The DKTM Collective

The DKTM Collective

by Dylan Naumann

The Baltimore based Hip-Hop group DKTM (“DON’T. KILL. THE. MOVEMENT.”) Collective started to form around the year 2014. The founding four members – “Pope,” “BLKLEXX,” “Ninety-N1ne,” “Mouse,” and “Lucy Mourn” – were already bouncing ideas back-and-forth to each other by sending unique “ciphers” through text message. The content of ciphers ranged from unfinished sections of featured raps to short phrases known as “bars” (a way to communicate how to measure the music). Upon receiving the ciphers, the members would attempt to put their own unique style into the rap/bar. That inspiration among the collective hasn’t slowed down at all. Up until now (a half decade later) the collective has welcomed members from the names of – “Baat-Choy,” “MellO,” “Slovak,” “Morgan Marsh,” “Reem-unknwn,” and “Aghori.” All bring their own individuality under the collective’s roof; implementing their own aesthetic to current and future works.

Recently DKTM released the EP titled Metropolis, with featured tracks such as – “Chop!” and “City Lights.” The project is credited towards “Blklexx” and “Mouse,” with additional production by “Baat-Choy,” and featuring “Morgan Marsh” on “Chop!” Noticing every member apart of DKTM isn’t on the project, or every project for that matter, won’t bring a surprise to anyone that’s familiar with the collective. For instance, when the members release new material it’s under the DKTM label, but they’re also representing themselves – the collective acts as an umbrella for whole and the artist. Like the recently released EP love tapes by “Baat-Choy” or the future release of Sides by “Pope.”

Since everyone represents DKTM as a whole, all their music is found in one place – eliminating the problem of searching for everyone separately. Needing to only make one search to find everyone’s music, seems a bit more convenient, logistically speaking. Making it clearer and easier to find everyone, also gets straight to the point of discovering local music around the area. All the releases by the members help sustain everyone’s own unique persona. Making the creation of their own music, highly valued between everyone, especially when collaborations happen. The freedom of not being bogged down by one style, or have to obey by one aesthetic, influences artistic diversity within DKTM. When collaborations do take place, when the masses come together, that diversity presents itself once a week at the DKTM lair located in Baltimore, MD.

The weekly meet-up/jam cultivates the environment mentioned earlier, and also strengthens a song writing process that’s positively inherent between the individuals and the whole. From the point of view of “Blklexx,” it seems to be more of an organic process now than before. “Members would come to the jams with multiple aims to write together and to produce together by bouncing ideas around…for example, you’ll write a verse then I’ll write a verse would be the mentality between us…and no one is explicitly stating that you have to write about one thing either.” That type of collaborating reinforces the organically driven process that DKTM thrives on. The collective stretches that process by welcoming other talent from the area to come to the meet-up/jams. Giving the invitation to others – that aren’t part of DKTM – enhances the beauty of working spontaneously through each other. But more importantly, the collective goes “beyond the music making” in terms of opening a space where collaborations between different kinds of artists can happen. “Baat-Choy” even states that, “it’s a part of the DKTM experience of opening the jams to other local artists…to come by to record and jam. In that way we try to establish a form of community building.” To create a sense of community like “Baat-Choy” stated, opens a platform where an artist can come and participate, among the collective, and have an outlet to establish themselves and their art. Being able to host an that type of artistic outlet, creates freedom of expression between the artist and the art; doesn’t have to be measured against a preexisting pedestal. Together they all want the opportunity to create, to inspire, and to enjoy the beautiful process of making music with others. Coming to the jams allows the opportunity to unfold – between the members of the collective and the array of artistic energy that walks through the door.

By the time that energy has walked through the door and out, DKTM utilizes that energy when they record and to write. But also, it plays an integral part for their live performances, and its more fuel for their attempt to “take over the world,” “Mouse’s” laughter echoes next to mine. You’ll see the collective stretch up and down Interstate-95 – playing anywhere from unconventional venues such has house shows in College Park, Md to more conventional ones such has Sidebar and The Crown. Regardless of the venue, DKTM’s energy remains the same wherever they perform. Setting your eyes and ears towards the stage, you’ll defiantly witness the essence of a hip-hop show but there is something more radiates from the stage. From the words of Mouse: “our energy during shows have been described as sharing the same energy as a punk band…an outpouring of energy.” Combining the two energies – a hip-hop show with elements of a punk show – keeps a diversity of taste between audiences. Whether they like a lo-fi aesthetic or a moshed-filled frenzy, DKTM will surly produce! The energy you’ll hear on their recordings may be a little different from their live shows. The reason why that is because the integration of live drums played by “Slovak” and “Mouse” breaks out his 404 to get more of a DJ vibe.
Their performances favor a sight and sound that’s different from any other collective in the area. Establishing the benefits of artistic diversity between the artist and the whole collective; the ability to curate a stimulating live performance – sonically and visually; and being the builders of an artistic community. Underneath all the bars, raps, beats, moshes, grooves, and Twin Peak references is seen as a collective of friends that simply enjoy making music with one another, enjoying of having the opportunity to grow alongside each other – artistically and non – to strive together, and most importantly….to have a good time. Be sure to check out the DKTM Collective on Soundcloud for their latest releases and their Instagram for show announcements!

