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District of Columbia

The earliest music of Washington, D.C., can be traced to 1798

State Spotlight

District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.)

Became a state on..... July 16, 1790

Southern Genres..... Blues, Bluegrass, Folk, Jazz, Soul, Funk, Gospel, Spirituals, Jazz, R&B, Punk, Southern Hip-Hop, Electronic, A Cappella, Garage, GoGo.

Hall of Fame..... Washington Music Hall of Fame, Washington Area Music Awards (The Wammies)

Washington, D.C., has been home to many prominent musicians and is particularly known for the musical genres of hardcore punk, house, bluegrass, and a local funk genre called go-go. The first major musical figure from D.C. was John Philip Sousa, a military brass band composer. Later figures include jazz musicians, such as Duke Ellington, and soul singers, including Roberta Flack..

Home of the Smithsonian Institution

"The U.S. Capitol"

Washington, D.C., is located in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. East Coast. Due to the District of Columbia retro cession, the city has a total area of 68.34 square miles (177.0 km2), of which 61.05 square miles (158.1 km2) is land and 7.29 square miles (18.9 km2) (10.67%) is water. The District is bordered by Montgomery County, Maryland, to the northwest; Prince George's County, Maryland, to the east; and Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, to the south and west.

The south bank of the Potomac River forms the District's border with Virginia and has two major tributaries: the Anacostia River and Rock Creek. Tiber Creek, a natural watercourse that once passed through the National Mall, was fully enclosed underground during the 1870s. The creek also formed a portion of the now-filled Washington City Canal, which allowed passage through the city to the Anacostia River from 1815 until the 1850s. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal starts in Georgetown and was used during the 19th century to bypass the Little Falls of the Potomac River, located at the northwest edge of Washington at the Atlantic Seaboard fall line.

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as "Washington", "the District", or simply "D.C.", is the capital of the United States. The signing of the Residence Act on July 16, 1790, approved the creation of a capital district located along the Potomac River on the country's East Coast. The U.S. Constitution provided for a federal district under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Congress and the District is therefore not a part of any state.

The states of Maryland and Virginia each donated land to form the federal district, which included the pr-existing settlements of Georgetown and Alexandria. Named in honor of President George Washington, the City of Washington was founded in 1791 to serve as the new national capital. In 1846, Congress returned the land originally ceded by Virginia; in 1871, it created a single municipal government for the remaining portion of the District.

Washington had an estimated population of 672,228 as of July 2015. Commuters from the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs raise the city's population to more than one million during the workweek. The Washington metropolitan area, of which the District is a part, has a population of over 6 million, the sixth-largest metropolitan statistical area in the country.

The centers of all three branches of the federal government of the United States are in the District, including the Congress, President, and Supreme Court. Washington is home to many national monuments and museums, which are primarily situated on or around the National Mall. The city hosts 176 foreign embassies as well as the headquarters of many international organizations, trade unions, non-profit organizations, lobbying groups, and professional associations.

A locally elected mayor and a 13‑member council have governed the District since 1973. However, the Congress maintains supreme authority over the city and may overturn local laws. D.C. residents elect a non-voting, at-large congressional delegate to the House of Representatives, but the District has no representation in the Senate. The District receives three electoral votes in presidential elections as permitted by the Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1961.

Music of District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.)

"State Song"

"Washington, My Home" written by Helen Davis

Does the District of Columbia have an official state (or city, depending on your preference) song? Every few years, someone starts a movement to name a song that he has written in praise of Washington as our official song, and every few years the movement falls flat when it is pointed out that the District already has an official song — even though nobody ever plays or sings it. But the answer is not that simple, and the history of DC's official song is complex.

In 1926, the Federation of Music Clubs held a contest to write an official song, but the contest is only referred to in one newspaper clipping, and there is no evidence whether the contest had a winner or whether any winning song ever gained any official status.

However, in 1927, Dr. Edwin N.C. Barnes, the supervising director of music for the District's public schools, wrote the music and lyrics for and published “Washington, Fair Capital,” which was sung by students for several decades as through it were a state song. This song has fallen into complete disuse today.

