“This Bay Area orchestra…play[s] with an elegant severity…The textures swimming through the sound are like the world’s fastest ping-pong game: they can make you dizzy, trying to hear and see everything at once, and you do…No one seems capable of hitting a predictable note.”
“The Oakland hip-hop orchestra Ensemble Mik Nawooj (EMN) has made a name for itself through a rigorous yet inventive attention to process…All this makes EMN an incredibly dynamic ensemble to experience live and draws like-minded people into their orbit.”
“This mash-up ensemble is what the future of music is all about.”
“…the cutting edge of hip-hop…”
The Miscellany News
“…EMN’s work demonstrates how music continues to evolve and subvert expectations.”
“With machete-sharp vocalists fronting a miniature orchestra tuned by a maestro with a passion for boom bap, they represent a distinct future for the genre that diehards of all stripes should be thoroughly excited for.”
East Bay Express
“It can be difficult to convey the magnitude of seeing Oakland hip-hop orchestra Ensemble Mik Nawooj for the first time. The group breaks down barriers between hip-hop and classical, deconstructing beloved songs into something that sounds giant and important.”
The Sacramento Bee
“There are no scores of Schubert or Stravinsky on the music stands of the Ensemble Mik Nawooj. Rather, it’s the gin-and-juice-laden sounds of Snoop Dogg and rugged East Coast rap from Wu-Tang Clan that get a classical music treatment…This bridging of two distinctively different art forms has created a buzz in the Bay Area musical community and beyond.”
Led by composer/pianist JooWan Kim, hip-hop orchestra Ensemble Mik Nawooj (EMN) creates Meta Music by sampling principles of both hip-hop and classical. Executed with MC/lyricist Sandman, a lyric soprano, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, drums, and bass, the music is rigorous, nuanced, accessible, and free from the dogmas of the Western European concert music aesthetic. The result is seamless tête-à-tête with “textures swimming through the sound…like the world’s fastest ping-pong game” (Pitchfork) and is considered the “cutting edge of hip-hop” (Huffington Post).
After a successful performance of a novelty piece which featured an MC and chamber ensemble while JooWan Kim was completing his master’s degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the MC at the time suggested they make an album together. Six months later and writing about an hour of music, JooWan had a profound shift in the direction of his writing. He felt he found a way out of the stifling contemporary concert music aesthetic in this new way of composition. Kim crystallized his ideas into Method Sampling, a principle of borrowing or sampling of rationales from related as well as unrelated fields, then reframing them into one’s own system.
In 2010, Kim recruited his best friend from college, EMN’s executive director, Christopher Nicholas, to push the project forward in a serious way. Since then, EMN attracted some of the most excellent classical musicians and MCs in the SF Bay Area while gaining national attention from outlets such as National Geographic, ESPN, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, NPR, Pitchfork, NowThis, the Global People’s Summit in partnership with the United Nations Office for Partnership, and more.
Composer and pianist JooWan Kim began his formal training in composition at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.M. in composition in 2003. He continued his education in composition at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, from which he received a M.M. in 2006. JooWan founded Ensemble Mik Nawooj in 2010.
Prior to releasing a solo album titled The Art of Dreaming, Sand’Man was cultivated as an emcee during his involvement with the dynamic hip-hop group “The Attik.” His association with the group began as a teen and eventually blossomed into something formal. In 2005, the group released the album Jungle Electric. Sand’Man has shared a stage with KRS-One, Dead Prez, E-40, San Quinn, Mr. FAB, Aceyalone, Zion I, Game Rebellion, Medusa, and many more. A veteran to performing, he has rocked stages from the Bay Area to New York and Puerto Rico and has shined at legendary venues, such as the Fillmore, in front of sold-out crowds. Sandman joined EMN in 2013 and has been featured on the Wall Street Journal, NPR, SF Chronicle, OZY, and more.