“The Future is Intersectional” – Interview with Filipina-Canadian Artist Han Han

Han Han

Photo by Patrick Estebar, Styling by Jodinand Aguillon, hair/make-up by Charm Torres

This Sunday, Stern Grove Festival is presenting the U.S. debut of Filipina-Canadian artist, Han Han, who is opening for Anoushka Shankar, Land of Gold. We caught up with her to talk about her background, influences and creative process and as she prepares a new work commissioned by Stern Grove Festival for her performance on July 15, 2018.

How would you describe your music?

It is generally hip-hop but can also be considered world music (whatever world music means!). The words are written in two main Filipino languages, Tagalog and Cebuano, with a hint of English. The music itself is contemporary and urban with integration of traditional Filipino instrument sounds blending together smoothly. You can hear gongs, kubing and bamboo kulintang sounds if you keenly listen to the songs. The music is a reflection of our identity as Filipinos. We are “mixed-mixed”, in general, like a Halo-Halo Filipino dessert where you mix different fruits and other ingredients resulting in a sweet tasty blend that melts in your mouth.

How does being a Filipina-Canadian woman influence the music that you make?

Becoming an immigrant definitely influenced and encouraged me to start writing poetry which I later translated into music. My experiences as an immigrant, as a woman, and as a child of a single mother who was a Live-In-Caregiver in Canada and an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) were the inspirations to the songs in my first self-titled album, Han Han. Some songs were my social commentary to my culture and my culture’s mentality. Some are personal songs with words that I would like to tell myself.

Having experienced being deprofessionalized as a first generation immigrant, discriminated (even within my own community) and being a child of OFW parents, I became this poster child of young Filipino immigrants. I have accepted it. Writing in my own mother tongues is what I consider my own resistance against assimilation. Language and culture are intertwined. I certainly do not want to lose that connection between where I was born and where I am living right now. Lucky enough, Canada which prides itself on diversity, and living in Toronto, which is a very multicultural city, give me courage to do what I do. I am also lucky to have found a group of amazing, talented and creative individuals who are also seeking to connect with their roots through the arts. Most of them are second generation Filipino-Canadians. And perhaps, through my performances and music, I can show that when first- and second-generation immigrants unite, they can make magic. I was given the platform and opportunity so I took it with both hands and brought my community with me.

Han Han

Photo by Yasmin Samray

What can people expect to see for this performance at Stern Grove Festival?

Magic! There is always this shock factor from people who see us for the first time. This is my official performance as Han Han in the United States. We have been rehearsing and honing our set to give them the best possible show we can give. I will be performing with members from my Toronto art family collaborators, DATU and HATAW. Aside from music, there will be a lot of dancing, choreographed mainly by Fly Lady Di. All I want the audience to take from our performance is respect for our culture and community as Filipinos, both in the diaspora and in the Philippines. I hope they will also feel empowered and inspired because those are really the goals of our shows. We are just proud echoes of our ancestors. Lastly, I hope they enjoy it!

Stern Grove Festival has asked you to commission a new song with local dancers. Tell us about the piece and your collaborators.

I wrote a new song called “Take A Muna” in collaboration with a female Filipina-American DJ and producer, Gingee, who happens to be from Los Angeles. I met her last year and it just seems fitting to feature local California artists in both the music and performance. Jae Teosico (Barangay Dance company) and Stephanie Herrera (Kariktan Dance Company), who are both Filipino folk dancers from San Francisco will be dancing with me and my Toronto crew for the piece. So it will be a Toronto x Los Angeles x San Francisco collaboration. I don’t think that has happened before so it will be a first for us and for our communities to unite in one performance piece.

Listen to a preview of “Take a Muna”:

California is home to the largest Filipino community outside of the Philippines. It is only right to feature local California artists. I’m glad they all agreed to this performance. I strongly believe in collaboration because it empowers communities. My hope is we can manifest that strength in our show.

The song is about remembering to take a break from all the chaos in life. Filipinos are one of the most hardworking and kindest people on earth. Some of them work double jobs just to make ends meet and because they feel responsible to do so. I have experienced it myself when I was new in Canada. I take pride in those Filipino virtues. But sometimes, Filipinos need to be reminded that they deserve to take a rest too and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Life is too short. The song is written both in Tagalog and Cebuano with a “Tag-Lish” play of words from the Filipino phrase “teka muna”, which means “wait a minute or in a while”. In addition, Jae and Stephanie will be dancing to my song SIGE in the first part of the show. I wanted to give them the spotlight in their own locality. I’m excited to see what they will do. I rarely perform this song and this will also be the first time that I am performing it with dancers.

