Music’s biggest night came and went with the usual fanfare and excitement, as the best and brightest in the music industry converged upon Los Angeles for a week’s worth of festivities leading up to the 55th annual Grammy Awards, which aired on CBS on Sunday, February 10, 2013. The annual MojaMoja Pre-Grammy Brunch, which took place on Saturday, February 9 at the W Hollywood, has become one of the most highly anticipated events to take place during Grammy Week.
For the past five years, Garth Trinidad, the world-famous DJ and on-air personality who calls LA’s KCRW home, has added purpose to the party with his annual MojaMoja Pre-Grammy Brunch. The MojaMoja brunch benefits Oxfam America and the Darfur Stoves Project, initiatives aimed at raising awareness about poverty, hunger and nutrition, and providing clean stoves to women and families in Darfur, respectively. The MojaMoja brunch is most famous for bringing fresh new musical talent to its captive audience, and this year’s roster did not disappoint! Attendees to this past weekend’s event were treated to live performances by a broad array of artists as they awaited the arrival of Dr. Funkenstein himself, George Clinton, who was honored with this year’s Vanguard Award.
Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds protégé Chloe Flower, an accomplished and extraordinary pianist and songwriter, dazzled the crowd with music from her upcoming, as-yet-unnamed album. Flower is as passionate about raising awareness about human trafficking and working to support organizations that provide humanitarian aid as she is about music. She shared with the audience that she had recently been at the United Nations, participating in an initiative to use classical music to build awareness about human trafficking, which, she said, is a billion-dollar industry. “The best way to prevent someone from being trafficked is to cut off the demand.” Her single “Revolution” is available for download on iTunes.
LA-based quartet Chicano Batman brought the house down with their irresistible offerings of Latin soul. Following their high-energy performance, Garth Trinidad asked the band how they came up with their unique and memorable moniker. Lead vocalist Bardo Martinez, who also holds down keys and guitar–sometimes managing all three at the same time, responded quite simply: “Every one of us is a super hero. This is a working-class band for working-class people.” And with that, the crowd cheered and our band of super heroes exited stage left.
Fin Greenall and Tim Thornton, two members of the UK-based soul/folk/rock band Fink, gave an outstanding acoustic performance during the brunch, and proved that soulful sounds can come from anywhere in the world. Greenall’s witty banter sprinkled between tunes filled with intimate lyrics and beautiful melodies warmed the room and left the audience wanting more. Back in the press room, Fin reflected on George Clinton’s influence: “I remember getting my first Parliament mix. A friend of mine at school was into it and he gave it to me, and I totally didn’t get it at all; I was too young for it. Then I went on holiday and lied on a beach with my Walkman and listened to it–it was the only cassette I had. On one side it was acid jazz, on the other side was George Clinton. And I got it–I got that kind of funk!” Tim added, “I was always in hard rock and metal bands. I remember [our singer] constantly playing ‘One Nation Under a Groove,’ and thinking, ‘How can we meet the two?’ Then we started listening to things like Fishbone and Living Colour, and it all made sense.”
Rounding out the performances was Adrian Younge’s Black Dynamite Orchestra, which has recently taken on the charge of bringing one of soul and R&B’s most influential groups, The Delfonics, back to life. Re-christened as Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics featuring William Hart, the band took the stage and brought the audience to its feet when original Delfonics member Hart grabbed the mic and took us back with the Delfonics classic “Ready or Not.” Mr. Hart asserted his staying-power once again when he proclaimed, “I ain’t lost nothin’!,” and proceeded to lead the crowd in singing the beloved and timeless “La La Means I Love You.”
With the performances wrapped there remained one final order of business for the day, and that was to salute Vanguard awardee George Clinton. The audience waited to see the godfather of funk take the stage to accept his award (and hoped to maybe be treated to a few P-Funk classics for good measure), but all hopes for a ride on the mothership were dashed when it was announced that Clinton hadn’t been able to make it out of the east coast before the bad weather hit. Before the crowd’s crestfallen sighs could settle across the room, Garth Trinidad announced that another funk and soul legend was in the building to accept George Clinton’s award in his absence: None other than Sly Stone. As Sly ambled slowly–but still cool as ever–onto the stage, the room roared with excitement and quickly fell to a hush so that his words could be heard. He spoke for only a few short minutes, his voice frail and soft, and as quickly as he’d appeared on stage he was gone.
MojaMoja co-founder Ramona Wright shared these parting words with SoulTrain.com as the event drew to a close: “Every year, our goal is to create an experience where people can say they heard it here first, as it relates to new music, arts, and culture.” Once again, the annual MojaMoja Pre-Grammy Brunch not only brought the best new music to all in attendance, but continues to pave the way as a top-tier Grammy week event that perfectly combines great sounds with good work that helps elevate the human experience.
Rhonda Nicole is an independent singer/songwriter, lovin’ and livin’ in Oakland, CA, currently performing with San Francisco-based soul band Midtown Social. Download her EP “Nuda Veritas” on CDBaby and iTunes, check her out on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @wildhoneyrock.