Around Town: UNC Asheville hosts free Indigenous hip-hop concert

ON THE MIC: Clockwise from top left, Davaion “Spaceman Jones" Bristol, Luanko Minuto Soler, Tall Paul and Mare Advertencia Lirika will perform the closing concert of UNC Asheville's Indigenous hip hop festival. Photos courtesy of the artists

Since joining UNC Asheville’s faculty in 2016, Juan Sánchez Martínez has strived to expose his students to diverse works by contemporary Indigenous artists, musicians and writers.

“In this context, I have witnessed how powerful Indigenous hip-hop is in challenging misconceptions and stereotypes about Indigenous peoples while empowering women, elders, children and keepers of the land,” says Martínez, an associate professor of Spanish and American Indian and Indigenous Studies.

In 2017, Martínez and others started thinking about organizing a UNCA festival celebrating Indigenous hip-hop. After a few years of planning, they were set to host an event in the spring of 2020 but had to cancel when COVID restrictions hit.

Three years later, Activating Indigenous Beats: Hip Hop Nativo is finally a reality. The four-day festival will include workshops and community events and will culminate with a free concert on UNCA’s quad Friday, April 14, 6-9:30 p.m.

The show will feature performances by:  

  • Luanko Minuto Soler, a singer and rapper who is a member of the Mapuche of south-central Chile.
  • Mare Advertencia Lirika, a Mexican rapper and songwriter of Zapotecan descent.
  • Tall Paul, an Anishinaabe and Oneida hip-hop artist enrolled on the Leech Lake reservation in Minnesota.
  • Asheville hip-hop artist Davaion “Spaceman Jones” Bristol.

“They represent a generation of musicians who face their communities’ reality with dignity and strength,” Martínez says. “Their rhymes activate Native languages, disrupt heteropatriarchy and challenge racism.”

Organizers made sure the concert included representation from South, Central and North Abiayala (“the land in full maturity” in the Dule language), as well as from different genders and genres, Martínez says.

Shennelle Feather and Jarrett Wildcatt, artists and educators of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, will be masters of ceremony during the concert, which also will include visual artists, a food truck and a performance by Aztec dancers. UNCA is partnering with the museum and the Asheville hip-hop community to put on the festival.

“While listening to these beats and lyrics, please keep in your mind, heart and spirit that [the festival] is special in the sense that distant Indigenous languages and peoples are converging in Tokiyasdi, Cherokee territory,” Martínez says. “We are remembering together.”

UNCA is at 1 University Heights. The concert is free. Attendees are encouraged to bring chairs or blankets. For more information, visit

Toy story

Two educators from Odyssey Community School have teamed up to write a children’s book aimed at teaching youths about compassion and empathy.

Pick Up Your Toys, Kirk! tells the story of a little boy who loves his toys but doesn’t love putting them away.

“I wanted to support children in developing the qualities of sharing and taking care of treasured objects,” says Shirley Rotolo, who teaches kindergarten at the Asheville charter school. “Kirk has to make some challenging age-appropriate choices and realize he has possessions and treasures that not everyone has the opportunity to own. One of my goals for this book was to show how Kirk processes his emotions in this situation.”

Rotolo wrote the book and enlisted fellow kindergarten teacher Samantha Sole to do the pictures.

“I wanted to illustrate pages that a young reader could enjoy both when reading independently and when listening to the story with their parents,” Sole says. “With this in mind, I aimed for the pages to be imaginative and detailed so that the reader could explore both the written and illustrative story.”

Rotolo and Sole started reading portions of the book to their students to gain feedback as they were putting it together.

“It ended up being special for both the children and as well as us when it became published,” Rotolo says. “They were so excited that they were a part of the process.”

For more information or to buy the book, go to

A little night music

White Horse Black Mountain will host “Remembering Sondheim” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 15.

The concert will feature Western North Carolina singers and pianists performing the works of legendary musical theater composer Stephen Sondheim, including songs from Into the Woods, A Little Night Music and Sunday in the Park with George. A version of the show was performed earlier this year in Waynesville.

Featured singers include Lara Hollaway, Adrianne Blanks, Matt Blanks, Matt Edwardsen, Dominic Michael Aquilino and Mandy Vollrath, who also is the show’s director. The show’s pianists are Luke Shaver and Leonidas Lagrimas.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $22 at the door.

White Horse Black Mountain is at 105 Montreat Road. For more information or to buy tickets, go to

American songs

The Asheville Symphony will present “Masterworks 6: New World,” a concert of American orchestral music at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 15, at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium.

The performance will feature Antonín Dvořák’s “New World Symphony” and Alexandra du Bois’ “Fanfare on We Shall Overcome.” Cellist Amit Peled will play Victor Herbert’s Cello Concerto No. 2. The du Bois piece was inspired by the election of President Barack Obama in 2008.

“This introduces a concept of the American orchestral sound in the 21st century, while the other two works in the program were seminal in establishing an American school in the late 19th century,” says Darko Butorac, the symphony’s music director, says in a press release.

Ticket prices range from $25-$75.

Thomas Wolfe Auditorium at Harrah’s Cherokee Center is at 87 Haywood St. For more information or to buy tickets, visit

A Fuller understanding

The Asheville Art Museum will host Altruistic Genius: Buckminster Fuller’s Plans to Save the Planet from Friday, April 14-Monday, Aug. 21. A members-only preview will be 5-7 p.m. Thursday, April 13.

The exhibition features two major suites of prints and other works by inventor and futurist R. Buckminster Fuller, known for popularizing the geodesic dome after conducting field experiments at Black Mountain College. It is meant to introduce visitors to Fuller’s strategies for the sustainability of humans and the planet relating to housing, transportation, mathematics and engineering, the museum says in a press release.

Altruistic Genius will be presented in three sections: “Inventions,” “Synergetics” and “Black Mountain College and Lasting Influence.”

The Asheville Art Museum, 2 S. Pack Square, is open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday, Wednesdays, Fridays-Sundays, and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursdays. For more information, go to

Perfect circle

FBO at Hominy Creek will host an album release party for Life Is Perfect by Pat Zim and Friends at 6 p.m. Saturday, April 15.

The event will feature performances by Zim, anti-folk/folk-punk band Lurky Skunk, singer-songwriter Lo Wolf and others.

Each song on the album, which will be released Thursday, April 13, is co-written by Zim and a different local musician.

“I have been in Asheville for three years and have met some really inspiring people in the art and music scene here,” Zim says. “[Perfect Circle] is a showcase of their talents and personalities.”

For more information, go to


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Justin McGuire
Justin McGuire is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate with more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, the (Rock Hill, SC) Herald and various other publications. Follow me @jmcguireMLB

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.