Distrito Music Fest (DMF) is an event in the DMV area that “is the premier annual Hispanic American music festival in the nation’s capital, showcasing the best regional, national, and international acts in celebration of Hispanic heritage and cultural diversity.” This year, it will be held at Union Stage on Saturday, Aug. 26.
“DMF has been around for three years and came out of necessity to offer a platform for Hispanic-American original music, which has slowly eroded over the last decade. DMF is also a philanthropic effort conceived by artists, for artists, and is all about providing exposure for this community in a dignified manner,” says founder/director Daniel Gomez.
Everyone from performers to attendees are excited to come together and celebrate the region’s musical diversity, as well as the multitude of cultures that make up Hispanic heritage and its music. “DMF has an open-application process, meaning anyone can apply so long as they meet our criteria which is; being Hispanic or of Hispanic heritage, and must have original material,” Gomez says. “Our committee and partners then review all of the applications and begin the arduous process of selecting the bands we feel have shown the best blend of live performance, media presence, recorded material and audience engagement. We also hold a Regional spot and National spot for bands with similar criteria, but not necessarily from the DMV area.”
Gomez particularly enjoys putting this festival together to see the exposure the bands performing receive through media partners that they may not otherwise be exposed to. It “brings a lot of joy to me personally seeing the local scene energized and supporting artists in expanded ways after each event,” he says. “DMF is a philanthropic effort to reenergize the local, original DMV artists scene. We are ALL about the bands, which is why we ask our media partners to feature the bands and talk about the festival in the context of highlighting all that these artists have to offer.”
This year, performers include: Nayas (this year’s headliner; local legends with a 20+ year span in the area. After a seven-year hiatus, they are picking up where they left off with their original lineup exclusively for DMF**), Pekeke Project (seasoned international act with extensive touring, performing, and recording experience), Los Novios de Martita **(local favorites on the upswing with great audience connection through humor and high-energy music), Bongo District (one of the busiest and hardest working bands in the DMV that showcase a fusion of sounds, as reflected in their multinational lineup), Outerloop (2023 Wammie winner for Best Punk Rock Song; up-and-coming punk rock band from D.C.), Sonòsfera (original rock band built from an all-star lineup of accomplished Puerto Rican musicians), and QuinTango (2023 Wammie winners for Best Latin Artist, offering a unique sound of progressive tango with great musicianship).
Alchemical caught up with the last three bands listed above about what playing Distrito this year means to them:
“Distrito is bringing together a lot of local bands and celebrating Latin American culture in doing so! Making sure to highlight underrepresented groups is a very constructive thing; it allows us to express our voices and experiences in a unique way,” says Outerloop frontwoman Taisha Estrada. “There’s definitely something special about an event like this,” she says. “There’s nothing like the energy of getting to share music with an enthusiastic audience. Live music is really special in that it brings people together in a common physical and emotional space.”
Outerloop is excited to perform at Distrito, especially after winning the Best Hard Rock/Punk Song Wammie this year for their song “Just Behave”. Estrada also mentions that their song “Bisturí (Scalpel)” is a personal favorite to perform — “Our newer, unreleased songs are always the most fresh and exciting to play live.”
Sonòsfera is most excited “to present our music to new people and share the experience with fellow musicians” at DMF this year,” says the independent alternative rock band from Puerto Rico.
“Distrito Music Fest is a great platform for emerging musicians of different styles looking to collaborate and present their music to new audiences. We feel proud of being part of this event and we look forward to continue to support and participate in more events like this.”
Sonòsfera’s music is characterized by having introspective and deep lyrics that address social or personal issues in a raw and honest way, but also invite you to dance and have a good time. “The best part of performing live is the synergy created between the band and the crowd; it elevates the music and the whole experience,” they say. “Can’t wait to be there and play our music to all of you soon.”
Emmanuel Trifilio from 2023’s Best Latin Artist QuinTango and I chatted about the sextet’s role in this festival, which will instead be a trio, or “QuinTangito,”; one unique aspect of the Argentinian progressive tango group is the way in which they can create combinations of different members — no performances of theirs are quite the same.
Trifilio plays the bandoneon, a signature instrument used in tango ensembles that looks somewhat like a miniaturized accordion. The rest of the members are “a quintet of top-notch female chamber musicians,” says their website biography.
“This is tango like you’ve never imagined it: classical chops, jazz harmonies, and intimate arrangements written for the group by outstanding composers in Buenos Aires. ‘Chamber tango’ is the result of this musical alchemy, a middle ground that draws in lovers of both classical and non-classical music to experience the fullness of life—the stories, the culture, and the exhilaration of tango.” The group has a 20-year history.
“QuinTangito” at DMF will consist of bandoneon, piano, and cello, Trifilio, who is from Argentina himself, says. “I would like to think that tango music is about intimacy, and you can create that feeling especially in small ensembles … of course people expect dancing with tango, but also there’s something that has to do with letting our souls speak and slowing down the noise of the world to try to reconnect with ourselves.”
He is excited to interact with the audience at DMF and put a smile on their faces, especially those who may not be familiar with tango music: “I like the uncertainty of not knowing how people will react,” Trifilio says, although it can be challenging because people may have certain expectations. Social media is “never the same as meeting people and seeing that there are people also dreaming and trying to figure out what to say and what to do with their own tradition,” he says. “D.C. is a very cosmopolitan place and it’s a privilege to be here.”
Supporting the community is the purpose of these musicians’ lives: “It closes the cycle of practicing nonstop arpeggios and scales … The idea is how to try to portray or try to see through tango in our daily lives here in America. We really value the diversity of the group.” Make sure to Keep up to date with QuinTango and their new music, as they will be on upcoming tours in September and October!
Attendees “can expect the best of what the Hispanic American scene in the DMV can offer, a mixture of sounds and styles, in a well-organized, artistic environment,” founder Gomez says. “Regarding this year’s venue, Union Stage, he adds, “We think of DMF as a ‘boutique’ festival where we care greatly about how our artists look and sound on stage. Union Stage and their conglomerate have been supporters of DMF since Day One. They are a family-owned business, supporting the kind of partners that we treasure. It does not hurt that it’s a state-of-the-art venue with an incredible sound and lighting system.”
Emma Page, a recent Journalism graduate of The George Washington University, possesses a passion for music journalism and storytelling in all its forms. Originally from Baltimore, MD, when she is not writing, she can be found at a local concert or making music of her own.
Flow-bending artist aSanTIS discusses art, culture, and whether sound can solve the world’s problems in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
My interview with Amy Santis aka aSanTIS began in the most unexpected way. The Maryland-based flow-bending artist and lyrical storyteller came prepared to engage in conversation around questions I had posed – and she also brought one or two of her own thoughtful prompts based on her curiosities around my view of learning.
This practice of taking in her surroundings deeply through observation and inquiry has come naturally to aSanTIS ever since she was a young child. In terms of her early starts in music, she notes that she began as a discerning listener. “Just listening to music from my mom, on the radio, just being a consumer in the world of sound. But I think mainly, my mom has always loved dancing and listening to music, so that was sort of like second nature. We play music at gatherings, we play music in the car, and these songs are sort of like diaries that take us into a specific place.”
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