For the first time, Red Bull Music Academy touched down in Los Angeles for a month-long festival of unique concerts, club nights, conversations and workshops that showcased the ever-evolving sounds of the city. With 19 wide-ranging events between October 6 – 30, the program highlighted a wide array of LA’s sounds, icons and institutions.
Check out the full highlights from the 2017 festival and jump straight to individual events and activities below:
An Evening with Bappi Lahiri
Arca presents A Night with Alejandro
Diggin’ In The Carts
Flying Lotus in 3D + Thundercat
Outside Insight Electric Shadows
Rail Up: Mundial
Ryoji Ikeda - A [for 100 cars]
SOPHIE Live Debut
St. Vincent: Fear The Future
The Ecstatic World of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda
Todo Es Metal
Uncle Jamm’s Army
For the official start of her Fear The Future tour, St. Vincent got as close to literally bringing New York to Los Angeles as it gets. In the New York Street backlot at the iconic Paramount Pictures Studios, the celebrated rock artist gave a larger-than-life performance of songs from her new album MASSEDUCTION, in collaboration with designer and director Willo Perron.
Renowned artist Ryoji Ikeda presented a brand-new composition, in collaboration with 100 automobile owners, that constituted the world’s largest synth orchestra. The piece, entitled A [for 100 cars], continued Ikeda’s long-running series investigating the frequencies of note A. Before the world settled on the general tuning standard of A=440Hz, there were historically many different standards. A [for 100 cars], performed by emitting sine waves at all these diverse (yet specific) frequencies, created an immersive soundscape. RBMA’s Tatsuya Takahashi worked with Ikeda to create a device, especially for this performance, that helped guide the composition from start to finish.
Alejandro Ghersi, AKA Arca, is an artist that continually sheds skins, leaving behind the comfortable and familiar in search of alluring and challenging new forms. Taking place in the OPEN BETA space created in collaboration with Taran Allen, this specially-created performance provided a rare opportunity to witness the singular talent premiere new material.
For the past few years SOPHIE has challenged and redefined ideas of pop culture and appeal with music that is harsh yet beautiful, full of familiar signifiers used in unexpected ways. This night saw SOPHIE presenting a brand-new performance and sounds, reflecting the growing diversity of a singular force in moving music into the future.
Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda was an American jazz pianist, organist, harpist, singer, composer and the wife of John Coltrane, the most venerated and influential saxophonist in the history of jazz. Alice’s recording catalog dates back to 1957, and during the last decade of her career – starting in the mid-’80s – she self-released four brilliant cassette albums. They contained a music she invented, inspired by the gospel music of the Detroit churches she grew up in, mixed together with the Indian devotional music of her religious practice. Ten years after Alice’s passing, in what would have been her 80th year, this special concert celebrated her music and spirit in collaboration with Michelle Coltrane and New York label Luaka Bop. Attendees experienced an evening inspired by the Sunday ceremonies Alice held at her Sai Anantam Ashram in California – with performances by her nephew Flying Lotus, Marylin McLeod, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Brandee Younger, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson String Ensemble and The Sai Anantam Ashram Singers.
Over the last decade, the collective of artists who belong to the Brainfeeder label have mapped out a musical movement that has resonated around the globe, articulating a creative vision that is intrinsically linked to the city of Los Angeles. This show, taking place at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, featured two of the label’s most prominent artists: Flying Lotus, performing his incredible 3D live show, and bassist extraordinaire Thundercat. In addition to the two headlining artists, there was a special guest appearance by comedian Hannibal Buress.
Todo Es Metal turned a mirror on Los Angeles’s thriving metal scene, highlighting the creative connections and artistic overlap between bands from Mexico and Southern California. Despite the city’s voracious appetite for black metal, death metal and doom – especially amongst young Latinx fans – it remains rare for some of the most important underground metal bands in Mexico to play in LA (or the wider US). That changed on October 21, with renowned Mexican metal bands and Latinx-led groups from LA playing side-by-side in an extremely loud celebration of community. Key local artists appeared alongside some international guests at the opulent Los Angeles Theatre, including Transmetal [MX], Disgorge [MX], Thanatology [MX], Sadistic Intent [LA] and Terrorizer [LA].
