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DaKAH's fusion fills Disney Hall

March 16, 2004|Natalie Nichols | Special to The Times

"It doesn't matter if you leave your cellphone on, 'cuz you ain't gonna hear it anyway," said Geoff "Double G" Gallegos, conductor of DaKAH Hip-Hip Orchestra, as he prepared a bemused-to-enthusiastic audience for his group's debut Sunday at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The two-hour performance, part of the L.A. Philharmonic's series highlighting local youth orchestras, was a different kind of orchestral experience, and not just because listeners cheered.

DaKAH's cross-pollination of jazz improvisation, classical discipline and hip-hop spontaneity is uniquely Angeleno. DaKAH was born in 1999 as a group of 23 diverse musicians united by Gallegos' vision of blending such wide-ranging influences as Stravinsky, Ellington, Charles Mingus, Public Enemy and the Roots. On Sunday, the group was nearly 70 members strong.

Seeing these musicians, ranging from classically trained to self-taught, arranged in a semi-circle on the Disney Hall stage was a rare delight. Yet DaKAH's rhythmic wash of strings, horns, percussion, turntables, guitars, singing and rapping remained loose and jubilant.

The official setting never stifled Gallegos, who garrulously explained each selection, excitedly introduced guest human beat-box Rahzel of the Roots, and scrawled notes to musicians and audience.

The conductor even changed the program order, starting rather than ending with his composition "Reapus II in A Minor, a.k.a. the Unfinished Symphony," a rambling fusion of influences with meditations on the biblical phrase "as you sow so shall you reap."

The piece helped rivet attention and bring the uninitiated back for the second half's crowd-pleasing interpretations of classics by Gang Starr, the Roots and Funkadelic. The show ended on a soul-stirring note with singer Fanny Franklin's rendition of Parliament's antiwar "Come In Out of the Rain."

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