South African Hip-Hop Icon Makes First Visit To US

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For Immediate Release:                                                               Contact: John R. Chambers
January 12th, 2010                                                                                             917.828.5885

SOUTH AFRICAN HIP-HOP ICON MAKES FIRST VISIT TO U.S. TO RAISE AWARENESS

ABOUT HIV/AIDS AND SUPPORT FOR ARTS EDUCATION INITIATIVES

WASHINGTON, DC – On January 15th, 2010, Hip Hop Pantsula (HHP), also known as Jabba, one of South Africa’s leading Hip Hop artists for the last decade, will arrive in Washington, D.C. for a two-week “Artist-In-Bloom” residency at BloomBars, a Washington-based non-profit organization that works to inspire and unite communities through the arts while nurturing artists committed to serving the community.

The goal of the residency is to build a bridge between Hip-Hop communities in South Africa and the United States and promote cross-cultural awareness about critical issues affecting those communities, namely HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness, diabetes, and arts education. In addition to performances and workshops at BloomBars and other venues in Washington, D.C. and New York, Jabba will spend much of his time speaking at high schools, juvenile detention facilities, and lecturing at colleges and universities. Many of events will feature youth presenting their programs to Jabba.

Throughout the residency, Jabba will be traveling and collaborating with Gabriel “Asheru” Benn, a widely acclaimed Hip-Hop artist, educator, youth activist, and recipient of a prestigious Peabody Award. As an Artist-in-Bloom Resident Fellow, Asheru will serve as Jabba’s guide and ambassador to the larger Hip-Hop and education communities.

Jabba is slated to meet and/or perform with a host of Hip Hop artists including, KRS-One, Black Sheep, Brand Nubian, Dead Prez, Pharaoh Monarch, and Jean Grae, among many others. Jabba’s will also attend the BET Honors awards ceremony hosted by Gabrielle Union, honoring Whitney Houston, Queen Latifah, Sean “Diddy” Combs, educator Ruth Simmons, and world-renowned neurosurgeon Keith Black. Jennifer Hudson, Mary J. Blige, India.Arie, Patti LaBelleand ELEW are slated to pay tribute.

January 15th will also mark the release a of supplemental reading workbook featuring the lyrics of a collaboration between Jabba and Hip-Hop icon Nas, who appears on Jabba’s latest album, “Dumela”, released in October this year. The workbook is one of a series developed by Asheru that use Hip-Hop lyrics to help students of all ages improve reading and critical analysis and teachers improve literacy instruction. Since 2005, Asheru’s Hip-Hop Education Literacy Program (HELP) has partnered with dozens of recording artists, including Common, Jay-Z, Kanye West, KRS-1, Nas, and Rakim. In 2008, HELP received a letter of endorsement from then Senator Barack Obama. Today, HELP can be found in classrooms across the country. Asheru and Jabba will use the workbooks in their meetings with students.

“We invited Hip Hop Pantsula because of his tremendous accomplishments as a recording artist and his selfless commitment to serving his community,” said John R. Chambers, founder of BloomBars. “This is a rare opportunity for two communities on two continents to explore the roots of their music—each contributing to the evolution of the other—and its impact on society. The Artist-in-Bloom Residency Program is designed to identify and cultivate artists who will represent and advance the belief that art and artists have the power to transform people, communities, and the world. It also helps artists learn how to be entrepreneurs and leaders in their communities.

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“We’re on a mission to break down borders, break down barriers, and break down stereotypes,” said Jabba, who was hailed as the “Illest lyricist” by Wyclef Jean at the MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMA) where he won Best Video of The Year. “When I learned about BloomBars, and the work Asheru was doing with HELP, I knew we had to make this connection across the pond. We share so many of the same challenges, it’s about time we share solutions.”

“We grew up hearing about Steven Biko and Nelson Mandela,” said Asheru. “I’m excited to learn how that experience has shaped the evolution of Hip-Hop in South Africa. And I’m sure Jabba is excited to learn more about the roots of his chosen craft and meet some of its founders.”

All Artist-in-Bloom Resident Fellows will also perform and participate in activities with Jabba and Asheru, including Terrence Cunningham, Jabari Exum, Carolyn Malachi, and Gary Prince. The District of Columbia Commission on the Arts & Humanities has also lent it support to residency program.

