The deconstruction of Kiwi Illafonte

I know, it’s been a minute, but…
December 17, 2010, 12:42 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

…I’m still here!!!

And oh yeah, Rocky Rivera and your truly are now part of the Beatrock Music family! YEE!

More soon!

“Sounds of a New Hope” LIVE remix concert in L.A!!!
July 29, 2010, 12:17 pm
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Live Remix Concert
Friday, August 27th, 2010

244 S. San Pedro Street
Downtown Los Angeles, CA 90012

The film will be re-mixed and re-edited LIVE on two turntables (using video DJ technology) with new, never-before-seen scenes.

The evening will feature a FREE outdoor screening & concert in beautiful Downtown LA, with live performances that are integrated INTO the film.

Performing live:
Power Struggle
Krystle Tugadi
Shining Sons
Vicoy Bagongsigaw

Food trucks provided by:
Manila Machine

Sponsored by:
Japanese American Cultural and Community Center
Visual Communications
Fil Am Arts
Pilipino Artist Network
Beatrock Music
Bayan USA
Anakbayan-Los Angeles
Filipino Migrant Center

stupid thoughts.
July 19, 2010, 5:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

i looked for you today

dug up a snapshot of you in my memory
searched for your name in conversation
wondered if i’d stumble across a strand of your hair
beneath my bed

it’s been 3 months since we last spoke
but who’s counting

July 7, 2010, 5:22 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Click here to listen to the track

For immediate release
July 7, 2010
Bay Area/Los Angeles, CA

Hours away from the verdict of the historic Oscar Grant trial, rappers Kiwi and Bambu (along with DJ Phatrick) have reunited as Native Guns to release their latest song, “Handcuffs” (produced by Six Fingers).

“With so much emotion and uncertainty around the outcome of this case, we felt a sense of urgency to come back together and do this track” states Kiwi, a former Oakland resident. Bambu adds, “We both experienced the L.A riots in 1992 firsthand, and we wanted to remind people of the lessons learned from back then, so we can keep them in mind as we move forward with this current situation.”

Kiwi breaks the song down further: “The message is threefold: to validate the community’s anger around the blatant murder of this young man, to spark a discussion and deeper analysis of what police are there to do beyond just enforcing the law, and to get folks to think strategically about how they want to react to this verdict, whatever it ends up being.”

This is the group’s first song together in nearly 4 years. Their critically-acclaimed debut album, “Barrel Men” (2005), followed by the “Stray Bullets Vol 2” Mixtape (2006) received rave reviews and built them a loyal following that carries over to this day. Their material continues to be used in both college classrooms and community youth workshops alike.

Men’s Work, continued…
June 15, 2010, 11:36 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

As boys, one of the very first things we are taught is not to cry. That we must be tough, show no emotion, brush the dirt off and keep moving. And heaven forbid we do happen to cry, we get called names like “sissy,” “weak,” “gay,” “fag,” or the ever-popular “bitch.” As we grow older and into manhood, these and other lessons on what it means to “be a man” become ingrained in our thinking, which impact how we function in the world, especially in our relationships. EVEN (and perhaps especially) for “conscious” brothers. We communicate and express ourselves in unhealthy ways. Or we DON’T communicate and keep it all bottled in. We see sexism play out right in front of our faces yet turn a blind eye. Or we continue to perpetuate misogyny in our own actions. The tools and the culture does not exist for us to be able to truly transform as men, to fight sexism (and heterosexism) in a way that really has an impact.

This past weekend, a few male kasamas got together for an unprecedented gathering (the first of many), to begin the process of examining our particular conditioning as Filipino men, look at the power, privilege, and contradictions of this dynamic, and develop tools and a model of manhood that represents what we are truly trying to be about as as revolutionary brothers. It was/is a needed space for us to get together and support one another, as well as challenge each other on our male shit in a space that feels safe and nurturing.

Although this first meeting had an introductory theme, guys came in ready to work. We brainstormed topics of discussion that we should prioritize, such as relationships (dating, monogamy vs. non-monogamy, healthy sexuality, trust, temptation) and new models of manhood (creating our own rites of passage, addressing homophobia and heterosexism). We then leveled off on the messages that men receive from society (media, family, institutions, etc) about what it means to “be a man” (i.e. tough, in control, etc), and what happens to guys that don’t fit in that “box.” And finally we began drafting the qualities of this “new” man that we all wanted to be, mentally, spiritually, and physically.

