Interplay – Hieroglyphics

Hieroglyphics logo

Hieroglyphics is an Oakland-based musical collective of underground hip-hop artists whose individual careers skyrocketed in the early 90′s, but later came together to form their own group and hip hop recording label to take control of their careers. Since its evolution in 1997, Hieroglyphics has matured into a preeminent force in the american hip hop scene and is one of the most prolific groups that hails from the Bay Area. As a participating act in this season’s local artist commission series, members of the 9-piece Hiero crew came together to create a new song inspired by the theme “Interplay: In Concert with Nature”. The piece will debut this Sunday, July 3, on stage at Stern Grove Festival.

We were invited to visit and interview original Hiero members Casual and Phesto Dee (also of Souls of Mischief) at their Oakland warehouse and recording space. Listen below for their perspectives on being an artist in the Bay Area, performing at Stern Grove Festival, and what words of advice they have for young musicians.

Interplay – Bayonics, “Abajo Del Sol”

For decades, generations of families from the Bay Area and beyond have looked to Stern Grove Festival as both a source of entertainment and an opportunity for families to experience music from a wide variety of cultures.

Quite often the same kids who grew up coming to the Festival every summer return as adults to perform on our stage. Stern Grove Festival is proud to provide this opportunity for local artists, and Bayonics — a local group participating in this season’s commission series — is no exception. Some of the band’s members have attended the Festival’s admission-free shows their entire lives and drew from these memories when brainstorming their new song, “Abajo Del Sol”.

As one of the 10 local performing groups participating in the commission series, Bayonics was asked to craft this new piece inspired by the theme, “Interplay: In Concert with Nature”. We had a chance to chat with Bayonics’ lead singer, Rojai, on the group’s experience participating in the commission and on their upcoming performance, when they open for funk legends George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic at 2 p.m. this Sunday, June 26. Read Rojai’s feedback below and watch the video clip to get a glimpse of their new song.


Stern Grove Festival: This commission is a new experience for you as an artist. What did you anticipate being the most challenging aspect of it, and what are you most excited about with this process?

Rojai: We would say this is a fairly new challenge for us. Stern Grove provides a diverse forum for artists to display their art and talents. Coming from San Francisco and being a household name for the last two decades, I would say the challenge was how we would approach this project in terms of genres specifically, because we play a wide range of music and we wanted to make sure that it was all encompassed in the experience of being at Stern Grove. Finally, we decided to write a song with more of a celebratory “feel good” vibe, and we identified each of our positive experiences of being at this amazing concert series in the past. The exciting part of this process was getting together and witnessing the development and growth of the song we wrote together as a group. I definitely feel that this allowed us to become stronger as a group, get on the same page, and have the results sounding super fresh!

SGF: The commission focuses on the relationship between the artist and the environment. How does the environment/venue you perform in influence your creative choices and how does it influence how you interact with the audience?

R: We were able to make the connection between the unique relationships at the Festival by having first-hand experience at the Festival our entire lives. We view Stern Grove as the city’s oasis — a place where people get to escape their daily grind and be free with shoes off in the grass. Where they get together with friends and neighbors and enjoy a free concert while dancing and singing along. Basically, allowing nature and love to inspire positivity. The connection with the audience is an experience for being in the crowd and onstage. Obviously the world is going through tough times and this is exactly what our society needs. To encourage love and respect and freedom.

SGF: A major part of Stern Grove Festival’s mission is providing free access to the performing arts for the public, often to artists whose work they are unfamiliar with. How will this focus on accessibility influence your creative process or performance?

R: The accessibility aspect of the Stern Grove Festival is an ideology that we share and have been on the front lines for the past two decades here in the city and abroad. Playing block parties, street festivals, and simply us running our own little generator and setting up on Market Street to create awareness of our music and our message. For us this is a huge milestone because we have been rocking stages here in the city for quite some time and Stern Grove Festival provides a larger forum for us to spread our creativity and our positive vibrations. This definitely has a lot to do with the inspiration of writing more music that will allow people to dance and get loose.  We are taking our experiences as previous audience members over the years and are able to channel that feeling into our writing process.

SGF: Stern Grove Festival is committed to artistic diversity and San Francisco is known for its vibrant and diverse arts community. How would you describe the sound of San Francisco?

