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Global Sounds of Drums & Jazz at Watts Towers Art Center

From traditional Yoruba drumming to the sounds of Colombia, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Senegal, West Africa

By Ricky Ricardo
Published on LatinoLA: October 9, 2012


Global Sounds of Drums & Jazz at Watts Towers Art Center


The City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), and The Friends of Watts Towers Art Center presented the 31st Annual Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival, Saturday, September 29 and Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival, Sunday, September 30, 2012.The Watts Towers Art Center/The First 51 Years: 1961-2012. "Where Truth and Arts Connects."

The Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival is dedicated to percussion and traditional roles of drums in society. The day got under way with a Blessing of the grounds and an energetic set by Cuauhtemoc Mexica Dance Group (pictured) in a program that was a synthesis of Pre-Columbian and contemporary music and dance of the ancient Mexican tradition.

The drum journey continued to North India with an mesmerizing set of music provided by Maestro Debasish Chaudhuri on tabla drums with Javad Aly Butah on harmonium.

Additional frequent flyer miles were used to take the drums to another journey to Brazil. Carlinous Pandeiro De Ouro on vocals along with Kleber Jorge on guitar, Munyungo Jackson on percussion, Simon Carrol on drums,and Gibi Bahia on percussions.The drums traveled to several regions of Brazil with the tunes "Coisinha do Pai," "Mangueira," and "Tristeza" to name a few.

The drums continued to travel to Cuba for a spirited performance by Juan Carlos Blanco & Omo Ache Afro Cuban Music & Dance Company.The performance consisted of the tunes and dance to "Elleggua," "Babaluaiye," "Rumba," and Franco Haitian "Gaga."

Munyungo Jackson presenting "The African Diaspora" completed the trifecta of international travel for the drums.Their high octane set features sounds of Colombia, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Senegal, West Africa.

Ndugu Chancler's "Drum Set at 60". This set celebrated Ndugu's 60th birthday with some of his fellow drummers, Washington Rucker, Marvin "Smitty" Smith, and Robert Miller Jr., to wrap up a magnificent day with a crowd pleasing set of some splendid drumming.

I returned to the Watts Towers Art Center on Sunday for the 36th Annual Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival.The crowd and I were rewarded with some exhilarating performances on this hot Sunday afternoon. Alaadun opened the show with traditional Yoruba drumming to perform Libation and Blessing of the grounds.

Watts-Willowbrook Conservatory is a program designed to transform the lives and minds of young people in South Los Angeles,Compton and Watts-Willowbrook communities through high quality music education.The results of their music education was on display as the amazing youngster who are part of the Watts-Willowbrook Conservatory String Ensemble performs some thrilling classical and contemporary compositions to the delight of their parents and the audience.The group were assisted by Joe Taylor and Carol Dobbs on piano.Billy Mitchell is the Program Director of the Watts-Willowbrook Conservatory.

The Watts-Willowbrook Conservatory String Ensemble served as a perfect seque for Quattro. This four piece group performed an engaging set of classical music with a new twist fusing Latin, pop and jazz.

The international reach of jazz was showcased with a set of straight-ahead jazz featuring Andrea Marcelli Trio performing some jazz standards and original tunes.The group consisted of Andrea Marcelli on drums, Mitch Forman on piano and Alphonso Johnson on bass.This part of the program was sponsored in part by Italian Consulate General of Los Angeles and the Instituto Italiano di Cultura.

The stage was set on fire with the fiery set of blues provided by Ray Bailey Trio,with embers continuing to flare up with some straight-ahead jazz of The Azar Lawrence Ensemble. The festival concluded on the front burners with a scorching set featuring The Jazz Mentorship All-Stars featuring Patrice Rushen, Ndugu Chancler, Dr.Bobby Rodriquez, Justo Almario, Munyungo Jackson and Reggie Hamilton.

Additional activities taken place both days of the festival consisted of guided tours of Watts Towers of Simon Rodia, Drum Pavilion, Universal Drum Circle lead by Matt Gibson III, Kehinde-Stiltwalker, and tours of Noah Purifoy Gallery, Charles Mingus Gallery, Dr.Joseph & Bootsie Howard Gallery and Supervised Children's Activities.

Genuine fun was had by all in attendance all weekend.

About Ricky Ricardo:
Ricky Ricardo is a Southern California based writer,music reviewer and photographer.




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