A Night of Culture and Entertainment in L.A.

Tia Chucha's 2nd Annual Celebration of Community and Cultura

By Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor
Published on LatinoLA: August 14, 2008

A Night of Culture and Entertainment in L.A.

On a clear and breezy night in Hollywood last week, a fundraising event was held at the historical Ford Amphitheater that did more than raise funds...it became a celebration of community and culture that furthered the fight against racial ignorance and prejudice, cultural deprivation of the arts, and a community divided by color.

That being said, it also made for an extremely good time had by all who were fortunate to attend, yours truly included, that made up the large, multiracial audience, reflecting the diversity that is Los Angeles...the Land of 1000 Dances.

Comedian Ernie "G" hosted and MC'd the 2nd Annual TIA CHUCHA's Celebration of Community and Culture, which brought about entertainment as diverse as the four winds, and it drew hitherto separated people together for one special summer evening under the stars. His opening monologue was well received with loud and appreciative laughter, with his ethnic "straight from the 'hood" humor reflecting his multiracial roots in Los Angeles. "I'm Irish. German, Hungarian, Polish, Puerto Rican, Mexicano~Jew," he laugh. "I am L.A. !!"

Opening the show were the spectacular Aztec dance troupe Temachtia Queztzalcoatl, who performed on an upper stage under colored lights that added a note of mysticism, as they performed authentic dance from an ancient culture. They were well-received as they set the tone for the night.

Next came Tia Chucha founders Luis and Trini Rodriguez, known around the World as artists, poets, writers, advocates of peace, and dedicated supporters of the arts in their beloved community of Los Angeles. Thanking everybody for coming, they encouraged everybody to enjoy the show and support the arts...which in turn support artistic creativity, hope in young people, alternatives in thinking & decision making ... and a better world to live in for all of us, as Luis recited some beautiful and inspiring poetry from his personal collection.

Next came sacred songs performed in Spanish, English, Japanese, and Lakota (Souix) tongues by Nobuko Miyamoto, who impressed the crowd so much, they joined in on a chorus in Lakota. This form of multi-cultural singing/poetry is a long lost art, and many were exposed to it for the very first time. The wide eyes of enchantment bore proof to that, as I looked around, noticing the silence and rapt attention from the audience. The loud ovation afterwards reflected their enjoyment, and I knew I was in for a great show.

Next, completely new, foreign, and utterly enjoyable to me (and everybody else), the sketch comedy team of OPM (Opening People's Minds) came on and caught everybody by surprise with their well-timed, well-performed comedy routines dedicated to breaking down stereotypes of Asian Americans. Their message was well-taken, as I laughed loudly and was again reminded that stereotypes, while usually negative, abound in every racial group, and they are very much a part of our culture in the U.S., whether we like them or not. Like Ernie G's comedy about Latinos, making fun of misperceptions help expose the needlessness and human waste of racial prejudice that lead to these misperceptions...and leads to better understanding among different people.

After all, laughter, like music, is a universal language that transcends all color lines, and is one of the better medicines ever invented by Mankind.

Next, the "Los Angeles King of Funk". Popular singer Charles Wright and his powerful Watts 103rd St. Band came on and gave an energy filled nostalgic performance that belied
their age, and had the crowd on their feet rocking and rolling like they have for over 40 years. Giving a wonderful message of unity, love, and appreciation for the arts, which include music, Charles's well received closing with the time-honored song "Express Yourself" gave flavor to the night, and like he's done over the years, drew him out into the audience to shake hands and feel the love of the people, who were on their feet and clapping in unison as he walked off stage to a thunderous ovation afterwards.

Next, the Latin Hip-Hop group OLMECA took the stage. I must admit, my last two experiences with Hip-Hoppers and Rappers have not been the most memorable of times, so I chose this time to hit the snack bar, restroom, and smoking area for a break. But then, as I was walking up the aisle, the good live music (in comparison to young DJ's wearing headphones that play to loud and never respect an audience) hit me like a brick and called me back to my seat. The guitarist was an act in himself, as he electrified the audience with his playing and dancing on stage. The lead singer never cussed or denigrated women once, and delivered a powerful, well timed, bi-lingual message about education, art, love, and peace around the world that had almost half the audience either crowding the stage or dancing in the aisles. I must say...I was impressed, and actually had a good hip-hop experience, with my impression of hip-hop changed positively, as OLMECA proved how truly artistic and multicultural it can be when true talent performs it!

Next, much to my surprise, a Ska/Funk band from East L.A named UPGROUND took the stage. Again, to this old fart who loves Oldies but Goodies, SKA music is OK, but has never really been my cup of tea (or bowl of menudo), as it sometimes has a tendency to run away into musical chaos, and lyrics that just lose common sense. I never envisioned SKA music entering the L.A. cultural scene in any significant manner, but UPGROUND, a group of young Latinos from East L.A. simply blew everybody away with their East L.A./Chicano take on this sometimes misunderstood genre...and again, I was culturally enlightened and very well-entertained!

With beautifully arranged brass, killer guitar, Latin percussion, and keyboards, the audience was treated to a true performance of music, as the band showed it's multi-talented diversity by members taking turns switching instruments and giving up solid solos on each, and the singers simply intoxicating the audience with their smooth bi-lingual lyrics and their deft ability to go from Ska, to Cumbia, to ballad, to Latin Soul, to hard rock, to Reggae, and back to Ska in the same song while playing their instruments masterfully,and not losing a beat. UPGROUND stole the evening, and considering the caliber of talent that had performed before them, that was quite a feat!

They have a new fan in this old vato!

To close the show with humor, love, and music, UPGROUND stayed on stage as Ernie G introduced his comedic idol and inspiration, Mr. Cheech Marin, who came on stage to a warm, standing ovation. After a few jokes and an earnest appeal for all people to support the arts and culture of L.A., Cheech sang his trademark comedy songs "Me and My Old Lady," "Mexican Americans", and closed off with "Born in East L.A.", dedicating the night to Luis and Trini Rodriguez, and TIA CHUCHA's Cultural Center, for putting on this wonderful array of talent, that had everybody singing along.

Can't hardly wait until next year's show...and I thank the stars above that people like Luis and Trini Rodriguez provide places like Tia Chucha's for my children, my community ... and people like me & you!

Note: For info about Tia Chucha's, go to www.TiaChucha.com

About Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor:
Frankie Firme is the Al Capone of the microphone and the Al Capone of West Coast Chicano Soul.
website: www.frankiefirme.50megs.com
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