This Friday night, the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles will continue its late-night Sleepless concert series with a night at Walt Disney Concert Hall dedicated to the music and culture of hip-hop.
Sleepless is a series of events, curated and organized by the Music Center, Dublab, ArtDontSleep and Monalisa, that aims to draw a younger, more diverse cross-section of Los Angeles into the Music Center, Disney Hall and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion by having DJs, producers and musicians take over the space "after hours" (in this case, from 11:30 p.m. to 3 a.m.). Past Sleepless events have included hip-hop music, but this is the first time the theme will explicitly be about showcasing all that hip-hop culture encompasses.
“The Music Center is normally known as a place for classical, choral and avant-garde music, and what we essentially want to do is connect the past of the Music Center with the present, with new audiences,” says Alejandro Cohen, executive director of Dublab and one of the organizers of Sleepless. “The focus really is on audiences that may not have experienced the Music Center before.”
Even regular Music Center attendees might be surprised at the freedom, fun and playfulness that’s allowed at what sometimes can seem like an imposingly straitlaced venue. At past Sleepless events, audiences have been greeted with bean bag chairs and pillows and invited to lie down in the Pavilion's Stern Grand Hall while a DJ spun records.
For this Sleepless event, in addition to more traditional hip-hop DJ sets, Dublab DJ and veteran promoter Rani de Leon is putting together a showcase of international hip-hop sounds from countries as far-flung as Brazil, Kenya and the Philippines, featuring DJ sets by such global-minded jocks as DJ Arshia, Hashim B and T-kay.
“Hip-hop is obviously a product of this country," Cohen says. “But over the years it’s gone on to have such a prominent voice in other countries. It’s used for political activism … and it’s given a voice to many, the same type of voice it gave to people here in the United States. And they have their own style, they’re not just trying to imitate American hip-hop, and we needed to give a nod to that as well.”
Maybe the most surprising inclusion on the event list is a scheduled DJ set by L.A. experimental music duo Lucky Dragons, who are more known for their cut-up, experimental music than for hip-hop.
“Lucky Dragons was my way of throwing a curveball,” Cohen explains. “There will be dancers, hip-hop dancers who are going to be dancing to mixes made by Lucky Dragons of classical and choral music. Not remixed classical music, or classical music with a beat — just classical and choral music mixed by Lucky Dragons. Again, we wanted to make the connection of music and dance to the history of the Music Center. It is all connected.”
Tiffany "Jimini" Bong is one of those dancers who will be appearing at the Sleepless event, with her dance crew. She's also a teaching artist at the Music Center, which sends her out to elementary, middle and high schools across the county to teach hip-hop dance.
“Bringing the dance crews in is a great idea,” Bong says. “I think they want to make it more organic, so the DJ’s going to drop something and we’re going to just do our thing. I think it’s really special to be able to do it on such a special stage, and it’s just a opportunity for us to open up to new audiences. I mean, my whole life changed when I saw hip-hop dance at an assembly performance in the sixth grade. I’m telling you, my body and soul activated, and it only took five minutes!”
In addition to DJs and dance crews, this edition of Sleepless will feature live graffiti art by the Gr818ers and a street-art photography installation by Pocho One, to give as full a representation of hip-hop culture as possible.
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For a longtime hip-hop advocate like Bong, seeing the Music Center open its doors to the culture on such a grand scale is a big deal. “The story of hip-hop is about the marginalized people, and those that are not accepted, finding each other and accepting ourselves," she says. "And now, globally we’re accepted. Where at first doors were closed to us, now they’re opening stages all across the world to us.”
Sleepless: The Music Center After Hours/Hip-Hop Special Edition takes place Friday, June 17, at Walt Disney Concert Hall, as part of a four-day hip-hop celebration at the Music Center. Tickets on sale today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. via musiccenter.org.