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Dylan Naumann

Dylan Naumann is a freelance musician, composer, writer, and improviser. Born and raised in Towson, Maryland, he’s currently finishing up his degree from Towson University for jazz commercial performance. He enjoys wondering around town, from local venue to venue, trying to find the inspiring sounds from local artists.

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Eli Lev: Songs Reimagined

Eli Lev: Songs Reimagined

by Kimberly Shires

Photo: Michael Zhang

Eli Lev quickly won over our hearts as a respected singer/songwriter from the DC Metro area. Eli made the decision to be a full-time musician just two years ago, but modestly retracted, “I think music eventually just chose me”. Prior to shifting careers, Eli was a Language Arts teacher and finishing his Master’s in Language Studies. In his last semester Eli decided to take a solo camping trip to Mexico. Eli thought back to a moment where he sat in his tent and said, “I’ve had an amazing life up until now. I have nothing to complain about and I have done everything I thought I should do. Now I am just going to…and I know it sounds silly…let whatever needs to happen just happen instead of thinking that I know what’s best for me.” Eli continued, “I knew music was part of that.”

 

Eli played his first show as a solo original artist at Tryst in Adams Morgan in early 2017 and he just kept going from there. Shortly thereafter, Eli’s first release, “Chasing Daylight” won Best Song from a Songwriters Association of Washington (SAW) contest. This win validated that people like his work and thus the journey began.  Eli added, “There was an intention that was set. Once that intention is set, everything falls into order and the world just says ‘OK. This is it.’” Before his mindset change, Eli said, “I was a guy with a guitar.”

Photo: Michael Zhang

Eli is actively working on his four EP series called The Four Directions Project. In the meantime, Eli is releasing alternative versions of “One Road” listen and download, “See the World” and “Water”. “Oh My Lord” will be released soon but in the meantime you can Pre-save “Oh My Lord”. Eli said “songs aren’t only just how they are recorded. They have lives of their own and they can be reinterpreted, even by the same artist.” Eli continued “There is a point where you can get out of the way enough so that the true meaning or message of the song gets through. You get unattached to that one lyric that you thought was amazing, because it doesn’t serve the message, or you change the melody a little bit to actually get to what is happening.”

 

Eli’s longer-term project honors the Native American belief that each of the four cardinal directions provide a unique quality that creates a strong foundation for both personal and communal growth. Eli fell in love with these principles during his stint as an Eighth Grade Language Arts teacher with the Navajo Nation. Eli was welcomed to the tribe as part of a cultural immersion program associated with his Master’s Degree and remained with the Navajo Nation for three years. The experience left Eli rich with the teachings of the Navajo Nation and a perspective on life that will remain in his heart forever.

 

Each album in The Four Directions Project has their own character and wisdom reminiscent of the principles behind Native American teachings. Check out Eli’s first two albums https://eli-lev.com/music/.

 

The first album, All Roads East, is characterized by an Americana sound. East symbolizes the start of anything new, such as a new life, or in Eli’s case a new career, making it very fitting as the first album in his project.

 

Photo: Tasbir Binta Wasim

Way Out West is the second album. West symbolizes action, doing, and creating. Eli explored West as he pushed the boundaries of his expression to create a masterful production. Way Out West won the WAMMIE as the Best Country/Americana Album this year. Eli said, “There are a thousand decisions when developing an album, so each one of those decisions being validated with a ‘Good Job’ is crazy.”

 

Eli just started work on his third album, Deep South. Eli laughed, “they say that you’ve got your whole life to write your first album and you’ve got a year to write your second one. It’s kinda cool because all of these songs are brand new and from this moment in my life or hasn’t happened yet.” South, according to Navajo teaching, focuses on empathy, trust, inclusion, love and emotional wisdom.

 

The final album in the Project will pay respects to the cardinal direction North. The principles of North are rooted in mental wisdom, reflection, and illumination. Let’s see what Eli will imagine in his journey north!  

