The spirit underscoring Washington's rich musical history—an ingenious blend of influences and reverberations—is driving the city's next great era of sound.
“There has always been a sense of 'Let's mash things up', and recontextualize different sounds and put it through a local D.C. lens," says musician and curator Jamal Gray. The founder and producer of full-service radio, Jack Inslee, sees that blending daily.
D.C. is a hotbed of diversity, more so than anywhere else I can think of," her tells me. "Simply put, music matters in the District of Columbia—the musicians, the venue owners, the educators, the technicians, all areas of the music economy are important to who we are as a city," said Mayor Muriel Bowser before launching the DC Music Census this summer. The result, releasing this month in partnership with Georgetown University, aims to capture the scope of the local music economy.
"From the city starting to embrace groups more to the bands and fans coming together for the #DontMuteDC movement, I think the current state of D.C. music looks very promising," says Andre Johnson of legendary go-go band rare essence. "D.C. musicians don't chase trends as much as in other cities," adds Inslee. "The radical energy of punk is coming back," Gray claims. "The future looks good for now," Johnson states. Indeed it does. Which is why we now sing the praises of a small yet influential sampling of the people fronting Washington's newest sound era.
Artist Jamal Gray is the leader of avant-garde jazz troupe Nag Champa Art Ensemble.
ANWAN “BIG G” GLOVER
Founding member of go-go band BackYard Band, actor from HBO’s The Wire and advocate for DC youth
APRIL + VISTA
Genrebending, electronically grounded music duo of APRIL GEORGE and MATT VISTA. Out now: You are Here.
Thievery Corporation collaborators specializing in reggae roots, rock steady, early dub and dancehall. Led by producer/keyboard ace DARRYL BURKE; vocals, PUMA PTA; drums, BLACKSEED; bass, PIERRE STONE; and guitar, TANASH. Up next: grandopening of the REACH.
Singer and songwriter COURTNEY SHANADE SALTER started uploading her own music to the internet in 2012 and eventually signed with Dreamville/Interscope Records. Up next: a world tour stop at The Anthem, Sept. 25, then on to Europe.
The Hampton, Virginia, artist with strong DC ties has released popular projects #1EpicSummer and The Gahdamn!, the first of which featured breakout hit “Cha Cha.”
JACOB MICHAEL and JESSE CLASEN jumped from rock quartet to electronica duo; their hit “Free Animal” led to a string of music festival appearances. Out now: TheTherapist.
One of the most talented and innovative harmonica players on the international music scene today. Up next: The soundtrack of Martin Scorsese film The Irishman.
The National Symphony Orchestra music director is one of the world’s most sought-after conductors and has brought creativity and a renewed energy to the ensemble. Up next: the season’s opening gala concert and jazz-inspired evening with Yuja Wang, September 28.
D’ANTHONY CARLOS’ single “Crew” climbed the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and earned the rap artist his first Grammy nomination. Out now: his debut studio album, Diaspora.
Musician, organizer, curator and leader of avant-garde jazz troupe Nag Champa Art Ensemble. Up next: community liaison at art space Meow Wolf.
One of Washington’s most popular singers, the lead in Dreamgirls on Broadway and a Helen Hayes Award winner for her work in Caroline, or Change. Currently on the Burt Bacharach & Hal David Tribute tour with longtime pianist DAVE YLVISAKER.
Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter and emcee MAIMOUNA YOUSSEF along with producer DJ DUMMY THE GENIUS form The Vintage Babies, a supergroup dedicated to the revival of soul, funk and gospel in hip-hop.
Washington’s premier go-go band going on four decades.
Electropop trio consisting of lead vocalist CHELSEA LEE and multiinstrumentalists MAX ERNST and SPENCER ERNST. Check out single “Trampoline.”
Emcee, visionary artist and hip-hop performer who melds music, poetry and performance art that defies genre. Out now: African-American Psycho.
National Symphony Orchestra principal pops conductor known for boundary-breaking collaborations, like the recent symphonic . rendition of Illmatic with artist Nas at Wolf Trap. Up next: Maxwell: A Night at the Symphony, September 18-20.
Rapper and entrepreneur who achieved recognition with singles “The Pocket” and “Doin’ It” as well as music videos he produced for Wale.
The ROB GARZA- and ERIC HILTON-founded internationally renowned and Grammy-nominated DJ duo and supergroup started at venerable Eighteenth Street Lounge before hitting global heights.
Leading voice for the D.C. music scene. Signed with Interscope Records to release debut album Attention Deficit with hit singles “Chillin” and “World Tour.” Out now: EPs It’s Complicated, Self-Promotion and Free Lunch.
Noted contemporary art and music historian, visual artist, DJ and entrepreneur.
Director of the D.C. Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment (OCTFME); oversaw the implementation of DC’s first-ever music census.
Operations manager at Sound Exchange, president of Women in Music, D.C. Chapter, and bassist for Shark Week
DARYL P. FRIEDMAN
Chief industry, government and member relations officer for the Recording Academy, which represents performers, songwriters, producers, engineers and music professionals.
Executive director of the Recording Academy, D.C. Chapter
Entertainment relations at Gibson Brands Inc. and Gibson Showroom
Journalist, producer and author of Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop (Random House/Clarkson Potter, fall 2018)
Simone Eccleston is the Kennedy Center’s first director of hip-hop culture and music.
Senior manager, strategic initiatives for NPR Music
National Symphony Orchestra artistic adviser regarded as one of the major music influencers of our generation
Creator and host of NPR’s All Songs Considered and Tiny Desk Concerts; author of Your Song Changed My Life
Director of public programs at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
DJ and producer who runs the gamut from disco and house to electro . club; started popular BENT queer dance party at 9:30 Club.
Sound engineer, Lincoln Theatre, Thievery Corporation and Montserrat House Music Label
Record producer, audio engineer, DJ and founder of Full Service Radio, a community podcast network and internet radio station
Director of music and radio at Eaton Hotel; Eaton Radio is a community-based radio station focused on grassroots narratives.
Owner at Multiflora Productions, which specializes in artist management, event marketing and music releases. Founding member of GWAR.
Co-founder of Icon Talks, which creates empowering content through concerts and speaker series
CapitalBop presenter, journalist, former manager of the Union Arts collective and concert organizer; bassist for OOO Trio and Laughing Man; host of Jam Session: The Vibes Edition on WPFW-FM. Out now: Blacks’ Myths (Atlantic Rhythms)
Founder of Club Glow, D.C.’s longest-running dance party.
GM and first director of cultural programming at Lincoln Theatre
Promoter, festival producer and music curator at Comet Ping Pong, D.C.
Sales associate and artist relations at Chuck Levin’s Guitar Center
The Kennedy Center’s first director of hip-hop culture and contemporary music
TIMOTHY ANNE BURNSIDE
Museum specialist in Curatorial Affairs at the National Museum of African American History and Culture
“D.C. musicians don’t chase trends as much as in other cities,” says Jack Inslee, record producer, audio engineer, DJ and founder of Full Service Radio at the LINE DC.
Owner, Flash Nightclub
Founder and owner of Echostage, Soundcheck, Glow, Ultrabar, Barcode, Decades, L8 and Panorama Productions
President and CEO of Wolf Trap Foundation
Owner and president of The Black Cat, which has been bringing DC live independent music since 1993. DC music advocate DAVE GROHL was one of the venue’s initial investors.
DAVID AND KAREN ENSOR
Gypsy Sally owners, who have extensive experience in and passion for live music.
President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
DONNA WESTMORELAND & GENA GORDON
COO and CFO, I.M.P./9:30 Club, respectively
JOI A. BROWN
Artistic director and vice president of programming for Strathmore, including The AMP, Strathmore’s newest live music venue at Pike & Rose.
Founder of Eaton Workshop, a global brand merging hospitality with progressive social change. Eaton DC is home to Eaton Radio.
NICHOLAS FONTANA, BRUCE GATES & HENRY GANDY
Founders of Pearl Street Warehouse, which stages live rock, country, folk, soul, bluegrass and R&B acts nightly at District Wharf.
Chairman of I.M.P. and co-owner of 9:30 Club. Since opening in 1980, I.M.P. has presented more than 20,000 events, hosting millions of music fans.
The Cofounder and owner of U Street Music Hall, one of the top dance clubs and live music venues in DC.
Arash Shirazi’s Bullitt Agency represents electronic music DJs.
Co-Founder and CEO, The Bullitt Agency, which represents the world’s leading music producers and DJs
Two-time Grammy Award-winning producer who counts Dave Chappelle as a client JENN HASS Talent buyer, I.M.P./9:30 Club
Talent buyer, Live Nation, The Fillmore, Warner Theatre and Sixth & I
Artist manager, EQT
Talent buyer, I.M.P./9:30 Club
Talent buyer, 9:30 Presents at U Street Music Hall, I.M.P./9:30 Club
Senior talent buyer, The Hamilton
Photography by: Photography by Andre Chung; by Emil Ravelo; by Sara Azani