Tell us a bit about your creative process.

My creative process is not linear at all. Sometimes it starts with words then music, sometimes it is the beat that moves me to write. My inspiration is mostly drawn from my own experiences. For the most part, it’s all catharsis and introspection. I also like criticizing my own culture, sometimes with humor and sarcasm. Literature is also a source of inspiration for me. For example, the lyrics to World Gong Crazy has a lot of references to Jose Rizal’s and Lualhati Bautista’s novels. I wrote the song KaNaDyan in Balagtasan format to symbolize the tension between the dual identities of being Filipino immigrant to a foreign land (Balagtasan is a Filipino debate in poetic verses). So it all really depends on what I want to write about. The hardest part about creating something new is deciding if it is good enough to be heard by people or not. It’s scary. I’m a little insecure about my writing so I have to have a second or third ear to listen to it first as reassurance. I’m blessed to have Alexander Junior, my mentor and producer, be that ear. I trust his judgment.

What are you looking forward to for this performance?

It is one of our biggest shows yet, let alone outside the comfort of home in Toronto, Canada. I’m excited to see what San Francisco audiences are like. Also, I would like to see Filipinos in the crowd in as much as I want to see a very diverse audience. I think it is through music and the arts, in general, that we can bridge differences between cultures. The future is intersectional so I’m looking forward to the intersection of colors.

Han Han opens the concert on July 15 at 2 p.m. with Anoushka Shankar Land of Gold at Stern Grove Festival.

Local Artist Commission Series: Kev Choice Ensemble

We couldn’t me more happy to introduce the fourth and final artist featured in the 80th Season’s Local Artist Commission Series: Oakland-based pianist, rapper, emcee, and music historian Kev Choice. Together with a handful of talented musicians, the Kev Choice Ensemble will perform a never-before-heard song at their Stern Grove Festival performance this Sunday, August 27, when they open for the legendary Mavis Staples.

Pulling inspiration from the strength it takes to push forward during tough times, Kev Choice’s brand new song, “Strong As Us”, reminds us that there is more to come from love than from hate, and that those who band together during tough times are sure to prevail. Read on to learn more about Kev Choice as a musician, the Kev Choice Ensemble sound, and what to look forward to when you come to the closing concert of Stern Grove Festival’s 80th Season this Sunday.

SGF: Tell us a bit about yourself as a musician/performer. Where/when did you first begin practicing music, and where did your passion take you from there?

Kev Choice: I was exposed to great music just from listening to my mom’s records at an early age. I first started taking formal piano lessons at age 11 in 7th grade at Westlake Junior High School in Oakland. I was deeply dedicated to getting better and it led me to the Young Musicians Program at U.C. Berkeley. I was also writing poems and formulating my first raps at that time. My keyboard skills helped me be able to produce and write my first songs. From there I continued to perform in Jazz Band and Orchestra at Skyline High in Oakland while also doing hip-hop shows around town. After high school, my piano training helped me gain a scholarship to Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana. I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree from there and then went on to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale to obtain my Master’s degree in Piano Performance. After college, I came home and established myself on the local scene and then began to tour with artists such as Michael Franti and Spearhead, Goapele, The Coup, Lyrics Born, Zion I, Too Short, Lauryn Hill, and more.

SGF: What is the Kev Choice Ensemble? How did you form the group?

Kev Choice Ensemble is the band I formed back in 2007 as a vehicle to perform my original music that I produce, write, and arrange. I had just finished touring with Lauryn Hill, and had the confidence and inspiration to really go full steam pushing my own music and own style combining elements of hip-hop, jazz, soul, R&B, classical, funk, and other contemporary styles of music. I wanted to showcase some of the dope young musicians on the East Bay scene as well. I was playing a lot at that time, but other people’s music or in cover bands, and I didn’t want to do that the rest of my life. I wanted to get my music heard and spread my message because I felt it was as dope and valid as anyone else’s.

SGF: Who is in the Ensemble?

Currently my Ensemble consists of:
Kev Choice – Keys, synths, lead vocals
John “Omayga” Adams – Drums
Kenshay Gooden – Bass
Andrew Levin – Guitar
Daniel Riera – EWI, Flute, Sax
Viveca Hawkins – Vocals

SGF: What sort of music should the audience expect this Sunday?

