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Watts Drum Festival draws music lovers from around city


Family fun abounds

The end of September and first day of October are shaping up to be a very busy weekend for the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs of Los Angeles and Friends of Watts Towers Arts Center. The end of September will be kicking off October with a fun, lively, multicultural two-day music festival that cannot be missed! The Watts community is hoping to surpass their previous 3,000 attendees this year with a fantastic musical lineup, drum pavilion, multiple galleries, child-friendly activities, food court amphitheater, book signing, and arts and crafts vendors.

Rosie Lee Hooks, director of the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus says,  “We are thrilled to present these annual festivals of musicians and performers. It’s a celebration of jazz and an opportunity for families to create lasting memories. We aim to make these anxiously awaited annual events truly memorable.”

Hooks is very enthusiastic about the wealth of artistry that Watts has to offer saying, "It affords you to take advantage of all of the phenomenal talents that we have not only in Los Angeles but in Watts specifically. This two square mile has more artists than any other part of LA County.”

Watts Towers Art Center Campus will present the 41st Annual Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival which will be held on Saturday, Sept. 30, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Following the Drum Festival, the 46th annual Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival will be held on Sunday, Oct. 1 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.  The Watts Towers Arts Center Campus is located at 1727 E.107th St. in Watts. All parking and admission are free for both festivals.

The Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival was first launched in 1981. The Drum Festival will feature drum-based music, poetry, and dances from all across the globe. The drum festival features different styles of drumming worldwide and encompasses ornate costumes and dancers that change yearly. Japanese taiko, Indian tabla and Afro-Cuban conga players.

This year’s drum festival lineup includes an electric drum circle, musical rhythms and a variety of activities throughout the day. Several musical performances include Xochipilli Aztec traditional dancing with Huehutl and Teponaxtl, Korean drum, and dance movements. More performances include Magatte Fall featuring LaVoix, a drum and dance group representing Senegal, Mali, the Ivory Coast, Guinea, Gambia, and many, many more. Tile classes and gardening activities will be available for adult participation throughout the event.

The Simon Rodia Jazz Festival first began in 1976. The festival will feature a collective of music including jazz, blues, and gospel music. Jazz festivities will also begin at 11 a.m. with Alaadun Yoruba’s ground blessing and unification of all cultures. This year’s gospel jazz performance will be performed by Melvin Lee Davis and friends. In addition to gospel jazz, straight jazz will feature JMP Allstars featuring Patrice Rushen and Munyungo Jackson and Friends. Art will be featured at the Noah Purifoy & Charles Mingus Galleries.

The famous Watts Towers were created and built single-handedly by Italian-American artist, Sabota Rodia. The structure is made up of seventeen sculptures and crafted with finishings of mosaic tiles, glass, clay, shells, and rock. Rodia used rebars together and wrapped them in wire mesh and was hand-packed with mortar and mosaic surface. During the celebration, the towers serve as a centerpiece of sorts. The Watts community demonstrated a love and appreciation for Rodia’s work, with that love the community center was opened.

The Watts Towers Arts Center was established in 1961. The Watts Towers Arts Center is a triple combination of artistry, architecture, and sculpture and was coined the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Monument Number 15. The center has been a cultural staple for several years and shortly after purchase saved the Watts Towers from being demolished.

The Watts Towers Art Center offers a plethora of educational programs, public free tours, a number of support groups, art exhibitions, and films that are featured on their website.  Included are the Cap Piano and Vocal Program, Jazz Mentorship Program, Garden Studio, Sony Pictures Media Arts Program, Adults Special Needs Classes, Visiting and Neighboring Schools Program, and lastly a Horses In The Hood Program. Tile classes and gardening activities will be available for adult participation throughout the event.

Currently, the Watts Towers Art Center serves as “the best-kept secret in LA” according to Hooks. Hooks says people are stuck in 1965, making an indirect reference to the infamous Watts Riots. Although history serves as a teacher, it is important to recreate history with every passing day in a more positive light. Cultural events such as the Day of the Drum and Watts Towers Jazz Festival are indicative of positive cultural competence, diversity, and a celebration of gifts that are utilized to unify not only the community of Watts but individuals universally.

Hook said that as relevant as their concerns are they must realize it is the present day.

“ It’s not just 195. It is a community that is loving, and nurturing. Of course, we have challenges, just like other communities do, we have economic challenges, job challenges, health challenges, and food desert challenges. But we have a community of people who are loving and want the same thing that everyone wants for their children and that’s a way out. To be the best that they can be,” Hooks said.