Reflections on the “ART” of Go-Go


This Saturday, March 9th, a showcase event entitled “The A.R.T of Go-Go” will take place.  The birth child and baby of creator Tahira Chloe Mahdi (also known as DC Brand 99), this project will mark as the second showcase of its kind.

With some many areas being involved in this showcase, to include visual as well as music art forms, it has prompted me to actually want to dig deeper and know more about it.  Therefore, in this question and answer session, I have picked Ms. Mahdi’s brain on exactly what the A.R.T of Go-Go is.


QUESTION:  Exactly what is The A.R.T of Go-Go all about?

DC Brand 99:  The “A.R.T. of Go-Go” encompasses events that show appreciation to the various types of artists who have been inspired by DC’s indigenous music, go-go.  “ART” in this term is an acronym for “All Related Talent”, acknowledging the fact that not only musicians, but writers, DJs, comedians, actors, clothing designers, and visual artists, among others, have been influenced by go-go music.  Many of these types of artists from the DC area have a unique artistic rhythm that is influenced by go-go. For example, my books and my articles would read totally differently had I not been shakin’ my thang at go-go’s for however many years.  I compare this to the many forms of artistic expression—now acknowledged on a mainstream level—that have their roots in hip hop.

QUESTION:  This upcoming event you have serves as the second one of its kind.  What is your final analysis upon the conclusion of the first one, and what can be expected for this one?

DC Brand 99:  The first “A.R.T. of Go-Go” inspired me with the artists it brought out to testify about how go-go music has influenced their art. People who didn’t necessarily identify as artists came out because their work was influenced by go-go somehow.  Also, people came just to see what it was all about.  Celebrity bartender Dwayne Sawyer supported the mission when I first thought about it and offered to host us at the Tap & Parlour at Bohemian Caverns.  He even created two special drinks for the event called the “High Hat” and the “Pocket”.  It was a lot of fun, and the music was phenomenal.  DJ TDAWG is a beast!

I was blown away by the DC celebs in attendance.  Just to name a few, there were people like Grammy-nominated hip hop artist and Washington Area Music Award Best Rapper Christylez Bacon, DC superstar lyrical poet Reesa Renee, Go-Go/Funk/Hip Hop/Rock musician Dwayne Lee, the Mayor of DC Hip Hop Head-Roc, artist and comedian Mary Jennings, comedian Wayne Manigold, and fitness instructor Yolanda Coppedge of Z-GoGo.

For second one, we can expect a larger variety of artists to come out and party together.  As a matter of fact, four visual artists are donating works of art as door prizes for the event: Mary Jennings, Kevin Brown, and Lorenzo Johnston and Christopher A. Brown from The Urban 30, a DC-based superhero comic series.  The contribution they are making to show their support of go-go arts is very important.

Also, I made sure that the second “A.R.T. of Go-Go” would be able to directly financially contribute to businesses that support the mission of promoting artists.  I have directly financially secured the space at Adinkra Cultural Arts Studio and I have directly, financially secured the talents of the funk rock band GODISHEUS (gotta-see-us).  The event takes place in the Mount Rainier Gateway Arts District, an arts-based economic development initiative.  Finally, many tickets were bought from outside of the DC area.  We will have Baltimore, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Brooklyn, NY in there supporting a great DC arts scene and wanting to hear some go-go and the funk rock of GODISHEUS.

QUESTION:  Is there a particular vision and goal behind this?  And if so, how will you know when you have met it?

DC Brand 99:  Yes, the vision and goal behind this are in line with the mission of arts advocacy in Washington, DC.  As many of us know, go-go has been pushed out of DC.  Even mentioning that a DJ will play go-go music gets “no thanks” from many venue operators in DC.  This has been well-documented in the mainstream DC media, even by the journalists who have contributed to hyping the violent incidents and writing pieces on go-go that reflect their distaste of the music and its people.  It’s unfortunate that with gentrification AND with the few troublemakers who perpetrate the violence, go-go musicians and their patrons are being kicked out and left to … what?  Find something else to do?

It’s not just go-go musicians that are getting the short end of the stick in what is currently a bland, lopsided arts scene in DC.  Musicians in all genres are reporting predatory practices by venue owners, promoters and art purveyors.  Professional artists of all kinds are losing money while actually working in front of crowds who paid to experience their art!

