Los Angeles — Thousands of Angelenos from throughout the Greater Los Angeles area and beyond gathered into Leimert Park Village to get their groove on during the final weekend of Summer.
The 11th Annual Leimert Park Village Heritage Festival welcomed a diverse, multi-cultural crowd to Leimert Park over Labor Day Weekend, August 31-September 2, 2019. The festivities were held from 12 noon til 8pm each day.
The 11th Annual Leimert Park Village Heritage Festival showcased a broad spectrum of fine arts, quality crafts, music and performing arts. An eclectic array of music was spotlighted at the festival, rap/spoken word, old school R&B, jazz, blues, Reggae, Gospel, Doo-wop, Afro Peruvian and West African drum and dance.
This year’s festival was presented by International Eye, Los Angeles. The Leimert Park Village Heritage Festival celebrated the community’s traditions that spring from the African Diaspora. The festival also celebrated the thriving and vibrant international cultures that have helped to create the dynamic community (Leimert Park Village), acknowledged as the cultural epicenter for Black Arts and culture.
Every day, the Festival Founder Sika, Festival Producer Marie Kellier and other stakeholders welcomed early arrivals to the festival. Baba E Blessed the Grounds during the Libation Ceremony. The Black National Anthem was played for everyone to sing along.
It was officially on and crack-a-lackin on the Main Stage all weekend. The festival host once again was the hilarious Ramona Stephens. This is lucky number 7, yes ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Ramona has hosted this festival for seven years. This is a true testament to her gift as a comedian. A DJ knows how and when to play to his/her audience. Ramona Stevens used her natural instincts to gear her routine to connect and engage with the large multi-cultural crowd gathered near the Main Stage.
The festival went off script for a moment for a fantastic impromptu performance by Kenyetta. It was all good. She sang “I Am Changing” from the movie and play Dreamgirls, followed by “Sweet Thang” that generated a standing ovation.
Soulful R&B crooner, Rob, aka, Barry White delivered a show stopping performance. He nailed it, sounding exactly like his name sake. If you were hearing him from a distance, you would swear that you were hearing the real deal. He delved into Teddy Pendergrass catalog for his encore.
King Nappy thrilled the crowd with a set of socially conscious tunes, the highlights being “Listen to your Inside (reggae with a tinge of gospel). He continued with “The Benefit of Mankind,” and concluded his set with “What Kind of Place.”
The VIP Band was next to perform. They entertained the crowd with the energetic rhythms of Haiti. The dance floor was crowded with people dancing to the sounds of Haitian Compa, Zouk, with a taste of Roots Reggae.
This was a great segue to the next artist. A contagious set of Reggae rhythms were delivered brilliantly by Ladee Dred. Opening day of the festival concluded with the sounds of Earthquake Reggae Orchestra.
Sunday, Day 2- Two back to back artist, Spiritual warriors came to the stage to give Praise and Adoration to our Lord and Savior, with a set of Holy Ghost Hip-Hop. Rare Breed performed “My Story,” “Break Them Chains,” and “I Don’t Care What People Think.”
Yukon kept up the momentum during his set as he performed “Thank You,” “Deliverance,” and “Lord, Glory Be to God.”
In keeping with this year’s theme Preserving Our Heritage Celebrating Our Community, Anani Drum and Dance Ensemble honored our Ancestors and celebrated our culture with some traditional, spirit felt African drumming and dancing.
Mataji of the Eagle Wings of Enlightment Center delivered a spiritual, uplifting, powerful message entitled “Beauty Within Culture and Community.” This segment invited the audience to on a soul journey to awaken a memory inside of us, to realize that the Soul of God is in each of us.
Street Corner Renaissance took the crowd on another journey, journey of a musical nature. Their set brought back a lot of fond memories of the Doo Wop era. These are just a few of the tunes performed during their crowd-pleasing set. “Funky Good Time,” “Life Could be a Dream,” “This Magic Moment,” “Cloud Nine,” “Daddy’s Coming Home Soon,” “Come Go With Me,” “Farewell My Love,” “I Only Have Eyes for You,” and “Change Gonna Come.” The members of this group consist of Charlie “Sunny” Banks, Bob Hindley III, Anthony “Tony” Snead, Maurice Kitchen and Torre Brannon Reese.
Wadada & The Cultural Soul Band worked the crowd into a frenzy with arrangements of popular songs with World beats. They opened their set with “Jin Go Lo Ba” by Carlos Santana, followed by “Wonderful World,” remixed with the contagious rhythms of reggae. They continued with “All Night Long,” “Waiting in Vain,” “What You Won’t Do for Love,” “Three Little Birds,” and “Give me Back my Bush Doctor.”
Chacombo is a Los Angeles based Afro-Peruvian group. This was a fabulous quartet of musicians with Angelo Salazar-guitar, background vocals, Gino Gamboa-vocals, Federico Zuniga-bass, background vocals and Alex Zuniga-cajon. They were aided by the beautiful dancers Nadia Calmet and Evelyn Karahalios. The group opened their set with “Toro Mata,” followed by Camote Asado,” “Son de Cajones,” “Sofia,” “Pancha Remolina,” “Ruperta,” and concluded their high octane set with “Chacombo.” The dancers and crowd performed superbly to the rhythms of Lando, Festejo and Zamacueca.
ADAAWE is an all-female drum group. They added several new members to form a full band. ADAAWE thoroughly entertained the captivated crowd assembled at the Main Stage.
Monday-Final day- The California African American Museum (CAAM), gave the crowd a preview of an upcoming play wonderfully performed by Zig Zaggerz. The play relates to Afro-Futurism, which is a cultural phenomenon that envisions a utopian future through a fusion visionary sci-fi imagery and a celebration of Pan-African and global Black culture.
The line-up continued with a quartet of amazing women singers. Nicole Kimbrough received a thunderous round of applause after her set, the highlight was her version of “I Would Rather Go Blind” by the late great Etta James.
Next up onstage was the beautiful, soulful, vocal stylings of Foushee, musician, singer, songwriter that reminds one of Minnie Riperton and India Irie. Yes, you guest it right, this is the amazing Foushee from The Voice, season 15.
Jess, Barbara Morrison, Jazz Zone and Gregg Wright contributed to the success of the 11th Annual Leimert Park Village Heritage Festival.
Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based writer, music reviewer and photographer.