These days rap is global.
New styles and artists are popping up in almost every country, and hip-hop is no longer a purely American art form.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Afrika Bambaataa started the Universal Zulu Nation (UZN) in the 1970s with global expansion of hip-hop as one of his goals.
Just over 40 years later, the local chapter 206 Zulu, an all-volunteer, non-profit organization is carrying on the UZN tradition and celebrating its 10-year anniversary with a weekend full of events at Washington Hall.
In its decade, 206 Zulu has thrown a wide range of events and had members representing numerous different ethnicities and countries. They’ve held workshops for the Manana Latino Youth Conferences in 2008 and partnered with the Sundiata African American Cultural Association in 2004.
“King Khazm… supported me in every way in how I needed to set up my chapter,” said Oliver Scicluna, founder of Zulu Nation Malta in an email. He is a b-boy known as Jimbo Thinlegz who now works in the government of Malta — an island nation in the Mediterranean Sea. “I always used his footprints to walk my way in leading the [Malta] chapter.”
Although prominent, 206 Zulu isn’t the only hip-hop group in Seattle with an international eye. The city is might be a bit behind New York and Los Angeles as a hub for globally diverse hip-hop, but is far ahead of other traditional hip-hop epicenters like Atlanta.
Gabriel Teodros has long incorporated global contributions in his music — his recent album Colored People’s Time Machine featured music styles and languages from Ethiopia, Punjab, Korea, Haiti, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Thailand, Jamaica, and Palestine. Teodros recently performed alongside London-based musical group The Krar Collective in a display of music and dance based in Ethiopian backgrounds. He also partnered with Khazm in 2005 to create the weekly radio program “Zulu Radio” which still runs Saturdays from 10 p.m. to midnight on 91.3 KBCS.
Seattle-based duo Shabazz Palaces has a sound that harkens back to African roots as well — co-founder Tendai ‘Baba’ Maraire’s father Dumisani is heralded for bringing traditional Zimbabwean music to the Northwest in the 1970’s. The Blue Scholars are well known for their Filipino-influenced music too. MC Geo visited the Philippines late last year, taking pictures along the way to document how Typhoon Haiyan battered the country.
But in a genre that sees styles and movements come and go faster than a record spins, 206 Zulu’s longevity has really impressed.
“[Khazm] is running this chapter that’s the most progressive chapter in the United States, and really in all of the [UZN],” said Judi “Kitty Wu” Martinez, a director for 206 Zulu. “We have the biggest mix of women, the biggest mix of people of color, and it’s a testament to him that we’re still around and that Bambaata looks at our chapter and the World Council looks at our chapter the way that they do.”
So to ring in its decade anniversary, Bambaataa is making a special appearance as a DJ along with DJ Qbert. He’ll also be at the “Meeting of the Minds” on Sunday, which doubles as a potluck dinner. The events will have numerous other guests from b-boy and b-girls, rappers and DJs, and more.
“I’m glad that [Bambaataa is] able to make it out for this,” Khazm said. “I know he’s really expressed his appreciation. Everything that 206 Zulu has been doing has definitely made a lot of waves around the world as far as hip-hop organizing.”
The 206 Zulu headquarters in Washington Hall is finishing up renovations in the final third of their space, where Khazm plans to set up rooms for classes, office spaces, and a multimedia studio for youth programs to learn about music engineering and production. The spacious building should allow 206 Zulu to keep educating and fostering Seattle’s hip-hop community for years to come.
“This is really kind of a momentous time being the 10th anniversary to reflect on a lot of our accomplishments and what we’ve done with the city and hip-hop community,” Khazm said. “Things are moving forward quite well and we’re just trying to spread the word and promote.”
206 Zulu 10th Anniversary events are all ages and run Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Washington Hall. Click here for the full schedule.