The “A.R.T. of Go-Go” is about bringing all types of artists together to celebrate themselves to a go-go beat and to share their stories with each other.  The more they share, the more that the predatory elements will be exposed.  They are also sharing their stories with the party people, who need to be educated as to which venues, promoters, and art purveyors are doing these predatory practices, and which ones are not.  Every time an “A.R.T. of Go-Go” event happens, the educational goal is reached.

99chuckProfessional artists would like a great DC arts scene, just as their patrons would.  If you are paying your hard-earned dollars to support an artist, you need to be sure that the artist gets that dough.  Or else… there will be no more GOOD art!  We’ll be left with some sanitized and mediocre wannabe art, safe for people who’d rather stand outside the cage and observe some “culture”.

The “A.R.T. of Go-Go” is also about DOING SOMETHING.  Too many of us publicly and secretly complain about everything but never DO anything.  Then, there are the people who hate everything that they didn’t have a part in developing.  There are also the people who create something and then fuss about who didn’t support it instead of thanking and acknowledging those who did.

The overall goal of a great DC arts scene cannot be met by just the “A.R.T. of Go-Go” events.  Great artists and their patrons must stand up for what is right and for good art, together.  Then, DC will have the great arts scene we need.

QUESTION:  What would you say has been the most challenging in putting together these events? What made it challenging and what has been the end result?

DC Brand 99:  The most challenging thing has been fitting them into my schedule!  As a full-time PhD student, I have to schedule time to promote and write for DC Brand 99.  However, I have received a ton of support from professional artists, the “related talent”, go-go lovers, TMOTTers from back in the day, as well as my own awesome friends, many of whom are artists.  There is nothing like the feeling of people having your back and supporting your mission.  They make any challenge feel like a speck of dust on your shirt.  Flick it off and go ahead witcha bad self!

QUESTION:  What do you feel distinguishes “an artist” from just a musician?

DC Brand 99:  Well, I’d say the professional musicians ARE artists.  An artist is someone who is driven to create.  It’s an intrinsic motivation to use their work to elicit the deepest feelings from people.  That’s why go-go is so artistic.  Speaking as a rumpshaker, there is no other form of music that can reach into me and make my hips find that groove like that.  It’s spiritual.

I will concede that there are some people who do what they do because their goal is to get money.  Their product sucks because of it.  It’s not art.  That’s not the same as the people who had an artistic calling and who are extremely meticulous and sensitive about their work, and who are paid for their work.  Artists truly communicate.  Others just have that expressive diarrhea.

QUESTION:  If you had to think of a slogan that could have a positive impact for everyone, what would your slogan be?

DC Brand 99:   “Eff the critics…”  Dag, I really need that shirt to remember what I said.

QUESTION:  Are there any other “behind the scene” secrets, tips, or additional information you would like to share with our readers?

DC Brand 99:  Funny you should ask, as I have been noting recently that Real Life is the new “behind the scenes”.  I have been researching arts advocacy in DC and there are so many meetings and collaborations happening in Real Life that the internet/social media either can’t or won’t capture.  Despite anything that can be misread on a social media site, this arts advocacy issue is not a Black vs. White thing, even though professional Black artists are more likely to be unfairly compensated in DC.  Artists of all races are working together to advocate for fair compensation for professional artists, for fair treatment of Black artists, and for a better DC arts scene.

I also have a secret about the second “A.R.T. of Go-Go” in particular.  There will be food for those who get there early enough.

QUESTION:  Do you have a website of any type?  What are some of the details people can find by going to your own website?

DC Brand 99:  Yes, my website is www.dcbrand99.com.  There, people can find go-go journalism and go-go celebratory commentary, as well as information on All Related Talent of go-go.  I also include information about DJ TDAWG, my official DJ, who is an awesome turntablist with the most impressive collection of DC music history.  He is amazing.

Just for fun… fill in the blanks!

Without music…  “I would be totally unmotivated to do anything in life and at a loss for rhythm.”

Music is…  “a great way to communicate.”

Music makes me feel…  “like someone out there knows exactly how I feel and was brave enough to recreate it in song.”

Support music because…  “good music is worthy of support, and not everyone can do it well, so we should encourage those who do.”

Thank you kindly!

– Header photo courtesy of Regg Photo

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