Newsman John Jay Daly wrote a song, whose name is not recorded, that he later said was given “official status” by Commissioner John Russell Young in 1928. Since a single Commissioner couldn't have named an official song on his own, this was probably an unofficial officialdom.

In 1951, local businessman James H. Simon wrote a letter to the Washington Post lamenting Washington’s lack of an official song. The Post wrote an editorial seconding Simon’s opinion. Simon decided to run another contest to name an official song, and the Post promoted the contest heavily. Since Simon’s company, the Simon Distributing Company, was the local representative for Motorola, the Motorola company sponsored the contest, distributed blank music sheets for entries, and offered a $1,000 prize for the winning entry. The five contest judges were a distinguished lot: Howard Mitchell, the director of the National Symphony Orchestra; Sigmund Romberg, the composer; Maj. William F. Santelmann, director of the Marine Band; Sigmund Spaeth, the musicologist and radio's “song sleuth”; and Gordon Jenkins, the composer, arranger, and music director for Decca Records.

The winning entry was “Washington,” by Jimmie Dodd, who was a struggling Hollywood actor, singer, and composer at the time. He reached the height of his career a few years later, when he was the head Mouseketeer on the first television version of Disney’s “Mickey Mouse Club.” “Washington” was a popular winner, called “head and shoulders” above the other entries, but it was almost never played or sung after the initial enthusiasm died down. The Commissioners did pass a resolution giving official recognition to it. It was published in the Washington Post, but never published commercially; and a demonstration recording was made by Sam Jack Kaufman and Roy Roberts, but it was never recorded commercially. James Simon later gave the remaining five hundred copies of the recording away to anyone who gave a contribution to Children’s Hospital.

Only five years later, in 1956, the Federation of Citizens Associations recommended that “The District of Columbia Is My Home Town,” by local real estate agent James F. Dixon, be named as the District's official song. This recommendation got as far as a hearing before the Commissioners. When the issue of the Jimmie Dodd song was raised, the Assistant Corporation Counsel, Robert Kneipp, gave as his opinion that the Commissioners’ 1951 resolution only recommended that the citizens of the District adopt “Washington” as their official song, and that it therefore wasn’t a clear declaration that the song was the District’s official song. Others raised the issue of whether the Commissioners had the power to name any official song, or whether that power rested solely in Congress. In any case, the Commissioners passed on Dixon’s song.

They didn’t pass only five more years later. In 1961, two Commissioners attending a Navy Band concert heard a new song there, and were so enthusiastic about it that they named it DC’s official song on the spot. The song was “Our Nation’s Capital,” by Lt. Anthony Mitchell, assistant conductor of the Navy Band, with lyrics by Musician 2nd Class Dixon Redditt. The status of Dodd’s already forgotten song was raised again at a later official meeting of the Commissioners, and this time the Commissioners seemed to accept that “Washington” was DC's official song, because they adopted a resolution naming “Our Nation’s Capital” as the city’s official march, leaving “Washington” as the city’s official song.

Things remained relatively stable until 1985. Then City Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis introduced a bill to name “This Is My Town,” by Mark A. Williams, as the city’s official song. The song didn’t pass muster, and the Council failed to act, largely because of discomfort over the open resentment expressed in lyrics like:

“Oh the tourists and the politicians
Come and go and that's fine by me
As long as they know — This is my town,
My home town!”

Today, the District of Columbia probably has an official state song, “Washington,” and an official state march, “Our Nation’s Capital,” but lawyers could probably argue that neither actually has an official status, and both songs are unknown to the population of the District and have no support among elected officials and school officials, those who normally promote official songs. The official DC web site even erroneously lists “The Star Spangled Banner,” the national anthem, as the city’s song. Both our state song and state march remain largely unplayed and unheard.

by: Gary Imhoff - October 1999

Music History

The earliest music of Washington, D.C., can be traced to the 1798 foundation of the U.S. Marine Band. Some fifty years later, in 1851, the city’s first choral society, the Washington Saengerbund, was formed. Other 19th century musicians included the minstrel singer and songwriter James Bland ("Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny"). In 1872, the Coloured American Opera Society formed.

