Insight With Beth Ruyak

Hosted By Beth Ruyak

Insight creates conversation to build community, exploring issues and events that connect people in our region. Insight covers breaking news and big ideas, music, arts & culture with responsible journalism, civil discussion and diverse voices.


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Ensemble Mik Nawooj Hip Hop Classical Infusion

Ensemble Mik Nawooj / Courtesy

Ensemble Mik Nawooj / Courtesy

Ensemble Mik Nawooj injects classical compositional techniques into hip hop. Led by composer/pianist JooWan Kim, the 10-piece ensemble features MCs/lyricists Do D.A.T. and Sandman, a soprano, winds, strings, funky drums, and piano.

The group is working on its second album “The Future of Hip Hop” and will be performing at Sol Collective in Sacramento Saturday. Bandleader/composer JooWan Kim joins Insight to talk about his blend of hip hop and classical music.

Interview Highlights

The sounds that make up the ensemble

The instruments include flute, clarinet, violin, cello, drum and bass. Band leader JooWan Kim is on the piano. Then there are two MCs and a lyric soprano.


On having their music played on ESPN during Super Bowl season this year

“I didn’t grow up here so I didn’t know what that meant. Super Bowl is a big deal apparently, so I was like wow. I had no idea people would like this particular cover because we’ve been doing deconstructions for a while and when we did this, there was a big response from our fans and I was surprised.”


On hip-hop as the next great American music

“I think there’s this idea that hip-hop has a certain brand, if you would. There’s this idea that hip-hop is misogynistic. Hip-hop culture has gangsterism. Hip-hop culture is not smart — it’s not true. I think that hip-hop is one of the great American music and I, in fact, I believe it’s the next great indigenous art music of America after jazz.”

“Just like jazz when it was beginning, people talked about jazz as if it was not really great music. They called it “jungle music, hot music” but now we consider jazz as great art music. And we believe that hip-hop is just like jazz — a wonderful art music and we are in the cutting-edge of it.”


On the reason behind the name

“There’s a procedure called retrograde, which is spelling the name that you used backwards. So I decided to do that. So instead of calling it JooWan Kim Ensemble, I decided to put ensemble in front and put a retrograde on my name.”


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