Best Things to Do in Leimert Park Village Right Now
Celebrate Black music history and modern-day sounds
Leimert’s Black music history can be traced back to at least 1961, when pianist Horace Tapscott founded the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, an ongoing jazz ensemble whose “pay-it-forward” ethos has nurtured over 300 musicians. Other notable establishments include the recently reopened Maverick’s Flat Grill and Jazz, a Historic-Cultural Monument that first opened in 1966 with The Temptations as the headliner.
Travel back even further through music history at the California Jazz & Blues Museum, which is temporarily housed in the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center while the original location undergoes remodels. Legendary jazz singer and founder of both establishments, Barbara Morrison has ensured local children have an artistic outlet.
Since the early ‘80s, Leimert has hosted a weekly drum circle featuring a range of musical styles from across the African Diaspora, with drummers from various parts of Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean islands. The sound pulsates through the African Marketplace, where local vendors sell hard-to-find Afro-centric goods, clothing, art, and a wide array of foods. As South LA contends with gentrification and displacement of long-time residents, longstanding events like the African Marketplace and drum circle are all the more integral.
A creative outlet for many young musicians, The World Stage was opened in 1989, by legendary jazz drummer Billy Higgins and poet Kamau Daáood. This educational and performance arts gallery offers a range of workshops, often for free. Over the years they’ve held performances by jazz greats like Alice Coltrane, Kamasi Washington, Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper, and Freddie Hubbard. Although there are only 100 seats at capacity, the pristine sound makes it feel like a music hall.
Leimert also has a thriving hip hop scene. KAOS Network, a center created by filmmaker Ben Caldwell and dedicated to sharing new media technology, housed staples like Project Blowed, a Thursday night “open-mic workshop” for young emcees looking to build performance confidence. It helped give us West Coast legends like Bus Driver, Medusa, Aceyalone, Jurassic Five, and Freestyle Fellowship. The space later acquired Bananas, the longest-running independent showcase in LA, held every third Thursday.
“KAOS Network is legendary on all levels. It’s a lifeline to artists that’s unique and you can truly be yourself without judgment,” shares Noa James, a West Coast lyricist and event promoter.