Summertime is alive and well in Los Angeles and along with it comes some of the most enjoyable events you can experience, the KCRW Sound in Focus concert series at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City was indeed one of them. The event included the Annenberg's Refugee photo exhibit and a musical lineup of Classixx, Brazilian Girls and Senegalese veteran Baaba Maal.
One of my greatest adorations for the Los Angeles community at large is just that- it's a community. A community of internationally diverse, intellectual, eclectic, vibrant people from all walks of life coming together for the purpose of enjoyment. It's moments like this that make me embrace my love for Los Angeles all over again. You see and hear of all the unrest that's going on in the country and world wide, and then you come to an event such as this and it's evidence that a world community can coexist in peace, love and harmony.
This xylophone driven house music provided the best vibe for an opener. Fresh off an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, this group really set the tone for the evening, right down to the signage dancer holding down the right side of the stage. From their opening number Grecian Summer, all you could see were smiles, dancing, heads bopping and full food lines. This was a very danceable instrumental tune. There's been a void in the music scene for instrumental tunes outside of jazz and reggae dub for far too long. The second song, I'll Get You, was one of those songs that keeps your body rocking along with funk-induced overtones – nice!
During their third number, In these Fine Times, I made my way to the front and center of the stage. I like to be down front because that's where one is truely immersed between both the band and the direct feedback of the crowds' energy, where you really feel the music. The falsetto vocals really carried this track, reminiscent of a soundtrack to which some of the best times of a summer are recalled. It was an easy-going party song, nothing overt, but great music for a gathering of friends, family or if you're with that someone special. A solid opening set from Classixx.
Evoking more of an indie-pop dance sound, Brazilian Girls now had a lot of the crowd on their feet. Lead singer Sabina Sciubba has a definite stage presence that's as eye-catching as it is infectious. Their music evokes an almost electro-beatnik sound, described by some as "dance-punk". In their set, they performed an early career hit from 2004's self released Lazy Lover EP that took fans back.
Turning from the stage toward the audience was enough to make a person pause and gander at the sea of multi-cultural faces. The face of Los Angeles is beautiful and it comes to light at each and every summer event and festival.
I took time out to stroll the Refugee exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography which is well worth the visit. The New Americans exhibit and others from countries all around the world capture people displaced from their native environments. Watching the attendees connect with the exhibits emotionally was beautiful – beautiful in that people still have and express feelings. To walk out and see a cultural representation of all those exhibits, whether directly or indirectly, together, as one on the lawn would show that the exhibit was reflective of the audience. Once again, Angelenos serve as proof that the world community can unite.
I wish all the attendees had seen the exhibit, because it was about you L.A. You don't know how beautiful a city and community you are. You don't know how rare and lucky you are – don't take it for granted!
The lead-in music had folks dancing and stepping, I loved the video wallpaper of the old-school toy robot collage playing to the African rhythms as the man of the hour took the stage. Received by a standing-room only crowd, Baaba Maal was draped in a beautiful silk baby blue full-length dashiki interlaced with a gold checkered pattern. His rhythms and native sounds uplifted the spirits, as would a native calling. There was even a little girl on her father's shoulders shouting "Baa-ba, Baa-ba".
During his set, he delivered a relevant, eye opening message about conflicts when it comes to traveling abroad. It was interesting to hear about the current events from an international artist's perspective. He made a call to action for all to influence the leaders of the world.
His guitar licks had the sound of Paul Simon's Graceland. His crisp native nasal sound was soothing and unifying with native chants, poignant lyrics, and the talking drum, his set was truly inspirational.
The whole evening was one to be proud of as a people. Thank you KCRW, thank you Annenberg Foundation and thank you Los Angeles...for being you.
Review by Kevin Bruce
Photos by Tommy Rillorta
Full Event Photo Gallery: Sound In Focus: Baaba Maal, Classix & Brazilian Girls