Washington native John Philip Sousa was conductor of the U.S. Marine Band from 1880 to 1892. He wrote 132 marches, including "The Washington Post" and "Stars and Stripes Forever". Sousa formed his own band after leaving the Marine Corps that performed 15,623 concerts worldwide.

Later groundbreaking musicians included James Reese Europe, ragtime musician Claude Hopkins, Lithuanian immigrant and vaudeville performer Al Jolson and Lillian Evanti, who became the first African-American opera singer to perform in a foreign country. The most widely renowned musician from 20th century D.C. is undoubtedly Duke Ellington, a jazz pioneer. Later D.C. jazz musicians included Charlie Rouse (saxophonist, with Thelonious Monk), Billy Hart (drummer), Ira Sullivan (tenor saxophonist) and Leo Parker (bop baritone saxophonist). Ahmet Ertegün, a Turkish-born jazz fan, came to D.C. at age twelve and later went on to found Atlantic Records. Todd Duncan was a D. C. born singer who made history by being the first to play the lead of the opera Porgy and Bess; he later became the first black man to play Tonio in I Pagliacci. D.C. was also a home (and recording stop) for Jelly Roll Morton, Jimmie Rodgers and Bo Diddley. Local stars of the early part of the century include the singer Pearl Bailey.

In 1957, Elizabeth Cotten recorded for the family that employed her, which included a number of composers and musicologists. One song, "Freight Train", became a folk music standard. Charlie Byrd, a D. C. based jazz musician, recorded an innovative album in 1962 called Jazz Samba with Stan Getz, helping to launch the bossa nova craze. By the middle of the 1960s, D.C. had begun to produce some major stars, like soul singer Marvin Gaye, who had 3 #1 Hot 100 hits including "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" in 1968. Other musicians included John Fahey, one of the first "folk" musicians to gain national appeal, Peter Tork (of The Monkees), Tim Buckley, guitarist Link Wray, pop singer and songwriter Billy Stewart, country singer Patsy Cline, guitarist Danny Gatton, doo wop bands The Orioles (based out of D.C., though from Baltimore), The Clovers, Scott McKenzie (known for "If You're Going to San Francisco"), Sinbad, R&B singer Ruth Brown, and country star Roy Clark.

During this period, Washington began to develop its own music scene, with a number of styles evolving by the end of the century. Some popular singers from later decades include Roberta Flack (#1 hit "Killing Me Softly with His Song"), Root Boy Slim & the Sex Change Band ("You Broke My Mood Ring"), singer-songwriter Tori Amos, Herb Fame (of Peaches & Herb) who had the #1 Hot 100 hit "Reunited", Van McCoy (disco producer, #1 hit "The Hustle"), Toni Braxton, Ginuwine, Mýa, Dave Grohl (of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters), Vertical Horizon (#1 Hot 100 hit "Everything You Want" in 2000), Starland Vocal Band (#1 Hot 100 hit "Afternoon Delight"), Joan Jett (rock singer with #1 hit "I Love Rock N' Roll") and Nils Lofgren (guitarist for Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, and Neil Young).

Washington is also home to the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, founded in 1974 and part of the DC public school system. Some other notable music education organizations which are located in Washington include the DC Youth Orchestra Program, founded in 1960; the Blues Alley Jazz Society, founded in 1985; and the Levine School of Music, founded in 1976.

Musical Genres of District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.)


The Washington, D.C. metropolitan area is considered by many to be the choral capital of the nation. Some choral groups active in the city today can trace their origins as far back as 1851, with a Choral Society being established to produce concerts and oratorios at least as early as the 1880s. In the modern era, the city features several independently-established symphonic choruses, along with a very wide variety of mid-size choirs, chamber ensembles, and specialty groups. Washington has been described as "the only city in America where there is a chorus for every type of niche."


The first established opera company in D.C. was the semi-professional Washington National Opera active from 1919 through 1936; it performed in venues ranging from local school auditoriums to DAR Constitution Hall. The present, entirely unrelated company of the same name, resident at the Kennedy Center, was known simply as the Washington Opera until 2000; a thoroughly professional organization under the direction of Plácido Domingo, it has, among other achievements, been a rare advocate for zarzuela in the United States. Among other, smaller-scale companies in the D.C. metropolitan area are the Washington Concert Opera, which specializes in unstaged presentations; Opera Lafayette, which specializes in French baroque opera; and Aurora Opera Theatre, formerly known as Opera Theatre of Northern Virginia.