We play a mixture of conscious Hip-Hop, Soul, Jazz, R&B, Funk, and other contemporary styles of music like Electronic and Trap.

SGF: Have you ever attended Stern Grove Festival to see a concert? If yes, what stood out to you about the experience?

I have and what stood out to me is just the amount of people in attendance and how people really have a great energy and come to enjoy the environment and the music. It’s a great atmosphere to perform in because people really appreciate the music and being surrounded by nature adds a beautiful dynamic.

SGF: What do you—as a performer—look forward to during your Festival performance?

I look forward to really giving a ton of energy to the crowd and really connecting with them, especially those who haven’t seen me perform. I want it to be fun, to showcase my band’s amazing musicianship and inspire and express with the message I try to convey in the music. I also look forward to exposing the new fans to my repertoire from my five albums that I’ve released and the new piece I’ve been working on. I also look forward to looking out and seeing all those beautiful people in the audience.

SGF:  In what ways has living in the Bay Area shaped or influenced your music or musicianship?

Living in the Bay Area, especially Oakland, has influenced me in many ways as an artist and musician. With so many legendary artists from here and so many great artists here now, it really makes me push hard to create music at a high level to live up to that legacy and continue to push the boundaries of our scene. There is also a certain feel, that is associated with the Bay that is recognized around the world, influenced by funk, soul, hip-hop, gospel, rock and more. There is also the legacy of artists using their music to express their opinions or take on issues of social justice that we see in our environment. I definitely want my music to be the voice of the people in my community that I represent and love so dearly.

SGF: Tell us about your new piece, part of the Festival’s local artist commission series. What is the song title, and is there any story behind the piece, or anything special you’d like to share?

The new song is titled, “Strong As Us”. It’s just about me pushing forward through adversity and staying positive about everything I go through and equating it to what I see happening in our country right now. It’s pretty disheartening with the recent events in Charlottesville. I felt like there is a lot of negative energy surrounding this coming from the media and the government and hate groups. As an artist, I always want to use my music as a voice of a positive perspective and inspiration. Sometimes I feel like going out and being confrontational but I realize that that can lead to a dangerous and non-productive situation. I wanted to remind people that we are stronger united and together and spreading love is much more powerful than hate.

SGF: Tell us a bit about your creative processes. Where do you tend to pull inspiration from when starting a new piece? Do you have a general process you follow, or does the piece come together more randomly?

Musically, I love to listen to vinyl and old records. I’ve collected all genres of records since junior high school. I especially love music from the 70’s so I turn on records a lot to get inspiration. I also use many current forms of looking up music like Soundcloud, YouTube, and streaming sites. Lyrically, just what I go through in life and what I see happening in my community inspires me.

Sometimes I start by playing around on the piano or keyboard, trying to find a motif or progression. I use programs on my computer so I often search through sounds and drums and see if anything touches me. I could also be inspired by a sample that I find on a record.

SGF: Do you have any advice for younger musicians in the Bay Area who are looking to move forward with their careers?

My advice would be always work on your craft, always be a student and continue to learn. Stay up on all forms of current promotion, marketing, production, and watch the greats as well. Also, never get deterred, every artist has a different path to success and the best thing to do is stay persistent and patient.

SGF:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with your current or soon-to-be fans?

I’m heavily involved in arts education, teaching at Oakland School For The Arts in Oakland and I’m working on a piece for the Oakland Symphony to premiere in March 2018.

Quinn DeVeaux with “Down in the Grove” Commission

If you ask any one of our Festival patrons at random, chances are that they’ve been attending admission-free concerts at Stern Grove Festival for years — maybe even decades. The same goes for many of our local performers like singer/songwriter Quinn DeVeaux, the opening act for this summer’s Big Picnic Concert, who returns to the Grove.

“Playing at Stern Grove is such a pleasure. I’m happy to be doing it again,” says Quinn. “I love performing with trees — it’s like you have an extra thousand audiences members.”

Since his 2011 performance at the Grove, DeVeaux has released not one, but two albums that perfectly express his old-timey soul and blue beat music – but with a modern kick. He’s bound to play a number of these tunes at his upcoming performance when he opens for Kool & the Gang at Stern Grove Festival’s Big Picnic Concert on June 25, as well as his brand new, never-before-heard song, “Down in the Grove”, produced as part of this season’s Local Artist Commission Series.

