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Introducing a new monthly hip hop series: The Dojo
Posted January 20, 2016 by Seth Johnson

There’s another new hip hop event to put on your radar, Indianapolis, and it’s called The Dojo.

On the fourth Friday of every month, the showcase will take place at Kismet in Fountain Square (1039 S. East St.), in an effort to strengthen local hip hop culture. For this Friday’s first installment (event page here), a diverse lineup of acts is set to perform, including Sirius Blvck, Mr. Kinetik, Brooks the Prophet and New Wave Collective.

Beforehand, Seth Johnson caught up with Dojo co-founder Theon Lee (who’s also a local emcee and poet) to discuss what the series is all about.

Seth Johnson: What all went into the start of The Dojo?

Theon Lee: We could talk about the logistics that went into The Dojo, but it wouldn't differ much from the average plan for a new hip hop venue. What makes The Dojo special is the amount of personal growth and relationship building it took.

Mat Davis [host of Localmotion] and I had been talking about a "Dojo" for years. We thought the second step would be finding the place, participants, and the theme. After sitting down and planning (the real first step), we realized what we were really trying to do, and how many relationships needed to be mended and nurtured, both between artists and friends.

SJ: Why was this something that you really wanted to see happen in Indianapolis?

TL: Indianapolis doesn't have a culture of hip hop. It has waves of interest. There's a difference between cultivating and trending, and what we are currently experiencing is a short-lived fascination with hip hop performances. At one time, the city had culture. Just like that, it was erased, replaced with business. We've seen our culture starve to death, only to leave small and sometimes inaccurate remnants (Indiana Avenue). I want to see an Indianapolis that preserves and passes down culture, on purpose.

SJ: The event’s description says that you guys are highlighting “the art of real emceeing.” Can you elaborate on that? What does “real emceeing” look like to you?

TL: In correlation to the short-lived fascination of performances, what is being forgotten in hip hop is that the performance is for the audience. There are too many examples of local performances that almost completely neglect the audience, in pursuit of being in the limelight.

Emcee or “MC” actually means "Master of Ceremony." The responsibility of the emcee is to keep the ceremony in motion, by engaging the members of the ceremony. In hip hop, it was DJ-to-audience liaison. Then, the emcee was backed by the DJ, with a more poetic approach. Now, it’s just a personal showcase that doesn't include, nor acknowledge, the crowd. That ain't hip hop. That's group therapy. The Dojo will bring back the importance of the emcee, the DJ, and the participating crowd. This is your show, too.

SJ: What are you looking forward to with the artists you have performing at the first installment of The Dojo?

TL: I'm looking forward to diversity, in the sense of style and location. The only competition is with self, at The Dojo. The headliners of the first installment represent a great example of style, personality, and the potentiality of cultivating. I'm excited to know that there is another hip hop event happening on the same night. Indianapolis deserves to have variety in atmosphere. Shout out to Good Company.

SJ: Going forward, what are the plans for this series? It’s happening every month at the Kismet, right? What impact do you hope it can have?

TL: As far as the immediate future of this event, it is a waiting game. After the first session, we'll have a better idea of what we're dealing with and what further development may look like. The Dojo will be at Kismet, and will be a monthly event. We really appreciate Joe Fawcett, and his shared enthusiasm about this experience. Our hope is that people walk away from The Dojo, with a sense of community, and accessibility. To have seeds that lead to a wider, better, and longer cultivation of hip hop.

Photos by Ethan Evans

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