At a DC Council hearing on Wednesday, go-go musicians and fans brought the music to the John A. Wilson building–literally. The hearing on a bill to make go-go the official music of the District drew a crowd who testified on the genre’s significance to DC.
The witness list included a slew of musicians, listeners, and community advocates who talked about the power of the music. Then the crowd moved downstairs, where a go-go band did its part, putting on a show on the building’s ground floor. The bill was introduced by Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie in June and would help preserve the music’s legacy through a program to archive music and implement a series of educational initiatives.
The hearing underscored local passion for the proposal, including on the Council. “DC doesn’t have a culture without go-go music,” McDuffie said in his opening remarks. Ward 7 Council member Vincent Gray displayed similar commitment to the cause, and there were memorable moments throughout the evening. Here are a few.
Chuck Brown’s legacy loomed large
Brown’s presence was felt at the hearing from the first round of testimony. Gray said, “We can’t have a conversation about go-go without mentioning the godfather of go-go, and that is, of course, Chuck Brown.”
The musician died in 2012, and his daughter, Cherita “Cookie” Whiting, testified, recounting Brown’s legacy in the DC music scene and the early days of go-go, a genre that is obviously personal to her. “Go-go, it is family,” she told the council.
Testimony imitated art
Witnesses got creative during their testimony. Alexandria-based poet Pierre Harps performed an original work titled “Who, What, Where, Why/Go-Go.”
“This is DC,” he said. “We are a go-go, so forget your noise violation codes, cause we’re supposed to be here.” A short time later, Malik Drummer, who brought his sticks to the hearing, began keeping time on the table during his testimony, and the beat echoed off the walls of the fifth-floor room.
He explained that the beat can inspire young people to get excited about the music. “When they’re doing that, they’ve got that metronome stuck in their head, you’re programming them to understand, ‘Oh, this is what our music is, this is the signature, this is the identity of it,'” he said. “They can feel it, cause they feel it in their body and their soul.”
Black Passion Band performed a set
That beat gave way to a full band when the hearing concluded, as local group Black Passion Band set up on the ground floor and gave a rousing performance. Deep bass and bongos filled the room’s high ceilings, and people danced to the refrain, “We got a party goin’ on.” That might be the first time that’s been said in the Wilson building.