Sunday concerts at Hot & Cool Cafe have turned into an outdoor series with shows throughout the week.
By Jason Lewis
Leimert Park Village is well known for its Black culture, Black art, Black festivals, and its Black music can be heard simply by walking down Degnan Boulevard. Musicians perform live, and some locals simply have a speaker playing their favorite jazz, reggae, soul, R&B, and hip hop music.
The latest musical showcase in Leimert Park Village is pretty unique. Musician Ahmad Dawson hosted Afro Xen Sundays inside Hot & Cool Cafe for the last two years, but the COVID-19 pandemic closures ended that free indoor concert series.
“My whole thing was that you cannot stop the music,” he said. “You just cannot stop the music. It was just bothering me.”
In June, Dawson moved the concerts to the sidewalk in front of the cafe. After two weeks, Hot & Cool Cafe owner Tony Jolly gave him a great idea about the alley that’s adjacent to the cafe.
“I was looking at that space, and Tony was just like, ‘What if we got some lights and put it over the alley?’” Dawson said.
And with that, concerts in Tha Alley was born.
This idea became bigger than a Sunday series as there are concerts throughout the week. Most of the concerts happen Thursdays through Sundays.
“Each week the production became more intricate in the sense of resources, sound, musicians, and the synergy of the band,” Dawson said. “But more so than anything, as soon as we put it out there for the first time, there was always an audience to listen. I could see that people needed that (because of the pandemic closures).”
Thursday nights are typically for hip hop and spoken word. Local DJs also perform, including Lina Fornia, who is from Leimert Park. She hosts Chef’s Kiss every first Thursday night.
Friday nights feature jazz music.
“That’s the foundation that this is all sitting on,” Dawson said. “Because the rehearsal aspect was very challenging (due to the pandemic closures), I was very selective about the musicians. I chose people that I knew who were professional enough to be able to be masterful enough to create on the spot. It really developed a good sound.”
Saturday nights feature world music.
“We developed this thing that we call utopia,” Dawson said. “It’s like a dance party, and all different types of dancers come out. Afro-Cuban dancers, free-style dancers, break dancers, tap dancers. It’s just like a synergy with dance at the focal point.”
Over the last month musician Runson Willis has been one of the main performers.
“He performs blues, alternative, soul, rock,” Dawson said. “There’s a divinity in there that adds another texture to all of those other elements.”
Sunday mornings features spiritual music from Rickie Byars from 10 a.m. to noon. Later on that day are Afro Xen Sundays, which features acoustic music by local Black musicians.
This concert series is similar to a block party, and it helps support the local Black-owned businesses. People who attend can purchase food and drinks at Hot & Cool Cafe, Harun Coffee, and Ackee Bamboo Jamaican Cuisine.
Follow the schedule for Tha Alley on their Instagram page, @_thealley. Hot & Cool Cafe is located at 4331 Degnan Boulevard.