A film crew will be following the duo as a part of a documentary film project.  In addition, BET International will produce a special segment on Jabba’s visit. Highlights the first week include:

  • Sunday, January 17th (8:00pm) – Jabba and Asheru’s first performance at BloomBars. In addition to Artist-in-Bloom Resident Fellow, special guests include Fly Gypsy and Ayanna Gregory.
  • Monday, January 18th – MLK Day, (11:00am-5:00pm) –Silver Spring youth activists with the Gandhi Brigade (GB) will discuss how they use multi-media to document the loss of public space in their communities (11:00am). Asheru and Jabba will lead the group in writing raps songs about Dr. King and his legacy (12:00pm).  GB will screen a documentary (1:00pm) and lead a mobile mural painting project (2:00pm).  Through her organization, Smart Chicks, Inc., Carolyn Malachi will lead local DC artists and community members in a clothing drive, writing workshop, letter wring campaign, and video shoot (3:00pm).
  • Wednesday, January 20th (7:00pm) – Jabba and Asheru will also be performing at a Hip Hop for Diabetes event in New York City that will feature KRS1, Black Sheep, and Brand Nubian, among other performers.
  • Thursday, January 21st (3:00-6:00pm) – Howard University hosts performances by Jabba and Asheru, as well as two panel discussions on the power of Hip Hop to impact social change (3:00pm), and another on HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness (5:00pm) that will explore myths and misperceptions about the virus. Howard University Hospital will also be onsite for HIV testing. Panel participants will include a range of prominent experts.

Jabba, whose real name is Jabulani Tsambo, performs Motswako style rap which means “mixture” in Setswana, one of South Africa’s ethnic languages. The mixture also includes English and Zulu. His music ranges from smooth jazzy vocal harmonies to indigenous rhythms to classic Hip-Hop beats. Drawing comparisons to some of the greatest emcees, Jabba’s music covers a broad spectrum in the family of Hip-Hop. From dance music (see “Music and Lights” and “Mpitse” on YouTube), to R&B blended vocal harmonies (See “Wayza”), to socially conscious (see “Darfur” and “Breadwinners”). Before the MAMA ceremony, Wyclef Jean said he planned to record with HHP who, he said, was among those “representing the new generation of African music” that he is planning to help take to the world.

During the two-week residency, Jabba will speak with students at several Washington, D.C. schools, including, Ballou Senior High School, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and Washington Math Science and Technology Public Charter School. Jabba will also lecture at several colleges and universities, including Virginia State University and Howard University—an official partner. Through a partnership with MetroTeen AIDS, a local Washington, D.C. community health organization dedicated to supporting young people in the fight against HIV/AIDS through education, support, and advocacy, Jabba will work with students on an outreach project to promote HIV testing and condom use.

BloomBars’ holistic approach to supporting artist’s growth has also led to a partnership with celebrity chef Lauren Van Der Pool, a Le Cordon Bleu graduate and Wolfgang Puck apprentice (Visit: http://www.laurenvonderpool.com). Specializing in vegetarian and vegan cuisine, Lauren will serve as Jabba’s personal chef and health consultant throughout the two-week residency. Jabba’s enrichment activities will also include workshops and coaching session in financial literacy, copyright law, and life coaching.

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Artist Bios

Jabba – Recently nominated for an African Grammy and winner of the Best Video Award at the MTV Africa Awards, Jabba’s celebrity is evidenced by his chart toping songs, regular network and television appearances, and acclaim by music critics across the globe. He has shared the stage with the likes of Will Downing, Angelique Kidjo, Wyclef Jean, Jamie Cullum, Saul Williams, and Snoop Dogg. He’s received numerous awards and recognition for his efforts to combat AIDS, promote education and literacy, and other community conscious activities, including an invitation by Oprah to lecture to students at her Leadership Academy for Girls. Jabba has appeared on the third one-off TV special of quiz show “Test The Nation,” entitled National Parenting Test, as the Team Captain representing fathers. In 2007 he won the third season of the reality dance show “Strictly Come Dancing” along with his professional dance partner Hayley Bennett. In 2008 he starred as himself in 11 episodes of the e.tv musical soapie “Rhythm City.” He made his debut on the show on April 4th, 2008. He was one of the featured celebrities on the first season of the South African version of the genealogy documentary series “Who Do You Think You Are?” based on the British series of the same name), which premiered on SABC2 in May 2009.

Asheru – Asheru is widely known for performing the opening and closing themes for the popular TV series “The Boondocks,” as well as his pioneering and innovative efforts to forward the Hip-Hop education movement. Asheru also collaborated with Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder to write and perform several songs for the hit TV series. In 2006, Asheru earned a prestigious Peabody Award for Journalism—the first rapper (emcee) to win the award—for his writing of the controversial “Return of the King” episode. Asheru has traveled extensively throughout Europe, Canada, the US and Japan, performing alongside artists and groups like Common, Mos Def, Jill Scott, Bilal, Ludacris, Edo G, J-Live, Wordsworth, and The Roots, while collaborating and being featured on projects with Hip Hop greats such as Pete Rock, Talib Kweli and Jazzy Jeff. Asheru is also the founder of Guerilla Arts, Inc., a community based organization specializing in innovative education, cultural arts programming, and professional development. Asheru’s recent collaboration with international funk and breaks band, Fort Knox Five played in NBA arenas the last two seasons (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qjS9PuOCmM.) 

BloomBars is a non-profit arts organization that works to inspire and unite communities through the arts while nurturing artists committed to serving the community. Redefining the perception of a bar, BloomBars does not serve or allow alcohol and is open to all ages. To learn more, visit www.bloombars.com.

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