At the birth of hip-hop and electro in Los Angeles, Uncle Jamm’s Army started out playing high school parties in the mid-’70s, and went on to become LA’s most popular promoters for over a decade, throwing parties at huge venues like the Los Angeles Sports Arena. For one very special evening at Savoy Entertainment Center in Inglewood, we brought together members and affiliates of the former crew – featuring Egyptian Lover, Ice-T + The Glove, Bobcat, Arabian Prince and Dr. Funkenstein – as well as their contemporaries of the L.A. Dream Team and Alonzo Williams & Cli-N-Tel (World Class Wreckin’ Cru).
The city of Los Angeles officially declared October 28, 2017, Uncle Jamm’s Army Day. As part of the ceremony, crew members were invited to LA’s city hall to mark the momentous occasion.
The opening night of Red Bull Music Academy Festival Los Angeles featured a special edition of LA’s trailblazing Rail Up party. In an East LA warehouse, a diverse lineup of artists – ranging from Trinidad & Tobago’s Laventille Rhythm Section to Lisbon’s DJ Firmeza, New York’s Tygapaw and bi-coastal duo NGUZUNGUZU – brought the sounds of the African and Latinx diaspora to life in pulsating fashion. A surprise appearance by Kelela provided one of the many highlights of the night.
The custom-built OPEN BETA environment in East Los Angeles opened its doors for the first time on October 12 for a collaboration with LA-based label Outside Insight and creative director Taran Allen. Boundary-pushing artists from across different genres gave a series of electrifying performances – ranging from the mutated psychedelic music of Eartheater to the fiery dancehall of Bad Gyal, the DIY-pop of Sneaks, SADAF’s thunderous sound collages, Amnesia Scanner’s cybernetic electronics, John Carroll Kirby’s meditative soundscapes and Yves Tumor’s confrontational noise blasts.
In a composing career that has stretched over five decades, hundreds of films and thousands of songs, Bappi Lahiri has established himself as an unparalleled force in the world of Bollywood and beyond. The Bengali-born singer is regarded as the first artist to introduce disco to Indian cinema, a stylistic shift that had a seismic impact on the genre’s vibrant musical personality for years to come. In a rare Los Angeles appearance, the “Disco King of Bollywood” sat for an in-depth conversation with DJ Rekha. Later in the evening, Lahiri performed a few of his unforgettable hits in front of a live audience.
Following on from the acclaimed documentary series and Red Bull Radio show of the same name, Diggin’ In The Carts showcases Japan’s leading composers of video game music in the late ’80s and early ’90s alongside a new generation of artists who have been influenced by them. On the very first stop of the Diggin’ In The Carts world tour, Hyperdub boss Kode9 presented a new performance set to visuals by legendary animator Kōji Morimoto; Streets of Rage composers Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima collaborated live for the first time (featuring visuals by Konx-Om-Pax); and Diggin’ In The Carts producer Nick Dwyer delivered a special DITC音 set. Additional support on the LA stop of the tour came from Academy alumna TOKiMONSTA as well as Ryan Hemsworth and Qrion, who all brought sounds indebted to video game music to the stage.
As part of the Academy’s long and esteemed tradition of lectures by influential artists, we presented intimate talks with LA artists Ice-T, who walked us through his early days with Uncle Jamm’s Army and his artistic path as a hip-hop statesman; and, at MOCA Los Angeles, punk icon Alice Bag, who has been fighting for justice and equality through her art since the 1970s.
At Vista Theatre, we presented a talk with British director, screenwriter, producer and actor Edgar Wright, who has written and directed a string of hit movies notable for their use of both pop music and soundtrack-style instrumental music. These include the so-called Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, his acclaimed thriller Baby Driver in 2017 and 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Fittingly, Wright has also directed a number of music videos, most famously a 2014 promo clip for Pharrell Williams and Daft Punk’s “Gust of Wind.” The talk was moderated by composer, producer and music supervisor Brian Reitzell. Meanwhile, Italian-Canadian director Floria Sigismondi sat down for a chat with Molly Lambert at USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute. For the past two decades, Sigismondi has brought her keen eye and unique style to music videos for artists like David Bowie, Rihanna and Perfume Genius, and in 2010 she released her first movie, The Runaways. The two talks were part of RBMA’s Director’s Series, in which film directors talk about their favorite musical moments on celluloid.
