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April 18-24, 2007

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Breaking It Down

The wholesome, beansprouty origins of hip-hop

By Brett Ascarelli

When you think of hip-hop, west Marin County probably isn't the first place to come to mind. But on April 21, the youth-geared Sprout Fest will take over San Geronimo to celebrate what to many has become a notoriously problematic genre, associated with gangster and, more recently, cocaine rap.

Speaking by phone from his West Marin home, festival organizer Noel Bartholomew, 22, explains that the mainstream music industry has changed hip-hop for the worse. "A lot of it has gotten pretty negative towards women and towards everyone else," Bartholomew says. "That's not what the original art form was about--it was about creating tools for youth to express themselves in a positive way, a nonviolent way." Some say that during hip-hop's age of innocence in the 1980s, gang switchblade wars gave way to break-dancing battles. Maybe that's just urban legend, but hip-hop definitely gave youth a creative outlet.

Bartholomew says that he used to listen to gangster rap but now prefers underground hip-hop, which is more traceable to its roots. And that's what Sprout Fest--whose name refs the 2001 Bean Fest in San Geronimo, now in its next stage of natural growth--is all about: the roots of hip-hop. "We want to really honor [its] African heritage," says Bartholomew, who is originally from Switzerland. Arts workshops during the afternoon will focus on break-dancing, beatboxing, graffiti painting, poi-ball dancing, spoken-word poetry and West African drumming taught by master musician Amadou Camara. Bartholomew will himself teach a workshop on capoeira, the graceful Brazilian martial art which has inspired some hip-hop acrobatics.

Recording artist Radio Active, who has worked with Michael Franti and Spearhead, will lead one of the workshops and also emcee the evening concert which features local artists D.U.S.T., Urban Apache B-Boys, Capoeira Mandinga, Shatzi Rainbow, Jahan Khalighi and Greenroom. Concertgoers can vie for $100 prizes in an old-school B-Boy Battle where the best breaker wins, and in other contests.

Sprout Fest breaks out on Saturday, April 21, at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center, 6350 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Geronimo. Workshops, including organic lunch and snacks, for youth and twenty-somethings from 11am to 5:30pm; free. All-ages concert begins at 6pm. $5-$20. Organic dinner available for purchase until 7pm. Blankets or beach chairs recommended. 415.488.8888.

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