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Street Performers

Venice Street Extravaganza

Quazi Badu

 

Venice Street Extravaganza

This article is reprinted with the kind permission of the Free Venice Beachhead. It appeared in the April 1978 issue

The street performers of Venice are getting together. An association is being formed, official like, called The International Street Performing Arts Association. And they've announced a free concert for all the beautiful people of Venice on Saturday, April 15, from 1-5 p.m., on the grass near the Venice Pavilion.

This unique, first of its kind street performers concert will feature all the Boardwalk favorites: Ed Brown, the singing piano mover who, besides pulling his piano down the walk, pulls in 1/4 of the Sidewalk Cafe's gross on any sunny beautiful weekend; Uncle Bill - Venice's own King of the Blues, who holds forth whenever the spirit moves him at the Breeze Ave. pagoda; Captain Hook - Canaligator-in-Chief; Jingles and Frank - Music's Odd Couple, plus 'Don', the Mad Cosmic Violinist; Regina 'Star', the exotic snake and mask dancer; and an extra added attraction, the Los Angeles Juggling Company.

Also included will be the mellow duets of Venice's own Roger and Jolene, Swami X, the mad MC from Brooks Ave. lawn (if he can get his body back from NYC); Joseph Baruch, this community's only resident oud and dumbach master, and several belly dancers from Venice and the teeming ghettos of Southern California; and last but not least, all the way from Quebec, the Diamontose who were street theatering their way across the USA and have now become regulars in our Venice street performers scene.

Jingles the Master Planner

Both the Festival and the Association are the brain children of Jingles, the Universal Bell Giver. Jingles spent twelve years performing in Philadelphia and New York's Greenwich Village. He did concerts, clubs, and even a few porno papers "with just my bells and guitar." After a heavy bout in the hospital, he jokes, "I escaped Fun City and ventured to the sunny land of hopes and dreams called Marina del Venice, tried selling my collage art work on the Ocean Front Walk, but the police chased me. Brought AnnaBelle (my guitar) outside, and my big sized bells, set up in front of the old Fruit Tramps store, and decided to become a street performer."

"Been doing it now for almost three years. I love the excitement of playing to people, against the background of helicopters, strolling police cars, barking dogs, rollerskaters, skateboarders, some winos and all the other energies which help to create the setting for street performers in Venice. Jingle Bells are my world-wide trademark. Been handing them out for over 15 years now. Each bell carries a clip on it to hang on your body. Jingles is my name and bells are my claim to fame.

"Putting a concert together like this one has been a dream of mine for a long time. The many creative, beautiful, energetic people here in Venice, they've helped to make this show is a reality."

Jingles is the first half of "The Odd Couple of Contemporary Music." His partner is Frank. After many years of jamming and forming one band after another, Frank finally joined forces with Jingles in 1976. Their music has grown and developed over the past years, and they have been entertaining Venice Boardwalk audiences every weekend in front of the Sidewalk Cafe. "The merchants are funny," says Jingles. "They appear to like us and despise us simultaneously."

Frank is the straight, conservative, quiet fellow, and Jingles is the crazy, loudly dressed wild bell ringer. Odd, talented, and energetic folks. Jingles has been busting his bells to get this festival off the ground. "It's my dream child, my baby," said Jingles, "and I'm putting myself into nursing this concert till April 15th."

Snake Lady and Ed Brown

Regina Star, born and raised in Holland, will perform African, snake, and gypsy dances. A seasoned street performer, she has appeared at the 1977 Festival of Fools in Holland, as well as in Rome, Barcelona, London, Istanbul, and in the new world. Her favorite places are parks, open air markets, and beaches. Star dances with snakes. "My fascination for snakes began after a friend gave me one as an x-mas present," she told the Beachhead. "I worked her into my act, and she is now my faithful dancing partner; graceful and inspiring."

Like many of the other street artists, Star considers Venice a special place, a must stop on the US street theater circuit. "Of all the places throughout the entire world in which I have street performed, I find Venice the most exciting and challenging."

Ed Brown began playing his Rolling Piano six years ago. Venice has gone through a lot of changes in that time, says Ed. The Rolling Piano has become 'one of the usuals' on the Walk. Ed mused that the vending and street performing in the area many have created some problems for the law. The question is, he says, "will this unique exercise of free speech and social interaction continue to blossom as an expression of love between human beings, or will the demands of a quiet and orderly Beachfront force those who wish to have their voices heard to be silent again."

Roger/Jolene, and Diamantose

Roger and Jolene wanted to be remembered in the following way: "We started playing together in Canada/ We'd been together long before/ We returned to California and played our songs some more/ They gave us both a ticket at Santa Monica Mall/ The people didn't dig it, but a merchant placed the call/ We won the case, but lost the taste for playing in the street/ We loved to play for People, but couldn't stand the heat/ Now we're ready to begin to start, are coming out again."