RBMA’s Studio Science series goes inside the workspaces of brilliant producers and engineers, where they demonstrate their working methods.
For Red Bull Music Academy Festival Los Angeles, engineer, mixer and record producer Sylvia Massy took a seat in Room B of EastWest Studios to demonstrate some of her techniques firsthand, mixing a track by Turbonegro. Fans around the world were able to sit in on the session via Facebook Live. We also live-streamed sessions with mastering legend Bernie Grundman, whose work at A&M helped result in hundreds of platinum and gold recordings, including Carole King’s Tapestry, Steely Dan’s Aja and Michael Jackson’s Thriller; and Benjamin Tierney, the go-to studio whiz for LA’s spiritual jazz and beats scene, who has variously recorded, mixed, mastered and produced artists such as Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington, Hiatus Kaiyote, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Gaslamp Killer and Deantoni Parks.
For the duration of the Red Bull Music Academy Festival Los Angeles, Red Bull Radio hosted a pop-up studio in LA’s Arts District. The month of programming included live streams from events and special broadcasts with Ryoji Ikeda, Madlib, St. Vincent, Thundercat, Ice-T, Floria Sigismondi, Peanut Butter Wolf, DJ Harvey, West Coast Get Down and Amoeba Music Hollywood. Vivian Host presented our Peak Time show at 9 AM each weekday, and we broadcasted a special live edition of Dâm-Funk’s Glydezone show, as well as live episodes of Earl Sweatshirt & Knxwledge’s monthly show Stay Inside, The Bunker featuring LA’s finest in electronic music, Frosty’s LAndscape and Shawn Reynaldo’s First Floor.
Every third Friday of the month, Dâm-Funk presents Glydezone on Red Bull Radio, featuring the best of modern funk, boogie, cosmic, soul and beyond. As part of Red Bull Music Academy Festival Los Angeles, Dâm hosted the first-ever Red Bull Radio show in front of a live audience: a special edition of Glydezone celebrating the sounds of LA at the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center in the Leimert Park neighborhood. He invited Matt Martians of the Internet, Leimert Park’s own rap hero Dom Kennedy and R&B veteran Leon Sylvers III for a discussion of the sounds that shaped them and the current state of the music industry.
Throughout the festival, we published a series of articles on RBMA Daily, the Academy’s home for longform music journalism. We revealed how we built 100 sine wave synthesizers with Ryoji Ikeda, and as a further exploration of the Ikeda performance for 100 cars, investigated why A440 is a universal tuning standard. We interviewed storied producer and engineer Sylvia Massy and Streets of Rage composer Motohiro Kawashima, who performed at the Diggin’ In The Carts showcase, and Thundercat, who broke down his third studio album Drunk.
Focusing on musical institutions of LA, we celebrated ten years of Mustache Mondays, LA’s iconoclastic party; looked into the wild desert happenings of Los Angeles’s Desolation Center; stepped inside Alice Coltrane’s Sai Anantam Ashram and chatted to the folks at metal dungeon Dark Realm Records.
In support of our Todo Es Metal event, we also collected a handful of musical memories from the city’s multifarious metal community. Ahead of our conversation with Alice Bag, we revealed the true story of the apartment building where LA punk truly became a scene and took a look at Zed Records, the first store in Southern California to solely stock punk and hardcore. We detailed the “whole-parts-whole” vision of new Los Angeles label Outside Insight, which was featured in a festival showcase; profiled pivotal engineers Bernie Grundman and Baker Bigsby; asked music expert, photographer and director B+ to take us behind the scenes of pictures in his new book; talked to LA drummer Robin Russell (New Birth) and sound designer Katie Gately; considered the diasporic sounds of Los Angeles’s Rail Up; and examined an outlying Temptations record that was recorded and mixed in Hollywood. We published an oral history of Macola Records, the label and distributor that helped launch gangsta rap nationwide, too.
We teamed up with Public-Library for a visual identity based on the passage of perception. Working with photographers, illustrators and motion designers, they created individual artworks for every event of the festival.