All the guys in this group were Filipino men unified through our political work. Which was really important in making sure that there was that accountability and commitment to something larger than ourselves, that although this was an informal gathering, this was something that in essence is still a part of our anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist movement work. However, the variety was telling also. From guys who were about to get married, to a few of us who were recently divorced. Guys in their 40s, others in their 20s. Ones who grew up with fathers, others who didn’t. Graduates. Drop outs. All of us with our own shit to work on.

The most important element of this group is that these are guys who want to transform, and are willing to do the work it will take to get there. We have to recognize that this is a lifelong process that may take months, years of peeling layers to uncover our own individual and collective contradictions as men. I’m confident that this will be the space for that process to happen for each of us, that we will develop a newer, healthier, holistic model of manhood that will create a precedent for other men in our communities and beyond.

Here we go.

Power Struggle – “Remittances” (A Review)
June 3, 2010, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

“I pen stories like a script writer / open bottles with a Bic lighter
til it’s hollow and I’m sick and tired…”

Honesty in artistry is hard to come by nowadays, especially in rap music. A scene once admired for its fearlessness and originality has essentially been boxed in by the very beast it fought so hard to go against: the mainstream. What was once considered “underground” is now on display in boutique windows; what bougie-ass folks used to fear and misunderstand has become safe for consumption. Rarely does someone come around who throws all of these norms out the window, and challenges the status quo with their own voice, vision, and story.

Enter Nomi from Power Struggle. Now, sometimes I can’t tell whether Power Struggle is a group or a person, but that’s beyond the point. Maybe it’s simply what the name implies: a fight to gain power. Or in the case of poor and working class people, the battle for equality and dignity. And with Power Struggle’s music, beneath all the hard beats and vocal stylings are words and experiences that clearly reflect that.

Having paid dues onstage and in the studio (as a solo artist and with groups like Oddjobs and Kill the Vultures), Mario “Nomi” Demira has also earned his respective block stripes as a community organizer at the Filipino Community Center (FCC) in San Francisco’s Excelsior District. Terry Valen, the Center’s director, elaborates: “We have witnessed Nomi add an entirely new dimension to the nonprofit work of the FCC, focused on supporting working class Filipinos and their families.”

Now, one doesn’t have to listen too hard to see the influence that this work has had on his music. However, don’t write off the brother as some self-righteous, preachy soapbox emcee. On the contrary, Nomi brings his own contradictions to the forefront, balancing this reality with the politics, and weaving it all together with his distinctive Midwest baritone and working-class swag. Throw in some Mr. Rey (Denizen Kane) and Fatgums (Counterparts) beats, and you have the makings of something special. Introducing Power Struggle’s latest album, “Remittances.”

In the Filipino community, the term “Remittances” refers to the money that we send to support our families back home. This is a regular part of our culture, regardless whether we are well-off or not. These “gifts” not only serve to help our families, but they also help sustain the economy and infrastructure of the entire Philippine nation. Perhaps an appropriate metaphor for this project; one man’s contribution to help sustain our people all over the world, to keep us connected to one another’s struggles.

“Blood of my Heart” (the first song leaked from the album) is a sonic gem that transcends the typical love song and outlines the challenges and complexities of building a relationship amidst all the struggles of the day-to-day: “It’s all work with no time for romance / No time to go dance / Hold hands / with no plans / She’s got a rally, he’s steady buildin / they got no money, keep putting off children…” Somehow captured in all of this is the beauty of the grind, the small victories that arise during times of uncertainty. There are no flowers or bubbles here, no false romanticism or lofty pedestals. Just the hustle that it takes to love.

However, the track that got me right away had to be “Artofficialfreedom.” The ascending organ chords and booming drums usher in the listener to church, setting it all up for the heat to come in: “My big homie told me, I need to slow down / I need to wake up, I need to look around… “ Easing us into the song, Nomi describes the various obstacles he’s faced on the path to enlightenment, and what it has taken to get to the point he’s at now:

“Still believe in god, but god don’t believe in us
Cause we trust the dollar bill more than the will to love
Write my will in blood, and I’ll leave what I got
A couple silver bullets that never got shot
Call me superstitious, I’m a ship without a dock
A soul without a body, wandering the block…”

Rounding the album out, joints such as “Traveling Man” (a semi-autobiographical portrait of Nomi’s nomadic journeys) and “Inspired by Dream” (an dedication to the late great Bay Area Pinoy graf writer) have particularly grown on me. And it’s hard not to want to bust out into a two-step to the groovy “United in Struggle.” All in all, every song is meticulously put together, yet still maintains that intangible essence of soul and feeling. And for the icing on the cake, the album features some well-picked cameos by folks such as Bambu, Bwan, and Pele. The common thread with all the songs is that, although there is nothing formulaic about any of them, that good ol’ hip hop feeling of something fresh and raw is still induced with each listen.