 

Eli loves to combine unexpected sounds into both live performances and production. Eli can be found on stage with a collection of unique and indigenous finds such as a woodrow, which is a three stringed instrument that sounds like a banjo, a Native American wooden flute, a mandolin, a harmonica, a melodica or even a bagpipe. Eli says, “New instruments and new sounds give me inspiration.”

 

Eli’s thrives on collaboration. Eli said songwriting is “a very mystical process which is why it is so interesting working on it with other people. There is something to be said about sitting down by the river my woodrow and I’m just singing to the river. But, working with someone else is really good for making your work cohesive.”

 

Most recently, Eli brought an idea, a melody and a mandolin to Daniel Strauch of House Studios in Washington D.C. The two riffed off each other as Daniel made a video of their collaboration. The video will be part of a YouTube series Daniel is producing about songwriting. Eli says, “other people challenge me and I like to see what I am putting out through somebody else’s lens.” Eli thought about the resulting song and reflected, “Really, it’s not ours. It might come from us or it might come from some place we think is within us, but it’s not ours. I don’t know where it comes from.” Eli has plans for collaboration with wide array of songwriters, musicians, and producers in some capacity so far in the development of The Four Directions Project.

 

Collaboration led Eli to many opportunities. Eli connected back to his teaching roots by holding master classes with kids. Eli is also starting a consultancy to help other artists achieve their goals, whether it be help with songwriting, distribution, booking lives shows, generating income from music, building a fan base, streaming, making videos or building a strong community of friends, family and fans who support him on Patreon: patreon.com/elilevmusic.

 

Eli keeps grounded with daily meditation. Eli said, “It’s really balancing. We shower every day, but don’t always think to cleanse our insides, you know our spirits. Once I started doing it, I realized it is what I had been missing.” He continued, “When performing on stage, you pick up a lot of people’s stuff. There is an energy interaction between you as a musician. It’s a lot to deal with. The meditative practice has been helpful. It allows me to separate myself from all the stuff that’s happening because as a creative person working with our heart outside our sleeve, we are literally just exposing ourselves to the world. It’s dangerous not having a way to process that.” Eli participates in an annual silent retreat to practice Vipassana meditation and mused “in the first three days you just learn how to sit”.

 

Eli’s calm comes across on stage, where he earns the love of new fans with his understated, yet captivating style. Be sure to check out Eli Lev at a venue near you and download his latest reimagined tracks https://eli-lev.com

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Kimberly Shires

Kimberly Shires is a native of the DC Metropolitan area. Kimberly is a freelance writer, music degree holder, road bike warrior, songwriter, corporate ladder climber, and a Subaru driving nature enthusiast.

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Capital Pride: HI-NRG Live!

Capital Pride: HI-NRG Live!

Data Recovery Project returns to Capital Pride in 2019 on Saturday, June 8, with live original music hits like “Ice Princess” and “We Are Coming For You”, as well as re-imagined deep-tracks by artists like Queen, Dead or Alive, Erasure, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and Pet Shop Boys.

DIVE is the manifestation and celebration of our own rock history through the musicians who played at this location over the past 50 years. Musicians that include Bruce Springsteen, The Ramones, Bonnie Raitt, Al Jarreau, Emmylou Harris, picker Norman Blake and hundreds of others by inviting you to play here as well.

DIVE is excited for the opportunity to feature Data Recovery Project in support of the LGBTQ community during Capital Pride DC.

eventbrite.com

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Check Out Jonny Grave Quartet New Album “Impala”: Release Party June 15 at the Black Cat

Check Out Jonny Grave Quartet New Album “Impala”: Release Party June 15 at the Black Cat

Jonny Grave is a Washington D.C. based blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. Jonny is a true performer, gigging more days than he takes off. This year, Jonny Grave developed his first entirely instrumental album called “Impala”. The album includes five tracks, all of which were recorded live, straight to the board at Hill Country Bar-B-Q in Washington D.C. The show was mixed live on site, re-mixed for high fidelity, and then lovingly mastered by Anthony Fowler. Jonny loves to tap into venues like Hill Country and the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage due to the amazing sound equipment these venues have on hand. We can look forward to the release party for “Impala” at the Black Cat Mainstage on June 15th, 2019. The full lineup for the slow includes Pleasure Train and Maryjo Mattea. Tickets for the show can be purchased by clicking this link https://www.ticketfly.com/event/1865409-jonny-grave-quartet-washington/.

Jonny says, the making of this album was “exciting fun and a little bit daunting”. The album is rounded out with Scott Schoem on keys, Benjamin Rikhoff on bass and Marty Risemberg on drums. 

