DC Exhibit Highlight: ‘Disco to the Go-Go’ highlights the magic and importance of Go-Go music
Disco DC brings joy to the DC art scene by showcasing local, interdisciplinary art
Near Union Market lies Neal Place NE, a row of unassuming gray-brick buildings — with one exception. The bright orange and pink exterior walls of the Disco DC exhibit reflects the vibrancy of the space inside, which currently features an exhibit curated by Justin “Yaddiya” Johnson, commonly known as Yaddi. Through his art, he works to preserve and revive Go-Go music: a key component of D.C.’s Black culture.
Yaddi’s exhibit highlights how the expression of joy can act as a vehicle for social change, and this joy derived from art acts as the foundation for solidarity, creating an experience the D.C. community can bond over.
A musical movement that started in the 70’s, the Go-Go genre was born in D.C. and linked to Chuck Brown, who is considered to be the founder of Go-Go music. Go-Go music relies on a call and response method, inviting the audience to respond to the singer and become a part of the art being created.
In February 2020, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed legislation that made Go-Go the official music of D.C. Rodney Carmicheal, NPR’s hip-hop correspondent, commented on the legislation in an interview with NPR, “They're trying to uphold the culture. You know, cultural erasure is really, that last rail of gentrification.”
And Go-Go music has been used throughout its history to fight against gentrification and efforts to silence Black culture. In 2017, a controversial piece of legislation titled the Amplified Noise Bill aimed to ban street performances that exceeded a certain noise level, directly threatening Go-Go music. This sparked a series of protests as people sought to protect their culture and music.
These protests were the catalyst for Yaddi becoming involved in preserving Go-Go music, he said in an interview with District Fray Magazine how his involvement in Go-Go music increased after he was asked to emcee a protest.
The Disco D.C. space’s disco balls that fill the ceiling reflect onto the vibrant yellow and purple walls, making for a great place to dance and create music. Drums, tambourines and other percussion instruments invite the audience to play along as Go-Go music plays in the background.
The “Disco to the Go-Go” exhibit combines visual art, film and music, displaying the power of combining different mediums to create a joyful and immersive experience. The audience simultaneously consumes the art and is the art, displaying how the Go-Go music genre and movement is truly one led and created by the community.
The Disco DC exhibit is available to the public with free admission Thursday through Sunday from 12 p.m.- 5 p.m.