Jacques and Remi make up the Diamantose, a French Canadian band from Sherbrooke, Quebec. They left home in 1976 looking for work in west Canada, but took to street music instead. They spent ten months traveling through BC, "giving back the good energy we were getting all the time from the people who heard us." They're now on a world tour of street performing, beginning with the West Coast. They stopped in Venice five months ago, and found it so nice they decided to stop and enjoy it awhile.

Jacques plays the guitar and mandolin. Remi plays the glockenspiel and percussion. They play original pieces and French Canadian songs. They will also be doing old Irish, Scottish, and French folk, as well as stuff from Dylan, etc.

We don't know how many other people or groups will be performing. Lance Wakely's One Man Guitar Harmonica Band will be there. He got tired of Hermosa and we hear he wants to be part of the Venice street-arts scene. Jingles and the Association want everyone to know however that their art is people's art, it's free art, it's public art, and it's a hell of a lot more Venice than the slick shtick scene on Market Street. This Festival is sure to be another in a series of famous Venice Scenes They'd Like to See Because They're Afraid to Be, so get there early. Maybe the Sidewalk Cafe will be taking advanced reservations.

The First Annual Street Performers Spectacular in Venice, Calif. is dedicated to the preservation of street performing, and the goals of the goals of the International Street Performers Association:
1. To enrich the art community with a nourishing supply of the creative energetic flow of music, poetry, and dance.
2. To encourage those brothers and sisters with these creative talents to take part in the total experience of street performing.
3. To provide free entertainment to people who cannot afford admission to nightclubs or concert halls, and enable the community to share in the street performers' outlet of creative expression.
4. To strengthen the culture of small art towns, like Venice, and restore dignity to street performing.
5. To gain community recognition of the value of street performing, and encourage municipalities to grant permits and/or licenses for performing in places where such activities are now forbidden or discouraged by law enforcement.
6. To legitimize street performing and persuade municipalities to encourage such activities through grants and other such aid.
7. To gain recognition from local merchants as to the value and utility of street performing as a means of stimulating their business as well as the cultural requirements of their customers.
8. To bring street performing into hospitals, prisons, and other institutions in order to provide creative stimulation.
We feel that street performing and the outlet it provides both to the performer and the audience is an integral part of the human experience. If you agree - join our association.

Quazi Badu

From the Free Venice BeachHead October 1977
by Pano Douvos

Quazi Badu is the standard bearer for the Venice congeros. His conga drum is a part of his being rather than a mere percussion instrument. This 40 year old master drummer is a native of Ghana and has been playing since childhood. A member of the Ashanti tribe, he played for the king while apprenticed in his home. The Ghana State Publishing House pamphlet "Our Drums and Drummers" includes several prominent photos of Quazi Badu playing drums.

He speaks English with the musical lilt of Ghana. Though he is stock and powerful in build and his manner is friendly he conveys an aura of dignity and stately reserve. Local blacks show him honor and respect.

His vantage point as a world traveled ambassador for Ghana and as a drumming and dance instructor in UCLA's ethnomusicology department and at the University of Ghana permits him to observe that Venice blacks are good drummers and make good music but don't understand it well.

He mentions talking drums, of learning drumming from a woman - a dance. His short demonstration of the tongue-click sound used by many women dancers of Africa, coupled with his almost imperceptible head shakes and the complete picture of the interaction of drums and dancers is swiftly illustrated.

After tours of Europe and Russia with a troupe of Ghanian dancers and drummers, Quazi came to the States in 1968. He has returned several times to Ghana and also travels to Southern Illinois University where he has taught African music and dance for the past four years. He says he keeps coming back here because he likes the people of Venice.

The term talking drums does not refer to a symbolic communication but actual discourse managed through the use of different drums with their different tones. Their sounds imitate the rhythm and flow of sentences - male drums for low and female for high pitched sounds, or syllables to form the words.

Quazi listed at least 12 classes of drums with two or three variations of each. Some are played by hand and others by stick and hand and still others by one or two sticks. One type is held under the armpit and squeezed for pitch changes.

The kete for instance is for paramount chiefs and kings only. The paramount chiefs hold permits from the king to play the kete drum. The mpintini is a large calabash drum played by hand. The mpintintoa is a single-headed closed drum. The skin of elephant ears is most desired for drum heads when obtainable, cow hide is most common.

There are also clay pot drums filled with different levels of water, a variety of log drums and a frame drum. A young musician may follow his father playing the gudugudu. The drums are used for many purposes. For dance festivals but also for giving signals, to praise or congratulate people, for raising alarm, and so on.

