“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.”
Three Weeks Edinburgh
“Hip-Hop Orchestra Experience is Ensemble Mik Nawooj’s Edinburgh Fringe debut and it doesn’t disappoint. The California based hip-hop orchestra present five music videos from their new album ‘Death Become Life’, which seamlessly fuses hip-hop and classical. They’ve leant into the film aspect of this year’s Fringe, with two exceptional young dancers’ mesmerising performance punctuating the music’s live recording. Filmed at the Asian Art Museum, the backdrop only adds to the gravitas of the pieces. There’s a consistent flow to the performance that elevates the film above five separate pieces and creates a sense of a whole and complete piece. If you’re into hip-hop, classical music or both this is a must see. It’s a beautiful way to spend 30 minutes.”
“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 Metamusic by sampling principles of 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 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, Kim had a profound shift in the direction of his writing. He felt that he found a way out of the stifling contemporary concert music aesthetic in this new way of composition. JooWan 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, JooWan Kim recruited his best friend from college, 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 ESPN, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, NPR, Pitchfork, Upworthy, NowThis, 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.
Christopher Nicholas received a dual B.M. in Songwriting and Vocal Performance from Berklee College of Music in 2004. He was awarded the prestigious Berklee Achievement Scholarship and received an honorable mention for his original song, “I Write these Words” in the Berklee Songwriting Contest. He was granted the Patsy C. & Fred W. Patterson College of Music Scholarship to the University of North Texas, completing an M.M. in Jazz Studies in 2009. In addition, Nicholas was a featured soloist on the album “In Case you Missed it” with the U.N.T. Jazz Singers directed by Paris Rutherford.
Prior to releasing a solo album titled, The Art of Dreaming, Sandman 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. Sandman 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 shined at legendary venues, such as the Fillmore, in front of sold-out crowds. Sandman joined EMN in 2013 and has been featured on Wall Street Journal, NPR, SF Chronicle, OZY and more.