Bay Area act Ensemble Mik Nawooj fuses classical, jazz and hip-hop lyricism to create a sound with the explosive intensity of orchestral post-rock. Composer and pianist Joowan Kim takes his love for Western European classical composition and — with the help of a six-piece chamber orchestra, funk-rock percussion, a lyric soprano and rappers Do D.A.T. and Sandman — he crafts modern classical the likes of which have never been heard.
Last year’s Ensemble Mik Nawooj: A Hip Hop Orchestra was met with excitement and confusion as first-time listeners struggled to comprehend what they were hearing. Was this hip hop for classical fans, or the other way around? The creator doesn’t see it as an important distinction.
“In 10 years, people are going to talk about J Dilla as they talk about Mozart,” Kim says. Though his prediction for rapid changes in two very rigid musical genres might be generous, historically speaking, music’s rules are oft best illustrated by bending or breaking them. Luckily, Ensemble Mik Nawooj seems to have a keen understanding of precisely how flexible those rules really are.
“If I had to choose a side, I’d definitely say I’m hip hop more than classical music, for sure,” Kim says. “Classical music is over. That’s why I say I’m not a concert composer. I’m closer to a pop producer.”
Ensemble Mik Nawooj performs 8:30 pm Friday, Sept. 4, at the Axe & Fiddle, Cottage Grove; $10.