We met with Quinn to hear about his life as a musician in the Bay Area and his creative process behind the new piece, as well as learn what inspires him as a musician and what has helped craft his sound since his last Stern Grove Festival performance.

“I continue to be influenced by the amazing musicians around me,” says Quinn. “New stuff blows through me and I catch some it and meld it into my style. I’ve started to explore more funky rhythms and slower tunes. I’ve gotten very much into Bill Withers and his churning groove-based songs. Also Al Green, and that smooth haunting quality he has.  I turn it all into Blue Beat!”

Watch the below interview to learn all about Mr. Quinn DeVeaux, set on the foreground of “Shame”, a new song off his upcoming record. Stay tuned to the end to hear a clip of the unfinished “Down in the Grove”.

RSVP for this admission-free concert on Facebook and learn more at sterngrove.org.

Interplay – Astronauts, etc. with “In the Park Dilated”

Aug21_Astronauts etcOne of the most difficult parts of fulfilling a commission request is finding the middle ground between being too literal or too obscure when following a theme or topic.

Within our 2016 local artist commission series, where 10 bands and dance groups have been asked to create new works of art based on the theme “In Concert with Nature”, it could be easy to head down the literal route (it’s tempting to throw in mentions of trees, sunshine, and grass). To avoid this road bump, the next and final group in the 79th season’s series chose to ignore the fork in the road altogether by writing a stimulating instrumental piece that envisages nature without verbalizing it.

Read on below to hear how Astronauts, etc‘s Anthony Ferraro came up with the new piece and to listen to a demo recording of “In the Park Dilated”. Visit Stern Grove Festival this Sunday, August 21, when they open the stage at 2 p.m. for The New Pornographers in the final concert of the 79th Season!


“In the Park Dilated” sheet music

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

Anthony Ferraro: Initially what made me anxious was the idea of writing the words for the commissioned song. Writing directly about nature seemed potentially trite, but interpreting the theme more abstractly seemed potentially disingenuous. So I opted instead to write a song without words, with pen and paper, on the stage where it would be performed. This allowed me to believe I was following the theme as faithfully and simply as possible.

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?

AF: It is a tricky business to delineate the border between external environment and internal experience. All that I can say is that, sometimes, being in a beautiful place makes you more explicitly aware of a beauty that is always present and waiting to be noticed no matter your surroundings.

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 (in terms of free admission and exposure to unfamiliar artists or genres) influence your creative process or performance?

AF: I like the idea of playing to a different crowd and in a different setting than usual. Normally your audience is restricted to those people of drinking age who don’t mind staying up very late, often on a week night, in very loud room with a lot of commotion.

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?

AF: Sonically, I think San Francisco is still trying to figure out what it wants to say right now. On one pole is a cohort of artists disenfranchised and disillusioned by the financial difficulty of living here, and on the other you find a group energized by the new collaboration of music and technology. Sometimes I feel I exist on both poles at once.

Interplay – Afrolicious

Aug14_Afrolicious1What started out as a club night in the famed Mission district Elbo Room in 2007, Afrolicious has since grown into a collective of dynamic and skilled funk, soul, and electronic musicians. Since 2010, the group has been playing for packed crowds with a party-ready combination of soulful vocals, funky bass, and lively horns and beats with classic funk, soul, disco, Latin, and Afrobeat.

“As a club night we hosted so many amazing bands, musicians, and DJs from the Bay Area and the city, as well as international,” said Afrolicious’ co-founder Joe ‘Pleasuremaker’ Mcguire, reminiscing on the group’s early days. “We had the honor of building with many amazing musicians over the years and we continue to see new artists come up and blow it up, and it remains super inspiring.”

As the next participating act in Stern Grove Festival’s Local Artist Commission Series, Afrolicious has been asked to create and debut a new song inspired by the theme “Interplay: In Concert with Nature” that doesn’t stray away from their usual funkiness.

“It can be challenging to write a song in general,” says Pleasuremaker, “but the subject matter makes so much sense in the context of our modern times – the need for a relationship to nature. So the subject makes the challenge all more the interesting.”

Stern Grove is an extremely unique concert setting, so naturally the commission focuses on the strong relationship between the artist and the venue’s environment. Those who attended one of Afrolicious’ early Elbo Room club nights or one of their more recent concerts know that the show is more than just a fun musical experience: it’s a raging party. Stern Grove Festival has welcomed musicians from almost every genre out there, but it is always particularly interesting to see how these high-energy, funky groups plan their show around the fact that it is an outdoor concert in the middle of the day – not in a nightclub per their usual show. Understanding these hurdles, their goal is still the same: to wake up the crowd and bring the party to Stern Grove.

