station and hosted by Carroll Hynson. Hynson, known to DC natives as Mr. C, helped paved the road for the shingly-voiced Brown and the Soul Searchers.

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Joe Quarterman: A TVD Q&A and The Funk Ark Vinyl Giveaway

The spotlight was first cast on Joe Quarterman in the early 1960s in Washington, DC, and he has quite the story to tell in words and in music of life in the District. With the help of ESL Music, Will Rast and the Funk Ark, “Sir Joe” makes a new splash this Saturday, May 12, at The Hamilton. The show also features Thievery Corporation saxophonist, Frank Mitchell, Jr.

I caught up with him over the phone, minutes before boarding a plane to Manchester, England where he was scheduled to play with Osaka Monaurail, a Japanese funk band.

“Sir Joe” is a busy man and his not making a comeback, per se. He’s being introduced to a new generation.

How did it all begin for you, Joe?

I had no formal training, just experience from being around various artists. I’d been playing professional trumpet since I was 16, and I played with a local band from Washington, DC called the El Corals and we backed up many acts that came to the DC. We played with Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Gladys Knight and the Pips… anybody who was performing during 1961 to about 1970 when I left the band.

How’d you keep up with all those acts?

We had discussions in the dressing room and rehearsal. You do what you can. You just pick up stuff, you know?

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TVD Ticket and Vinyl Giveaway: Nappy Riddem with Super Hi-Fi at Montserrat House, tomorrow 4/5

Tomorrow, April 5th, catch a fire at the Montserrat House!  Brooklyn-based Super Hi-Fi joins DC’s Nappy Riddem in a fanfare of dub and African rhythms.

Super Hi-Fi, the band led by Ezra Gale, evangelizes West African funk and jazz with a wildly popular revue called the “Afro-Dub Sessions.” The show features jam sessions with acts such as  Subatomic Sound System and Victor Axelrod (aka Ticklah). They’ve shared stages with psychedelic roots band Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad and other East Coast-based bands, such as Rubblebucket and Debo Band.

Hi-Fi’s talent doesn’t stop short of the band. Its members also lend their talents to bands such as the soulful Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, People’s Champs, Dub is A Weapon, Boy Without God, and Rubblebucket.

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DJ Camilo Lara of
the Mexican Institute
of Sound:
The TVD Interview

DJ Camilo Lara (above, left), the mastermind behind the Mexican Institute of Sound (MIS, Instituto Mexicano del Sonido), is a hip preservationist of Latin music. 

With MIS, Lara has found a beautiful connection among cumbia and mariachi and hip hop and rock. He also has a slant in the music business as president of EMI Mexico. His personal collection of vinyl albums is vast and includes works of major influence such as Kraftwerk, The Clash, and Animal Collective. MIS just finished their new album, Politico, which will be released this summer.

MIS’s Indie Music Award-winning third release, Soy Sauce, was recorded with a live band and vocals. Sauce is a jovial blend of an experimental electronica, slick hip hop beats, and traditional Latin American arrangements. Keep an ear out for a catchy mariachi cover of The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony.”

Tomorrow, March 17th, the Mexican Institute of Sound will perform in the ballroom at Artisphere in Arlington. Doors open at 7:30pm, and the show starts at 8pm. Tickets are $20, or $18 for students and seniors.

Lara took a moment out of his busy schedule to chat with me.

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LLF Kickstarter Effort Takes Them to SXSW, March Showcase & Panel Announced

“So basically we’re making a food truck, that serves music!” —Chris Naoum

The founders of Listen Local First understand the effects of the triple bottom line. They have a strategy that can be summarized in one word: exposure. Inspired by the Eat Local/Buy Local movement, LLF rounds up the trifecta of social, environmental, and financial goals in an effort to create sustainability within DC’s community of musicians and music lovers. Local businesses involved have spread music like the gospel.

Now Chris Naoum and Rene Moffatt are upping the ante. They launched a Kickstarter campaign to create an experience dubbed a “Mobile Music Venue.” Instead of using a stationary venue for play and promotion, the LLF team will travel by van with a sound system with a portable backline and employ a video team to drive down to the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas (March 13-18).

Along the way and at SXSW, the team will document their journey to share to the blogosphere. Like guerrilla filmmakers, the LLF team will host a number of pop-up showcases and document the live music performances of local DC bands for a web series and short documentary about LLF and DC music. They used the Kickstarter network to raise $5000 before the March 5th deadline to fund the trip out West.  Though anyone can contribute (minimum suggested pledge $5), LLF also encourages traditional word-of-mouth and social media promotion. There is a prize associated with every unit of donation, so keep on donating! As of today, LLF is $500 above their goal.

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TVD Live: Galactic
at the 9:30 Club, 2/23

Funk band Galactic has an uncanny ability to create a musical canvas that could lend itself to other styles of music.

This technique is very casual as you watch them play. One moment, a band member or guest commandeers a horn, and then he or she is prone to transition to jazz vocals or staccato rap verses. It’s a natural movement intrinsic to the New Orleans band. And they were generous to the crowd last Thursday night at the 9:30 Club.

There was a royal, luminescent “G” that sat high above the bands. So, by time Galactic began their set it almost glistened a little brighter than for their opener. Trombonist Corey Henry from Rebirth Brass Band led the wild, riffy, musical unrest with the arm of a marksman. This young man was able to bend a note into taffy. He hardly broke a sweat as he went into a spiritual possession, articulating notes at the speed of greased lightning. The comfort level in the crowd was convivial and worldly. Henry channeled the mastery of James Brown’s session trombonist, Fred Wesley.

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