 

Jonny wanted to do something different with his newest release, which is rawer than his eponymous album released in 2018. There are no overdubs or double tracking and plenty of room for some wicked tricks that Jonny wanted to share. This was a contrast to Jonny’s first self-titled album, where he took a conventional studio approach, with Ben Green of Ivakota in Southeast D.C. The dynamic collaboration with Ben Green was one of the most positive experiences Jonny has had to date in his career.

 

Instrumental songs leave a good deal of room for the listener to interpret and retrieve whatever message is meaningful to them. Jonny thinks dance will be an intriguing way to aide in the interpretation of the songs on stage but laughs, “I can’t dance. My rhythm stops at my elbows.”

Many of the new tracks have a cinematic feel to them and are largely inspired by Jonny’s travel. Throughout his adult life, Jonny visited some great places including Puerto Rico, Brazil, Ireland, England, South Africa and the Middle East. For his twenty-eighth birthday Jonny’s girlfriend Maryjo Mattea, who is another incredible local musician, rallied to send him on a trip to Berlin, Grenoble, and Paris. While in Europe Jonny took in the inspiration around him. While Jonny gigs constantly at home in D.C. and around the states, he intentionally keeps his guitar in the case while travelling abroad. Instead, he opens his ears and mind to be influenced by the cultures surrounding him. By doing so, Jonny picks up little bits and pieces along the way to incorporate into his own art. Jonny feels grateful and lucky that he has been able to see more of the world in the last three years than he ever imagined.

Jonny reminisces back to Puerto Rico, where one of the most common phrases on the street is “Una Medalla Por Favor”, which translates to “Another beer please”. Medalla is a common local brew. The phrase, “Una Medalla Por Favor”, became the title to one of his new tracks inspired by the all-night parties and constant dancing in the streets of Santurce.

The track “Golly, What a Dream!” is a salute to Danny Gatton, Bill Kirchen and G.E. Smith, who played on a rudimentary guitar called a telecaster. Jonny, also a guitar technician, built his own telecaster which is featured on this tune. During the set at Hill Country, Jonny decided not to tell the band that the song was being recorded for the album, so what they got was a fun, high energy and authentic track recorded in a great venue.

“Paris, 1947” was inspired by the stories told by WWII vets who stayed in Paris after the war and the notion that music provided a common language among the men. One listen of the song will tell a sobering story of how these folks got together and then ramps up to a fun party that gets the night rolling in a basement jazz club in Paris. Jonny loves the stories told by American musicians who played USO and underground shows in Paris with French jazz musicians who were in hiding due to their Jewish and Romany heritage. Jonny reflects that these events in the 1940s forged a new a new sound that went on to inform the future of R&B and rock in the States.

The album also features the title track “Impala”, where an entertaining conversation between lead guitar and organ gallop through the Serengeti and “The Gospel Holdover”, where the soulful sounds take listeners to church.

Jonny’s love of stories and fascination with anything old has fed his interest in music history. Jonny muses that the further back we go in history, our stories tend to repeat themselves. Jonny believes that history “offers several universal truths and lessons.” Consequently, he is really hooked on Blind Willie Johnson’s “God Moves on the Water”, which is a song about the sinking of the Titanic. Jonny reflects that the song is a “very haunting warning about careless ignorance and it sounds just as haunting today as the day it was recorded”.

Jonny tends to throwback to the tunes from past decades to shape and inspire him today. This is reflected in his own compositions, where he often hears from listeners, “My dad would love this”. Jonny finally gave into streaming music, but digs back to older sounds such as Jimmy Smith, the great jazz organist, cinematic sounds such as David Holmes’ soundtrack to Ocean’s Eleven and Twelve, and a bunch of Irish folk music such as the Chieftains and The Dubliners.

Jonny reflects that the last five years have been incredible. Jonny has created a steady music career for himself in Washington D.C.  He averages about 165 shows per year and topped out at 185 shows in 2016. More than once, Jonny has played four gigs in a single day. Jonny laughs “I can do whatever you got with enough coffee.” He adds, “I love D.C. This is home. This is where my musical family is.”

Jonny tells us that he likes to live one day at a time just to see what unfolds. He finds that this approach has never failed him. Purposefully allowing himself to let go and live in the moment helps to ground him from a constant stream of worry that results from his struggle with anxiety. Jonny values patience and stillness more and more with age, further allowing him to enjoy the experiences life and travel has afforded him. He gets to reflect on the world and write songs from his 11th Street apartment, play with his pit bull, and contribute meaningfully to Washington D.C.’s thriving music scene every day. Jonny is truly grateful for every second of it.

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