Los Bros and Marimba Pacifica have a twenty-year history in Oakland. In front of their rehearsal space in Maxwell Park, a sign saying “Schools not Bombs” gives voice to director Hadley Louden and vocalist Michelle Jacques’ concerns about the future of art education. Like most of the band members, they’ve spent decades in the trenches, giving back to the community, teaching music to our youth.
They are rehearsing for an upcoming Spring Bacchanal show at all-ages Dance and World Beat venue Ashkenaz (1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley CA 94702) on Saturday March 23rd. Doors open at 8:30 pm and tickets are $10 advance/$12 at the door. The two bands will combine for a joint performance at the show.
Inside, the mellow tones of Charles Moselle’s saxophone introduce “Nature Boy.” The band strikes up and Jacques sings in a smooth and smoky contralto. Soothing strains of sweet and sultry jazz fill the bohemian space. Two bands that share members practice here, Los Bros and Marimba Pacifica. Above a long window hang a series of drums. Everywhere are instruments of World Beat, Afrobeat and Latin music they play.
“It’s going to be a real special night,” says Louden. “We are bringing community activism to community fun, and the venerable Code Pink will be speaking there.” Code Pink, a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice organization, will present on the effects of US Drone Warfare worldwide and lead an audience-participation Spring Fertility Ritual at the show.
Connecting music with politics is nothing new for these musicians, many of whom met in the early 80s when studying under C.K. Ladzekdo. Having been deeply involved in the community for a number of years, they are very aware of changes, particularly regarding arts in the schools.
“There were so many funds out there for artists at that time, and a lot of artists had the opportunity to go abroad and study and teach then bring it back to the community,” Jacques recalled. “Now you have to be clever to get funding, and they are getting ready to cut the NEA again.”
“All of these public school music and arts programs have been cut over the past three or four years,” Louden added. “They still exist in certain place, but only where the parents are able to pay for it, even in the public schools. This is creating a class division in arts education access.”