Drop the oratorio


Ensemble Mik Nawooj speaks about fusing classical and hip-hop -- and ambitious new piece 'Death Become Life.’

By Joanna Ladd

ALL EARS Ensemble Mik Nawooj is the sort of band that solves problems you didn’t know you had. Problems like: I want to wave my hands in the air at a chamber concert! And: I sure wish this hip-hop show had some opera. A chamber ensemble with two MCs and (yes!) a lyric soprano, the group fuses classical music and hip-hop with the intent to explode expectations of both.

Composer and pianist JooWan Kim founded Ensemble Mik Nawooj (EMN, for short) in 2010 and was later joined by spitfire Oakland MCs Do D.A.T. and Sandman. EMN recently completed its most ambitious work to date: a full-length, hip-hop oratorio entitled Death Become Life. The piece premiered at the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival in June and has caught the attention of Opus 3 Artists, which manages the likes of Yo-Yo Ma and Alvin Ailey, and recently added EMN to its roster. Sat/16 at Pro Arts Gallery in Oakland will be the first of a few more chances to hear Death Become Life in the Bay before EMN takes it on tour.

Kim, Do D.A.T., and Sandman took time to share the rebellious energy that fuels EMN, an experiment that began as an attempt to destroy concert music and may just be its salvation.

Read the interview.