“The venue plays a crucial role in how we feel and interpret the music as the sound, dynamics, visual elements, size and if it’s indoor or outdoor greatly affect the sounds and the intimacy,” said Pleasuremaker. “A venue that is inviting, relaxing, beautiful can create much more harmony between us on stage and the crowd. We love playing outdoors when the sound is truly dialed. It’s a magical feeling.”

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. Some artists focus on this accessibility (in terms of free admission and exposure to unfamiliar artists or genres) when creating their commissioned piece, and Afrolicious in particular thinks of this as an opportunity to perform for groups of people who otherwise wouldn’t make it out to one of their shows (think children, the elderly, or people who can’t make it to shows in the evening).

“We LOVE that there is no admission,” said Pleasuremaker on behalf of his group. “I came to Stern Grove when I first moved to San Francisco and it was such a great way to be welcomed to the city: great music and open to all. We love this event and have each attended many shows over the years. We get the most excited to share what we do at free daytime events because we can play for everyone!”

A Stern Grove Festival crowd may be pretty diverse, and this depth of character matches that of the Bay Area where people of all kinds flock and frolic. It’s only natural that this diversity seeps into the performance scene. From funk and electro to brass and jazz, the SF Bay Area is home to a vibrant arts and music community.  As Pleasuremaker puts it, “San Francisco music scene is ever evolving. Change is the one constant, and that was a great influence on Afrolicious over the years.

“Hard to say there is one sound of San Francisco, it feels more like San Francisco can absorb any genre and flip it into new sounds, and that would be a long term legacy of [it] that continues today.”

Visit our website to learn more about the concert and Afrolicious. Visit Stern Grove Festival this Sunday, Aug 14 to hear them live when the open the stage at 2 p.m. for a cast of musical performers paying tribute to West African synth legend William Onyeabor in “ATOMIC BOMB! The Music of William Onyeabor”.

Interplay – MJ’s Brass Boppers

Next up in this season’s #sgfInterplay Local Artist Commission Series, MJ’s Brass Boppers share their experience in creating a piece inspired by the theme “Interplay: In Concert with Nature”, and the similarities between performing at Stern Grove Festival and in their home town of New Orleans.

The swinging and singing brass-line is the Bay Area’s only New Orleans-style brass band whose founding members were born and raised in NOLA itself. This eight-piece group’s sound has been meticulously formed over years of practicing and experimenting together, fusing classic NOLA performance with funk, jazz, modern pop, and a second line twist. Since 2008, the tight knit musicians have written, practiced, and performed together at festivals, community events, nightclubs, and street corners around the Bay Area.

Make your way to the admission-free #sterngrovefest this Sunday, Aug 7 to witness the never-before-heard song and others when MJBB opens up for R&B legends, The O’Jays at 2 p.m.

Interplay – La Misa Negra, “El Agua Ya Se Acabo”

Next up in this season’s local artist commission series is La Misa Negra, a eight-piece Oakland-based group that performs a mix of late 50’s style Cumbia and high-energy, Afro-Colombian dance music. With such diverse musical backgrounds among band mates it’s hard to clump their talents into one genre, but whoever branded them “hella bailable” was headed in the right direction.

Reflecting on the themes that inspired many mid-century Cumbia artists, guitarist/accordion player Marco Polo Santiago thought about what topic to base their new song around, acknowledging that the theme “In Concert with Nature” could take many routes. Being a California band, they came up with “El Agua Ya Se Acabo”, a timely piece that roughly translates to “the water ran out” and will (the band hopes) help people recognize the severity of the current drought.

Check out a preview of the song below and an interview with the band talking about the new song and their upcoming Stern Grove Festival performance.

La Misa Negra will perform “El Agua Ya Se Acabo” and more at an admission-free concert this Sunday, July 24, when they open the stage for the GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY-winning Mexican singer/songwriter Julieta Venegas at 2 p.m.

Interplay – John Brothers Piano Company

There’s no doubt about it: San Francisco is a musical masterpiece. Whether known or not, residents and tourists experience tunes from the city’s natural soundscape (a hum of Muni buses or cheers from AT&T Park) and from the countless busking musicians posted on corners across the city. Few performing acts recognize this city’s potential as yet another instrument like John Brothers Piano Company (JBPC), who first grew their fan base by dragging a beat-up piano to BART stations around the Bay and making street corners a personal stage for the afternoon.