R: I feel that we are a band that describes the diversity of our city. We are a Mission District-based band grounded in Latin roots, funk, hip-hop and reggae. Each member that is in the band comes from an interesting background. The diversity from our members with connections all over the world is amplified in our unique Frisco sound. A melting pot filled with rich ingredients from Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe. The sound has changed here in the city with modern technology and electronics being integrated more in the mainstream, but unique artists are finding ways to implement folklore sound, mixed in with the new modern feel that will allow them to speak to a larger demographic.

SGF: Is there anything else Bayonics would like to let their fans know about their upcoming performance or about the band itself?

R: We want to let everyone know that they should strap on their Birkenstocks super tight because they are in for a wild ride! We are a band that embraces comradery, family, and life. We have decided for my last two years to focus more in the Caribbean sound that entails reggae, dancehall, salsa, and reggae-ton. We still have our roots in the funk, but we are displaying that more in our side projects which we will highlight this upcoming Sunday. We are super excited to be part of this summer series. Make sure to be on the lookout for our new album Resilience dropping the end of the summer. People can catch us as well at the Reggae on the River Festival in August representing the Bay Area! And also the Cukui Festival at Great America in September. And of course…thank you, Stern Grove!

Catch the debut live performance of “Abajo Del Sol” and more from Bayonics this Sunday, June 26 when they open for George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic at 2 p.m. Visit our website to learn more about Bayonics and the rest of the Stern Grove Festival’s 79th Season.

 

Interplay – Midtown Social

Following Stern Grove Festival’s founding mission to support local artists, for the second season in a row the Festival presents ten brand new works of art as part of our local artist commission series, “Interplay: In Concert with Nature”.

When we first invited local SoMa-based “California soul” band Midtown Social to participate in this season’s commission series, they hit the ground running. Bouncing ideas off each other, the nine-piece group came up with “Home”, a dreamy hit with heavy bass and percussion that draws various aspects of nature to mind. It’s a perfect match with what Stern Grove Festival represents: an eclectic mix of sounds coming together in harmony with the outdoors.

“We’ve been asked to do commissions before”, says Midtown Social drummer, RJ Julia. “But this is really fantastic because we get to interpret a beautiful space and what it means to us as a collective.”

Watch below for a preview of the song and to learn more about Midtown Social and their creative process.

Catch Midtown Social on Sunday, June 19th for the debut of “Home” when the group opens for Janelle Monáe and we kick off the Festival’s 79th Season!

Midtown Social is: Aaron Joseph (Keys, Lead Vocals), Kisura Nyoto (Lead Vocals), RJ Julia (Drums), Rory Matthews (Guitar), Sarah Rice (Bass), Adam Rubinger (Percussion), Lydia Eyssallenne (Violin), Whitney Moses (Backing Vocals), and Teddy Raven (Saxophone/Flute).

New Works Debut this Summer with “Interplay: In Concert with Nature”

A series of artist commissions returns this summer at Stern Grove Festival

Part of Stern Grove Festival’s founding mission is to provide paid performing opportunities for local artists. The Festival is also a place for local artists to connect and interact with their community in an intimate and admission-free setting.

This summer, Stern Grove Festival continues this legacy with its local artist commission series. Ten local artists performing this summer will debut new works during the 79th Season. Using the the theme, “Interplay: In Concert with Nature” as a point of departure, artists will craft these new works inspired by the unique “interplay” between performance, nature, and the audience.

Fans can look forward to new works in hip-hop music and dance, funk, Afro-Colombian, synth pop, and more from the following local artists:

Keep up with the Festival’s blog and connect with us on Facebook for a glimpse behind the scenes as the artists work on these new pieces.

midtown-social-square

Midtown Social

bayonics-square

Bayonics

hieroglpyhics-square

Hieroglyphics

mixd-ingrdnts-square

Mix’d Ingrdnts

golden-state-breakers-square

Golden State Breakers

john-bros-square

John Brothers Piano Company

la-misa-negra-square

La Misa Negra

MJ's Brass Boppers

MJ’s Brass Boppers

afrolicious-square

Afrolicious

astronauts-etc-square

Astronauts, etc.

