Oakland musician, composer and band leader Joowan Kim is always ambitious, a hip-hop artist with classical rigor. Witness his newest effort, a hip hop oratorio called Death Become Life, written for his Ensemble Mik Nawooj, involving turf dancing, DJs and rappers, and a variation on the story of Orpheus and Eurydice — it’s about a girl trying to reclaim her life after the death of her boyfriend, and her journey to an underground party in search of his spirit.

Joowan Kim told me he built the oratorio around what he called a prayer. “May good conquer evil, may light banish darkness and death become life,” something he said he wrote after losing his mother, grandfather and girlfriend in the same three-month period. “And we are very aware,” Kim continued, “of the environmental changes going on, and political changes, this horrible time. And we want to contribute to the positive transformation. And it’s inevitable actually, otherwise we will die, ‘we’ as in humanity.”

The music, including deconstructions of classic hip-hop from decades past, is more buoyant and optimistic than that description may sound. Witness the video below, or better yet, see the show at Pro Arts Gallery in Oakland. It’s cheap — just $5. Details here.

A Hip-Hop Oratorio Inspired by Loss 13 September,2017Cy Musiker


Cy Musiker

Cy Musiker co-hosts The Do List and covers the arts for KQED News and The California Report.  He loves live performance, especially great theater, jazz, roots music, anything by Mahler. Cy has an MJ from UC Berkeley’s School of Journalism, and got his BA from Hampshire College. His work has been recognized by the Society for Professional Journalists with their Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service in Journalism. When he can, Cy likes to swim in Tomales Bay, run with his dog in the East Bay Hills, and hike the Sierra.

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