Although it is a unique setting for many artists, Stern Grove Festival is still a ready-made performance space like fellow Bay Area staples The Independent and Fox Theater, equipped with concert hall speakers and barricades. But unlike many venues, artists not only have to perform: they have to fire up the crowd and remind them that they are not just in a public park for the day, but at a live concert that demands the same energy as any other festival stage. For some artists, this can be a challenging task, but the men of JBPC are very familiar with this game:

“When we play on the street, we must, in essence, create the context for the performance as opposed to one that is readymade as in a club or venue,” explains JBPC pianist and trumpeter Arlo Perlstein. “Our show must be impressive enough to snap people out of their daily grinds, to turn the sidewalk into a venue. When we have an attentive audience in a jazz club or at festival, for example, we are much freer in the music we play because don’t need to be simultaneously performing and saying ‘this is a performance!’” It’s an unfortunate reality that people often equate quality of music or art with a performance’s setting and price point. This thought was well conveyed in an experiment by the Washington Post where one of the best concert violinists in the world performed in a subway station on a 3.5 million dollar violin, but only seven people stopped to listen to him play. JBPC is very familiar with this reality, as a good portion of their audience are pedestrians who did not expect to come across a concert on their commute, and often do not stop to listen at all. 

“To get people to even notice us we have to make the music interactive with the environment,” says drummer and pianist Jimi Marks, who notes that their performances often reflect the crowd’s energy. “We won’t play the same song to a street full of headphone-wearing commuters with their heads down as we would to an engaged crowd. But there are ways to engage people that may have otherwise walked straight past us, and part of that is playing to your surroundings, being part of the environment, and inviting others to stop and be a part of it too.”

Marks looks forward to having the freedom to play music with subtlety and nuance at SGF that “maybe would not fare so well at a busy BART station.”

We’re thinking some of that subtlety may show up in “Katabasis, the new piece JBPC has written as part of this season’s local artist commission series, where ten Bay Area bands and dance groups create new works inspired by the theme “In Concert with Nature” and debut them on the Stern Grove Stage. The band has been coming together to write this new work over recent months in preparation for their show this Sunday, practicing their craft outside in parks to really experience the theme.

“Feeling ‘in concert with nature’ is usually quite an inward, soulful experience,” says Marks. “The challenge will be to capture that experience on a personal level for such a large and diverse audience.”

Although they’ve been hired individually to create original works, the band as a whole has never participated in a commission series and are discovering that multiple voices can be both a blessing and a curse when creating something new.

“The most challenging aspect of this piece is, incidentally, what I also find to be most exciting: it is the process of creating together,” says Perlstein, noting that it can be easy to become attached to a part of a song that you’ve written, and difficult to abandon the part when it doesn’t work out in the final piece. “Each member of the band brings different musical sensibilities and ideas to the table and, invariably, some must be sacrificed for others when writing together. However it is also by this process that we as band can produce music of vibrancy and richness.”

And how vibrant and rich the music of JBPC is. Visit Stern Grove Festival’s 79th season this Sunday, July 17 to hear an admission-free performance by John Brothers Piano Company when they open for the legendary songstress Joan Osborne at 2 p.m., and keep your ears open for the debut performance of Katabasis.

Interplay – Mix’d Ingrdnts

Oakland-based dancers Jenay Anolin and Samara Atkins sparked more than just a close friendship when they met at an audition in 2008. They had long felt the pressures of working in the male-dominated field of hip hop dance – where women are often degraded and left uninspired to pursue opportunities – and decided it was time for a change. Together they formed Mix’d Ingrdnts, an all-female, all-styles dance crew and company that seeks to empower women to speak up and express themselves through art, most often dance.

Working with a unique track made by local DJ and producer Coflo, titled “Dawn”, the ladies of Mix’d Ingrdnts have come together to create the next installment in this season’s local artist commission series. Inspired by the theme “Interplay: In Concert with nature”, Mix’d Ingrdnts’ new work uses a natural soundscape to open the scene and set the tone for an awe-inspiring piece.

Preview the piece below, and catch the debut of “Dawn” at Stern Grove Festival this Sunday, July 3, when Mix’d Ingrdnts (along with fellow dance crew Golden State Breakers) opens the stage at 2 p.m. for local legends Hieroglyphics.

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.