[Editor’s Note: Mariah Smith is a 20-year-old musician from Long Beach. Smith produces beats with the Long Beach Community Action Partnership, a local organization that teaches youth music industry skills. She also plays guitar. When she’s not making music, Smith is touring the Long Beach music scene, looking for her next favorite artist.]
In Long Beach, I can travel across the globe without ever having to leave my city. Through networking at community events, I have been introduced to a wide-array of cultures, religions, styles of dress and histories.
But above all of my Long Beach cultural lessons, what I hold close is the music.
These three international musicians are my top picks for fresh and creative local music.
Violinist Tallulah Kidd
At the Hellada Gallery in downtown Long Beach earlier this spring, some friends and I were enjoying a night of neon lights, psychedelic artwork and face painting. We stopped to watch local iPad Artist Rahfee Zahkee perform an electro hip-hop mix with samples kits that any producer would love to get their hands on.
During his set, Zahkee stops tapping beats from his iPad to rap, and to my surprise, electric violinist Tallulah Kidd serenaded us. It was almost theatrical the way she improvised to the rap beat, as if she were telling a story.
“I grew up listening to Italian opera,” says Kidd who is part Italian, Turkish, and Irish. In addition to Electro-old school you might hear the local violinist play Gypsy, Folk, Classical, Irish Celtic music.
One of my favorite styles she plays is Middle Eastern. “A few years ago I was belly dancing and was resonating with the music,” she told me.
Kidd has been playing violin for over a decade and recently set the sheet music aside to jam freely for gigs with other musicians. Performing at local events and on the street, Kidd has definitely made a name for herself on the Long Beach music scene, and has even taken her music overseas to Ghana.
After experiencing an inspiring outing to the Pantages theatre to see The Lion King live on stage, Kidd knew that she someday would travel to Africa. Through the Sankofa Center for African Dance and Music, Kidd was able to take a month long voyage to Ghana.
“I went there to volunteer for AIDS using music and dance, and it was there that I learned how to drum,” Kidd said. “ They taught me more than I could have taught them, even though they had nothing they handled life better, they knew how to appreciate. I felt like I evolved.”
Kidd took the stage at Burning Man for the first time this summer with Rahfee Zahkee and plans to continue musical collaborations locally.
Cuban-American singer-songwriter Karina Nistal
I met Cuban-American singer-songwriter Karina Nistal after a presentation she did for a group of music students at LB CAP. Although the Texas native lives in Los Angeles, Nistal mostly performs in Long Beach.
“My music has been a good fit for Long Beach because it’s a diverse community and I write songs to cater to diverse people, not just the Latin community,” said Nistal, who won the Houston Press Award for hip-hop and Latin contemporary. “I knew I needed to be here for my music career.”
Nistal’s appreciation for a vast array of different genres has greatly influenced her style of music, making her songs completely original and true to her roots. But above all, it’s R&B, soul, and hip-hop that she connects to on a personal level.
“I always liked the hip-hop music my brother put me on to. I really feel like I connect with hip-hop,” said Nistal, who says 90’s music and Mary J. Blige are huge inspirations to her music. “I listen to soul music for research.”
However, while Nistal is undoubtedly a die-hard fan of old-school hip-hop and soul, she is no stranger to the Latino music scene.
“For me there’s two cultures,” said Nistal explaining to me the Latin styles music her parents listened to. “My mom brought me up on Mariachi and Spanish ballados and my dad’s from the Caribbean so he listened to salsa and merengue.”
With her creativity and library of remixes and mash-ups, Nistal has definitely become a pioneer of a new genre of urban Latin music.
Capoeira musician Juan Lourido
Being an afro-Brazilian myself, I have a special connection to Capoeira. Four centuries ago, slaves in Brazil would practice martial arts on each other for self-defense and to free themselves from slavery.
Slave masters strictly prohibited fighting, but the Brazilians slaves disguised the fighting as dance, accompanied by instruments. The martial art known as Capoeira is still practiced, taught, and enjoyed worldwide, and you can learn the art, its history, and experience the culture here in Long Beach.
The Cordão de Ouro “roda” (or circle in Portuguese) can be found publicly practicing the art of Capoeira all over Long Beach from Heartwell Park to the sidewalks of Bixby Knolls’s First Friday gatherings.
When learning Capoeira you not only learn a martial art, but you also learn the musical aspect of songwriting and traditional instruments.
“You start learning when you start to train” says Juan Lourido, a Capoeira instructor who plays an instrument called, “berimbau.” The Berimbau consists of an arc of Biriba wood, which is called the verga, and towards the bottom of it is a round hallow ball called a cabaça, which is made from a hollowed out gourd.
The sound that comes out of the berimbau is somewhat jangly and warm.
“It started out as curiosity, it became a hobby, and it became a part of my life,” said Lourido or “Testa” (his capoeira name). “I got a second family in Capoeira.”
Alongside Testa, his wife, Amy Lourido, plays the “pandeiro.” The pandeiro is a type of tambourine with East African origins. It is widely used in other styles of Brazilian music, such as Samba.
It’s truly a family affair. Capoeira music and dance is different than other music styles because it’s interactive. People in the community are encouraged to participate and learn.
For more information about how to participate, follow Lourido’s group on Facebook HERE.