Rhythm Planet’s August Concert Picks

Banner image: Peter Mawaga (Photo by Bruce J. Depyssler, courtesy of the Skirball Cultural Center)

August has arrived, and that means summer is racing by fast. Check-out these hot local events and enjoy the warm summer nights while they last!

Thursday, August 2 | Peter Mawanga | Skirball Cultural Center (Sepulveda Pass)

I haven’t heard much music that comes to us from Malawi. I’m most familiar with the Malawi Mouse Boys, who wowed L.A. and other cities while on tour a few years ago. Malawi, a landlocked nation in southeast Africa, is much less known than its neighbors, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. So it’s a rare treat to see Malawian singer and social activist Peter Mawanga on tour in his first visit to Los Angeles. Mawanga has been called “the voice of the voiceless.” Mixing traditional and contemporary instruments, his music combines African rhythms with socially conscious messages. His album Mau A Malawi highlights the problem of AIDS in the impoverished nation. This FREE concert is part of the Skirball’s lovely Sunset Concerts series, now in its 22nd season. A DJ set by dublab’s Chief Boima precedes the show. Click HERE for more information. Be sure to check out the remaining concerts in the series, including the show on August 16 with Ranky Tanky, a favorite of mine.

Saturday, August 4 | Yosvany Terry Afro-Cuban Quintet (Presented by the Jazz Bakery) | Moss Theater (Santa Monica)

Yosvany Terry, along with Paquito D’Rivera, counts as one of Cuba’s best alto saxophone players. Some stellar talent joins Terry in this show at the acoustically-superb Moss Theater in Santa Monica: Haitian-American drummer Obed Calvaire, Cuban pianist Manuel Valera, and the fine New York-based trumpeter Michael Rodriguez. Yosvany’s younger brother, Yunior Terry, handles bass duties. Cuban musicians make exceptional music. Classically trained and schooled, they are virtuosos who blend European with African traditions, in a musical synergy that pulses with excitement and surprise. Click HERE for tickets and more information.

Saturday, August 11 | Hamilton de Holanda & Roberta Sá with special guest Rogê | Moss Theater (Santa Monica)

To be honest, I’m not usually a big fan of the mandolin. I had plenty of it way back in the 1980’s with David Grisman and all the musicians making what was then called “Dawg” music. I feel differently, however, with Brazilian Hamilton de Holanda. His virtuosity on the small guitar is astounding—he shines on any musical style, be it northeastern Brazilian forró from Recife, samba, bossa nova, Bach or Mozart. His formidable technique has won him fans in the U.S., Japan, and throughout Europe. Singer Roberta Sá, who hails from Natal, Brazil, and Rio’s samba star Rogê will join him in this special show. Click HERE for tickets and more information.

Here are Hamilton de Holanda and Roberta Sá performing the joyful love song “Pra se Ter Alegria.” I love her voice!

Friday, August 17 | Very Be Careful & Weapons of Mass Creation | Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles (MacArthur Park)

Vallenato, along with salsa and cumbia, is one of the great musical gifts Colombia has bequeathed to the world. A little like country music, vallenato sounds more folky and home-spun than salsa, and perhaps more “old-fashioned” than cumbia. Los Angeles’s own vallenato group, Very Be Careful, with its hand percussion and soulful accordion, will surely get everybody dancing in MacArthur Park. This concert is FREE; click HERE for more information.

Watch this video and see what I’m talking about. This clip comes from a concert in Bogotá, Colombia:

Just as an aside, I remember learning during my teaching days at UCLA how various drug lords in Colombia had their preferences with music. If a kingpin who preferred cumbia fell from power (or was just knocked off), a new boss who liked vallenato would help that style suddenly become the dominant genre. And so on, back and forth…yikes!

Saturday, August 25 | El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico | UCLA Royce Hall (Presented by LA Diosa Entertainment) (Westwood)

The salsa orchestra El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico formed in 1962 in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. One of the best and most famous salsa bands to ever come off la isla, they’ve been together for over 50 years in various incarnations and continue to be adored by dancers and fans of tropical Latin music. They play sell-out shows in New York City and have toured all over the world for years. With 13 members, El Gran Combo is a big band with a big sound. Click HERE for tickets and more information.

This track comes from an earlier album where the band is having fun with the photo session:

Tuesday, August 28 | Guinga | Bluewhale (Downtown)

Rio de Janeiro-based Guinga is one of Brazil’s most interesting composers today. He was born Carlos Althier de Souza Lemos Escobar in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro in 1950. His friends called him “Gringo” because of his pale skin, and gringo in Brazilian Portuguese sounds like “Guinga,” so the nickname stuck. Starting in the mid-1970’s, he worked full-time as a dentist and played guitar and composed in his spare time. His music career finally eclipsed his dental one in the early 1990’s. Guinga’s music spins a dense, complex contrapuntal web. His superb guitar technique makes him a favorite hire for top singers such as Leila Pinheiro and Ivan Lins, and he even worked once with Michel Legrand. He has emerged as one of Brazil’s most innovative songwriters. To hear him in an intimate venue like Little Tokyo’s Bluewhale is an opportunity not to be missed. Click HERE for tickets and more information.

In the videos below, Guinga performs a duet on his composition “Baião de Lacan” with fellow Brazilian guitarist Lula Galvão, followed by a solo performance of his song “Sargento Escobar”: