Preserving DC\’s Musical Culture

Almost every Urban area you can think of has its very own culture of music that the area is known for. For instance, Baltimore is known for its Fast-paced house music. New York is known for its hard core Rap music. The South is known for its Trap music. Well Washington DC is known for its Go-Go music. Go-Go music is a blend of funk, rhythm and blues with a focus on lo-fi percussion instruments with an emphasis on a live audience call and response.


Considered to be the Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers are credited with putting it on the mainstream map. In the 60\’s and 70\’s it was a fierce competition of bands that popularized the sound that most Washingtonians have grown to love. That very sound 50 years later is up for discussion to be preserved by community panelist.

Gathered at Union Temple Baptist Church, panelist Reverends were Tony Lee and Willie F. Wilson, Charles Stephenson Jr. (co-author of The Beat: Go-Go\’s Fusion of Funk and Hip-Hop), Michelle Blackwell (lead vocalist of Trouble Funk), Kemry Hughes (nonprofit consultant), Anwan \”Big G\” Glover (lead talker of Backyard Band), Jason \”Cocky\” Lewis (Bounce Beat Radio co-host) and Big Youngin (Junk Yard Band\’s drummer). \”Throughout the evening, panelists analyzed the sometimes contradictory nature of D.C.\’s relationship with its native sound. Stephenson contrasted the dynamic with that of other cities that take pride in their music scenes, positing that if you ask a hotel concierge in Chicago where you can see a blues show, they could produce a list for you, while a concierge here, when asked about go-go, would be clueless. Go-go is constantly marginalized, “but on the flip side, the politicians call this the heartbeat of D.C.,” he said, and are quick to partner up with bands during election time. Big Youngin agreed, stating that politicians “look at the go-go community as non-tax-paying hoodlums, and on the business side, pimps and hustlers” and asserting that “we gotta practice citizenship [and] put our political footprint in this city.\” As for the stigma surrounding the culture, Blackwell said “we have a really big PR problem” that we need to “combat by narrating our own stories.\” She lamented that go-go is also a victim of the violence wrongly associated with it, which gets “sensationalized” while go-go’s community service and anti-violence efforts are ignored.\”


The panel discussion theme was \”Unity\” and it was moderated by EZ Street of 93.9 WKYS. The outcome of the discussion led to more questions and implication that the Go-Go community has much work to do to be accurately represented and to sustain its forever history in Washington DC\’s music culture. Further panels will be planned in the future and hopefully it\’ll receive more attention and a better plan of action.

Source: City Paper
Author: Nena Perry-Brown

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