Nomi is obviously loved for more than just his music, but now is his time to shine as an artist. “Remittances” is sure to be bumped continuously by folks from our generation and beyond. Poet Bao Phi (who remembers Nomi when he was first coming up in Minnesota) sums it up best: “As an artist, he’s really grown into his own voice – I can’t think of many artists of any genre who can so skillfully combine their talent with social-political commentary. His music is rare, in that it rocks the body, and at the same time it’s something I’d want my baby daughter to listen to when she grows up.”


Purchase the album here or find it on iTunes.

Save the Date! Power in Numbers SF: Tuesday May 4th!!!
April 26, 2010, 4:02 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


A concert to raise awareness about electoral fraud & violence and support the people’s resistance in the Philippines

Featuring music by

with DJs un.d.fine and Owl Boogie
and your host KIWI

406 Clement Street (btw 5th and 6th aves)
San Francisco

9pm-1am | $5 | 21+

News Release
April 2010

Reference: Jack “Kiwi” de Jesus
Deputy Secretary-General, BAYAN USA

“Power in Numbers” concert series set in cities across the US

A new generation of young and concerned Filipino-Americans will be taking on the issue of election fraud and corruption in the Philippines this April through May through the powerful medium of music. BAYAN USA, an alliance of 14 Filipino organizations across the US, will be launching “Power in Numbers”, a concert series aiming to bring musical talents from different communities together to help shed light on the upcoming Philippine national elections slated for May 10, 2010.

BAYAN USA, an overseas chapter of BAYAN Philippines, is an alliance formed under the principle that even in the US, Filipinos are intricately affected by the social, political, and economic developments in the Philippines. Since its founding in 2005, the alliance continues with its campaign to cut US military aid to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on the basis that billions in US tax dollars are being funneled to arm, advise, and train Philippine military personnel to commit gross human rights abuses. The pattern of systemic killings, abductions, and illegal detention and torture cases in the Philippines under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration has reached a point of high international scrutiny and condemnation from various international monitoring bodies such as the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In 2009, a BAYAN USA member on exposure in the rural areas of Central Luzon, Melissa Roxas, was the victim of a brutal abduction at gunpoint, blindfolded, and subjected to 6 days of physical and psychological torture by her captors. Roxas, and BAYAN USA, believes the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army is responsible for the ordeal. Now back in Los Angeles, Roxas has been speaking out against Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), the national counter-insurgency program of the Arroyo government that aims to annihilate the armed insurgency in the Philippine countryside by 2010.

“Instead of going after armed insurgents, the Philippine army and Philippine government are trying to reach their objective by targeting civilians critical of Arroyo and falsely claiming they are communists fronts,” Roxas states. “The upcoming elections, and official end of the Oplan Bantay Laya and the Arroyo presidency scheduled by June 2010 lay the foundation for human rights abuses to escalate by way of election-related violence, election fraud, government corruption, and more impunity for human rights abusers. We have already seen the opening salvo for this with the Maguindanao Massacre last November.”

“We are launching Power in Numbers as our effort to create more awareness about the very unstable conditions in the Philippines right now, especially with the elections coming this May,” states Jack De Jesus, Deputy Secretary-General of BAYAN USA and the national tour spokesperson. De Jesus is probably better known as the hip-hop artist Kiwi, formerly of the rap duo Native Guns, who has recently toured in venues and universities across the U.S as part of the People Power Tour with fellow artist Prometheus Brown (from Blue Scholars).

Power in Numbers concerts are set to take place in various cities in the US. On Tuesday May 4th in San Francisco, the concert will feature hip hop artists Power Struggle, Do D.A.T, and Big Dan from BRWN BFLO, singer/songwriter Erica Nalani, and folk/soul group Diskarte Namin. To find out more information, visit or email ##


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