New cultures in rap on the Millennium Stage

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Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

Gamelan rap, anyone? The Jogja Hip Hop Foundation is happy to oblige with a free performance Monday on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center.

A type of music originating in Indonesia, gamelan comes in many genres specific to the country's culture. It can be classical or it can be folk music, but in this case it is all about rap, which these days can hardly be considered a solely American phenomenon.

Jogja Hip Hop is a young, vivacious arts collective that makes such rap. It has been noted that the group possesses "a true knack for fostering unanticipated personal connections between ethnically diverse Indonesians, between different generations and between Americans and Indonesia's creative youth, in person-to-person diplomacy." In short, these vibrant rappers want to entertain American audiences with flutes and percussion backing a crisp rap flow.

"We just love to stand on the roots and traditions where we were born and grew up, but we are also part of global society. We want to give, not just receive," said "Zuki" Marzuki, the director of the foundation and one of the performance emcees. "We can take poetry, traditional literature, or a spell or mantras -- it could be from 300 years ago -- and we reimagine it, giving it contemporary context. We bring it into our generation, and to the world."

Onstage
Jogja Hip Hop Foundation
Where: Millennium Stage, Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW
When: 6 p.m. Monday
Info: Free; 800-444-1324; 202-467-4600; kennedy-center.org

The group is anxious to hear American reactions to their version of rap.

"Both are quite similar, actually," said Dita, the group's road manager. "We pick traditional mantra and rap in our native language.

To the Jogja group (which also includes the show's four rappers and a DJ), hip-hop is nothing new. This is especially true for Zuki, who discovered the joys of rap back in the mid-'90s when he listened to his friends rap in their native language.

"I wanted to get to know this genre [better], and I found Afrika Bambaataa, Run DMC, Public Enemy and so on," he said. "Then with my rapper friends, we decided to start the Foundation, [which is] a big name for what's really a collective."

Jogja got its start in 2003, and today it is part of Center Stage, a pilot program initiated by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New England Foundation for the Arts.

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Marie Gullard

Special to The Washington Examiner
The Washington Examiner