SGF Playlist :: Stern Grove Festival’s 79th Season Line-Up

Welcome to Stern Grove Festival’s 79th season! This year, the admission-free concert line-up features some big names like king of funk George Clinton, the GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY-winning Julieta Venegas, and the Bay Area’s own groundbreaking hip hop collective Hieroglpyhics. These major artists are accompanied by a ring of impressive local performers, from the Mission District’s nightclub-turned-big-band, Afrolicious, to the swinging styles of John Brothers Piano Company, who got their start (literally) in train stations and on street corners around the Bay Area.

“Aside from the diversity and world class talent that we’ll be having on our stage this summer, I’m proud that we’re highlighting local artists each week,” says Judy Tsang, Director of Programming for Stern Grove Festival. “The Bay Area is full of talent and we should all get to know and support the artists who live here.”

In addition to the artists and bands shared in the 79th Season’s Spotify Playlist below are three incredible dance groups: the world-famous San Francisco Ballet (performing 7/31), the all-girl dance group Mix’d Ingrdnts (7/3), and the b-boys of the Golden State Breakers (7/3).

Please visit Stern Grove Festival’s concert page for a complete list of and further information on the performing artists of the 79th season, or visit any of the Artist Pages below:

June 19
Janelle Monáe
Midtown Social

June 26
George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic
Bayonics

July 3
Hieroglyphics
Mix’d Ingrdnts
Golden State Breakers

July 10
San Francisco Symphony

July 17
Joan Osborne’s Soul Revue
John Brothers Piano Company

July 24
Julieta Venegas
La Misa Negra

July 31
San Francisco Ballet

August 7
The O’Jays
MJ’s Brass Boppers

August 14
ATOMIC BOMB! The Music of William Onyeabor feat Jamie Lidell, Luke Jenner, Money Mark, Sinkane, and more

August 21
The New Pornographers
Astronauts, etc.

SGF Playlist :: WOMEX 2015 Highlights


Posted by Judy Tsang, Director of Programming

During my recent travels, I made a stop at this year’s WOMEX conference in Budapest. Every year, WOMEX brings artists, agents, artist managers, and arts presenters from all over the world together; this year, WOMEX hosted over 2,500 delegates from 90 countries over five days of workshops, networking, and band showcases. There are always new and exciting bands to discover (and re-discover) at the conference. Here is a playlist and videos of some of my favorites from this year’s conference.

A-Wa

Three sisters from Israel who combine Yemenite folk singing with electronic dance music.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3bjZlmsb4A

Tritha Electric
Funk- and rock-infused band fronted by Bengali singer/guitarist Tritha Sinha.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gu3lNIKRtJ8

Artist Talk with Talib Kweli and Davey D

Artist Talk with Talib Kweli and Davey D

Talib Kweli and Davey D

Hip-hop artist Talib Kweli gave a pre-concert Artist Talk at Stern Grove Festival on August 16, 2015. Led by KPFA radio host Davey D, the interview explores Kweli’s activism and involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement, his collaboration with legendary MC Rakim, and the challenges of making music as an independent artist. Listen to the interview below.

Zakiya Harris – “Interplay” and Kids Camp

We met up with local singer Zakiya Harris during the last day of her songwriting Kids Camp at Stern Grove Festival. She spoke about being one of the seven local artists chosen to participate in this season’s “Interplay” local artist commission series, her dynamic sound and band, Elephantine, and more.

She’ll perform her new song this Sunday, August 16 when she opens for Talib Kweli at 2 p.m.


Interplay – Con Brio

We attended a rehearsal with local funksters Con Brio in their Oakland studio to hear the band’s (almost finished) new song “Wings of Love”, which was created as part of the Festival’s local artist commission series, titled “Interplay: Artists In Concert With Nature”.

When front man Ziek McCarter got his first wave of inspiration to begin the commissioned piece, he was – believe it or not – in nature! After a long morning walk the band began throwing ideas around, and they eventually crafted a slow, grooving piece.

But after attending the tUnE-yArDs concert earlier this summer at Stern Grove Festival, both McCarter and keyboardist Micah Dubreuil knew that slow wouldn’t cut it. Their goal is to make everyone in the Grove dance and they created a completely different, high-energy song that will debut on the Stern Grove Festival stage.

Check out the interview and learn more about one of our favorite local bands, who will open for funk legends Morris Day and The Time on Sunday, August 9, 2015 at 2 p.m. at Stern Grove Festival.