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"South African Hip-Hop Icon Makes First Visit to U.S. to Raise Awareness About Hiv/Aids and Support for Arts Education Initiatives"

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WASHINGTON, DC – On January 15th, 2010, Hip Hop Pantsula (HHP), also known as Jabba, one of South Africa's leading Hip Hop artists for the last decade, will arrive in Washington, D.C. for a two-week “Artist-In-Bloom” residency at BloomBars, a Washington-based non-profit organization that works to inspire and unite communities through the arts while nurturing artists committed to serving the community.

The goal of the residency is to build a bridge between Hip-Hop communities in South Africa and the United States and promote cross-cultural awareness about critical issues affecting those communities, namely HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness, diabetes, and arts education. In addition to performances and workshops at BloomBars and other venues in Washington, D.C. and New York, Jabba will spend much of his time speaking at high schools, juvenile detention facilities, and lecturing at colleges and universities. Many of events will feature youth presenting their programs to Jabba.

Throughout the residency, Jabba will be traveling and collaborating with Gabriel “Asheru” Benn, a widely acclaimed Hip-Hop artist, educator, youth activist, and recipient of a prestigious Peabody Award. As an Artist-in-Bloom Resident Fellow, Asheru will serve as Jabba’s guide and ambassador to the larger Hip-Hop and education communities.

Jabba will meet and/or perform with a host of Hip Hop artists including, KRS-One, Black Sheep, Brand Nubian, Dead Prez, Pharaoh Monarch, and Jean Grae, among many others. Jabba’s will also attend the BET Honors awards ceremony hosted by Gabrielle Union, honoring Whitney Houston, Queen Latifah, Sean “Diddy” Combs, educator Ruth Simmons, and world-renowned neurosurgeon Keith Black. Jennifer Hudson, Mary J. Blige, India.Arie, Patti LaBelleand ELEW are slated to pay tribute.

January 15th will also mark the release a of supplemental reading workbook featuring the lyrics of a collaboration between Jabba and Hip-Hop icon Nas, who appears on Jabba’s latest album, “Dumela”, released in October this year. The workbook is one of a series developed by Asheru that use Hip-Hop lyrics to help students of all ages improve reading and critical analysis and teachers improve literacy instruction. Since 2005, Asheru’s Hip-Hop Education Literacy Program (HELP) has partnered with dozens of recording artists, including Common, Jay-Z, Kanye West, KRS-1, Nas, and Rakim. In 2008, HELP received a letter of endorsement from then Senator Barack Obama. Today, HELP can be found in classrooms across the country. Asheru and Jabba will use the workbooks in their meetings with students.

“We invited Hip Hop Pantsula because of his tremendous accomplishments as a recording artist and his selfless commitment to serving his community,” said John R. Chambers, founder of BloomBars. “This is a rare opportunity for two communities on two continents to explore the roots of their music—each contributing to the evolution of the other—and its impact on society. The Artist-in-Bloom Residency Program is designed to identify and cultivate artists who will represent and advance the belief that art and artists have the power to transform people, communities, and the world. It also helps artists learn how to be entrepreneurs and leaders in their communities.

“We’re on a mission to break down borders, break down barriers, and break down stereotypes,” said Jabba, who was hailed as the “Illest lyricist” by Wyclef Jean at the MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMA) where he won Best Video of The Year. “When I learned about BloomBars, and the work Asheru was doing with HELP, I knew we had to make this connection across the pond. We share so many of the same challenges, it’s about time we share solutions.”

“We grew up hearing about Steven Biko and Nelson Mandela,” said Asheru. “I’m excited to learn how that experience has shaped the evolution of Hip-Hop in South Africa. And I’m sure Jabba is excited to learn more about the roots of his chosen craft and meet some of its founders.”

All Artist-in-Bloom Resident Fellows will also perform and participate in activities with Jabba and Asheru, including Terrence Cunningham, Jabari Exum, Carolyn Malachi, and Gary Prince. The District of Columbia Commission on the Arts & Humanities has also lent it support to residency program.

Jabba, whose real name is Jabulani Tsambo, performs Motswako style rap which means “mixture” in Setswana, one of South Africa’s ethnic languages. The mixture also includes English and Zulu. His music ranges from smooth jazzy vocal harmonies to indigenous rhythms to classic Hip-Hop beats. Drawing comparisons to some of the greatest emcees, Jabba’s music covers a broad spectrum in the family of Hip-Hop. From dance music (see “Music and Lights” and “Mpitse” on YouTube), to R&B blended vocal harmonies (See “Wayza”), to socially conscious (see “Darfur” and “Breadwinners”). Before the MAMA ceremony, Wyclef Jean said he planned to record with HHP who, he said, was among those “representing the new generation of African music” that he is planning to help take to the world.
During the two-week residency, Jabba will speak with students at several Washington, D.C. schools, including, Ballou Senior High School, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and Washington Math Science and Technology Public Charter School. Jabba will also lecture at several colleges and universities, including Virginia State University and Howard University—an official partner. Through a partnership with MetroTeen AIDS, a local Washington, D.C. community health organization dedicated to supporting young people in the fight against HIV/AIDS through education, support, and advocacy, Jabba will work with students on an outreach project to promote HIV testing and condom use.

BloomBars’ holistic approach to supporting artist’s growth has also led to a partnership with celebrity chef Lauren Van Der Pool, a Le Cordon Bleu graduate and Wolfgang Puck apprentice (Visit: Specializing in vegetarian and vegan cuisine, Lauren will serve as Jabba’s personal chef and health consultant throughout the two-week residency. Jabba’s enrichment activities will also include workshops and coaching session in financial literacy, copyright law, and life coaching.

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