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And the Beat Goes on at the Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival (Photos)

Global drumming and Jazz were featured at Watts Towers Arts Center Campus, September 30 & October 1.
Watts Towers Festival Flyer: Courtesy Photo
Watts Towers Festival Flyer: Courtesy Photo

*(Watts, CA) — The Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) celebrated the 41st anniversary of the Annual Day of the Drum Festival, and the 46th anniversary of the Annual Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival. DCA and the Friends of the Watts Towers Arts Center hosted the multicultural dance and music performance on Saturday, September 30, for the Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival and Sunday, October 1, for the Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival.

Simon Rodia Signage: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
Simon Rodia Signage: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
Watts Towers: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
Simon Rodia Signage: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

“These festivals bring community members together, fostering a sense of unity, belonging, and solidarity,” said Daniel Tarica, DCA Interim General Manager. “The annual festivals are some of the longest-running in Los Angeles celebrating inter-generational culture, traditions, and heritage. The Watts Towers Arts Center Campus serves as a beacon for creativity, empowerment, and determination. Mr. Tarica extended “an invite to the community to join in the celebration of the Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival and the Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival.” 

“The Annual Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival and the Annual Simon Rodina Watts Towers Jazz Festival has entertained local residents for decades, fostering civic pride and engagement,” remarked Rosie Lee Hooks, Watts Towers Arts Center Campus Director. “The Watts Towers Arts Center Campus and sponsored organizations play a vital role in preserving culture, contributing to the local economy and well-being, and introducing historical and cultural awareness through the support of the festivals. The festivals boost community pride and a sense of place.”

For two days attendees were able to immerse themselves in the infectious rhythms during the Day of the Drum Festival and/or the sheer joy of spoken word performances and live jazz at the Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival.

Whether one is a jazz aficionado, a causal listener or someone simply seeking a weekend of captivating performances, the Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival and the Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival provided an unforgettable experience for all in attendance.

An all-star lineup of international recording artists, local jazz greats, percussionists, and dancers came together over two days, from 10:00am-6pm, for an unbelievable drum and jazz festival experience under the artistic direction of Rosie Lee Hooks, Patrice Rushen, and Munyungo Jackson. Presented by DCA and the Friends of Watts Towers Arts Center, the two-day was free and open to the public.

Patrice Rushen, Rosie Lee Hooks and Munyungo Jackson: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
Patrice Rushen, Rosie Lee Hooks and Munyungo Jackson: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

I joined several hundred music lovers on Sunday, October 1st for the 46th Annual Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival, with co-emcees Kamau Daáood and Dee Dee McNeil.

Kamau Daáood and Dee Dee McNeil: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
Kamau Daáood and Dee Dee McNeil: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

The Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival featured a stellar line-up of artists. The program got underway with Alaadun, Yoruba ground blessing uniting all cultures based on common themes and principles.

Alaadun: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
Alaadun: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

Additional entertainment was provided by Melvin Lee Davis and Friends featuring Derek Bordeaux, Kevin Flournoy, and Jeffrey B. Suttles for a set of gospel jazz.

Melvin Lee Davis: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
Melvin Lee Davis: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
Derek Bordeaux: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
Derek Bordeaux: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

The crowd and I were thoroughly entertained all afternoon. Highlights were Food4Thought, Queen Socks, and Love, an awesome spoken word performance from this tight family of poets. Co-emcees Kamau Daáood and Dee Dee McNeil shined brightly while sharing some original spoken word pieces.

Food4Thought, Love and Queen Socks: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
Food4Thought, Love, and Queen Socks: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
Kamau Daáood and Dee Dee McNeil: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
Kamau Daáood and Dee Dee McNeil: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

You can’t go wrong with the blues that you can use as served up by the explosive and electrifying guitarist Ray Bailey.

Ray Bailey: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
Ray Bailey: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

The World Stage Big Band is a cultural institution in Leimert Park Village. Their explosive set continued the legacy of all the great master musicians, composers, and arrangers in black music that is loved, enjoyed, and appreciated by all cultures. Vocalist Amita Delone was also featured in the band.

The World Stage Big Band: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
The World Stage Big Band: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
The World Stage Big Band: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
The World Stage Big Band: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
Amita Delone: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
Amita Delone: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

Various local organizations were acknowledged and recognized for their continuous support of the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus and the community. Local dignitaries were on site to enjoy the sights and eclectic sounds of the festivals. Councilmember Tim McOsker, City of Los Angeles 15th Council District, State Senator Steven Bradford, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, 2nd District. Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell presented the Watts Towers Arts Center with a Commendation. Rosie Lee Hooks presented Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell with a limited edition of this year’s amazing Festival Poster, by Buena Johnson. The name of the art is entitled ‘Mighty Spirit of Watts.’ You can see this and other artwork by Buena Johnson on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/buenavisionart.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Tim McOsker, Rosie Lee Hooks, Senator Steven Bradford and Buena Johnson: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
Los Angeles City Councilmember Tim McOsker, Rosie Lee Hooks, Senator Steven Bradford, and Buena Johnson: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
Rosie Lee Hooks and Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
Rosie Lee Hooks and Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

The Jazz Mentorship Program All–Stars (JMP) featuring Patrice Rushen on piano, Munyungo on percussions, Dr. Bobby Rodriguez on trumpet, and Reggie Hamilton on bass capped off another successful Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival with a set of straight-ahead jazz to the delight of the jazz aficionados in the crowd.

Patrice Rushen: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson
Patrice Rushen: Photo Credit, Ricky Richardson

The City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), as a leading, progressive arts and cultural agency, DCA empowers Los Angeles’s vibrant communities by supporting and providing access to quality visual, design, literary, musical, performing, and educational arts programming; managing vital cultural centers; preserving historic sites; creating public art; and funding services provided by arts organizations and individual artists.

Formed in 1925, DCA promotes arts and culture as a way to ignite a powerful dialogue, engage LA’s residents and visitors, and ensure LA’s varied cultures are recognized, acknowledged, and experienced. DCA’s mission is to strengthen the quality of life in Los Angeles by stimulating and supporting arts and cultural activities, ensuring public access to the arts for residents and visitors alike.

DCA advances the social and economic impact of arts and culture through grantmaking, public art, community arts, performing arts, and strategic marketing, development, design, and digital research. DCA creates and supports arts programming, maximizing relationships with other city agencies, artists, and arts and cultural nonprofit organizations to provide excellent service in neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles.

For more information, please visit https://www.wattstowers.org or https://www.culturela.org If you are ever in need of something to do especially with family and friends visiting for the Holidays, check out the culture guide or Events calendar to see a list of events cultural events taking place all over Los Angeles and all year long, or follow on Facebook at facebook.com/culturela, Instagram @culture_la and Twitter @culture_la.

Ricky Richardson is a Southern California-based writer, music reviewer, and photographer. Contact him via: [email protected]

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