Local drummers are serious musicians and often allude to the spiritual nature of their drumming expression. For Quazi Badu it was an unbroken tradition which included drumming school. For American blacks their connection with the drumming tradition was broken and attempts were made to totally block it out. They still play their drums - for musical expression, for spiritual communication and as a continuation of their African heritage. Quazi Badu is a solid reminder of that heritage.

 

 

Street Performers
Independence Concert
by Jingles
from Free Venice Beachhead #127 July 1980

In 1978 a variety concert in the Pavilion picnic area ended in violence resulting in a shooting which wounded five people. As a consequence, the Recreation and Parks placed a tight ban on all amplified music and all outdoor musical events. Repeated requests for performances at the pavilion and grass area have been flatly denied. Organizations that have been denied have been Alliance for Survival, Bob Crosby, son of Bing Crosby, who was involved with the World Symposium and Earth Day Rally organizations and this article’s writer.

The precedent for musician, performers of all kinds and artists in Venice began with the consciousness and support of Linda Kinney, President of Venice beach Association, and Andy Kuchray, former President of VBA. Linda Kinney approached me on the idea of the street performers being involved with Venice’s 75th Anniversary Celebration. Linda asked me to call Joey Malconian, the Manager of the Chamber of Commerce, on behalf of performing artists in Venice to be represented in the planning and development of Venice’s 75th year celebration. After initial rejection of the idea of an amplified concert, the Rec and Parks finally approved the concert for July 6th. Judy Taylor, Rec and Parks supervisor, continues to maintain an extreme reluctance to allow performances and concerts to a point to which one wonders if they (the Rec and Parks Department) would prefer to have no community use of our Pavilion, the purpose for which it was intended. Harmony between participants may manifest when previously opposing points of view are focused on obvious necessity for community appreciation of Venice talent.

Andy Kuchray, ex-President of VBA and owner of Marathon Mess Hall, Linda Kinney, President of VBA, Joey Malconian, manager of the Chamber of Commerce, Carl Doilin, Chairman of the Venice 75th Anniversary Celebration, Pat Lennon, town council, Pat Russell, who started the town council and who is a member of the Los Angeles City Council, Liz Wilson, Judy Taylor and Rachael Martinez, all of Rec and Parks - all of these people are addressing the same questions. What can we do to support the true musicians and artists who contribute to the creative flow of Venice?

I would personally like to thank Recreation and Parks who have approved all the permits for the three-day gala 75th Anniversary of Venice. HOWEVER, the Rec and Parks Department may yet decide to completely close the Pavilion. The success of the July 6th concert will probably determine the future of the Pavilion and involves the occasional disparity between law and order and true talent. The July 6th Street Performers’ Concert is designed to enlighten those who haven’t had a chance to appreciate the musicians, performers and artists and would provide a format for performers. Some people have commented on the fairly commercial aspect of the 75th Anniversary plans. I am basically concerned in providing a good showcase for Venice performers.

I am more than pleased to announce the Master of Ceremonies for the Street Performers’ Concert will be Ace Young, News Director of KMET Rock Radio. Performers will include: David and Roselyn, Street Smart featuring the magnificent Peter Damien and Phoenix on his miniature saxophone, Regina Starr, the goddess of primitive snake and masque dancing, Robaire, mime extraordinaire, juggle and magician, Jerry Moore, powerfully-voiced blues belter, John Lucker, amazing juggler, balancer and unicyclist, Venice’s own ringing, singing bell-giver, Jingles and special friends. Along with Jingles will be his beautiful Bellettes.

75 years of Venice in three days? Hardly likely, but on Friday, July 4th, Saturday, July 5th and, of course, the concert on July 6th, will prove to be an exciting three days in Venice, California. We are extremely lucky to have the Pavilion after two years for three hours and an excellent professional list of performing artists. Yet, what about Uncle Bill, the Swami X, the legendary Canaligators, Slavin’ David, Sunny, Congeros, Flash, the original Dog City Drifters, J.C., Butch and many others? Deepest and heartfelt apologies go out to these Venice favorites and many more who are out of town and/or for a lack of scheduled concert time could not be in the show.

In the future, if this concert is a success, we hope to be able to put on all of the above-mentioned performers in another giant marathon Venice street performers’ spectacular. This July 6th concert is dedicated to all the street performers who have helped to make the Ocean Front Walk a unique, one-of-a-kind street theatre. Viva la Venice and "V" for victory for the first free people’s outdoor Venice concert in two years and victories forevermore in Venice.

Sincerely,
Jingles
Coordinator, Chairman, Producer and Promoter of the Street Performers’ Independence Concert for the Venice of America’s 75th Anniversary Celebration

 

© 2004 - 2012 Pat Hartman
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