Early in the 20th century, D.C. was home to many bluesmen, such as Jelly Roll Morton and later rock and roll and rhythm and blues musicians such as Bo Diddley and Roy Buchanan. In the 1960s, a number of white youths formed local blues bands, including the Northside Blues Band and the Nighthawks. Starting in the early 1960s, Takoma Park native John Fahey became a nationally noted blues and folk guitarist who established the Takoma Records label, which attracted a number of other blues, folk, acoustic and finger style guitarists to the Washington, D.C. area. Another local blues rock performer is Tom Principato.


In the 1950s, Buzz Busby and the Bayou Boys became a noted bluegrass band that helped D.C. become known as the "Bluegrass Capital of America" in the 1950s and early 1960s. Later bluegrass bands from the city included the Country Gentlemen. Seldom Scene eventually became the city's most prominent and longest-lasting bluegrass band. The Washington bluegrass community extends into outlying areas such as Western Maryland and the panhandle of West Virginia which are home to bluegrass musicians who commute to perform in the area. There has been substantial overlap between Washington, D.C.'s folk and bluegrass scene in the past several decades, in part due to the patronage of disc jockeys at public radio station WAMU, including Mary Cliff, longtime host of the music show Traditions.


In 1961, the first major folk venue in D.C., The Shadows, opened in Georgetown. A band called "the Mugwumps" formed, eventually splitting up. Two of the members, John Sebastian and Zal Yanovsky, became The Lovin' Spoonful, and the other two, Denny Doherty and Cass Elliott, formed The Mamas & the Papas. Later, in Georgetown, then-folk singer John Denver, Taffy Nivert and Bill Danoff wrote a song called "Take Me Home, Country Roads", which launched Denver's career as one of the most popular singers in the country. Other popular folk singers include Mary Chapin Carpenter; the duo Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer have been nominated for several Grammy Awards, for both folk and children's music.


Washington has been home to many jazz pioneers, including the legendary Duke Ellington, as well as singer and pianist Shirley Horn, pianist Billy Taylor, and saxophonist Frank Wess. Ellington, Taylor and Wess each attended Dunbar High School with its prominent music program. Ellington's first group, The Washingtonians, featured drummer Sonny Greer. They left for Harlem in 1923. Jazz great Jelly Roll Morton came from New Orleans, but took up residency in Washington as a regular performer at a club called the Jungle Inn in 1935.

During the first half of the 20th century, Washington's U Street NW corridor (in what is now known as the Shaw neighborhood) first became known as a jazz haven. Historic jazz club Bohemian Caverns launched many music careers, including that of R&B singer Ruth Brown. Pianist Ramsey Lewis recorded his The In Crowd album there in 1965. During the second half of the 20th century until the mid-1990s, a period that saw decline on U Street, jazz became associated with longtime venues in the Georgetown area such as Blues Alley and One Step Down; closer to the heart of the city was DC's space. Subsequently, jazz saw a resurgence on U Street, with venues such as Bohemian Caverns and Republic Gardens re-opening.

Local singer Eva Cassidy, a native of Bowie, Maryland, died of cancer at the age of 33 but received posthumous international fame when several of her songs received BBC Radio airplay, though she was already well known in the Washington area, after a farewell concert at The Bayou. A singer in multiple genres, Cassidy also notably performed a crossover album with D.C. go-go artist Chuck Brown (see below).

Multi-instrumentalist Andrew White has been performing and releasing records in DC since his debut record in 1961, The JFK Quintet, who released two monumental LPs on Riverside Records for Cannonball Adderley. Since then he has continued releasing albums, books, transcripts, and other publications for his self-produced label, Andrew's Music.

Tenor saxophonist Ron Holloway is a Washington, D.C. native. He spent his journeyman years sitting in with local groups from every genre of contemporary music. In the mid-1970s, Holloway expanded his practice of sitting in and more and more he was heard sharing the stage with the likes of Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Rollins and Dizzy Gillespie. In February 1982 Holloway joined Gil Scott-Heron's group. In June 1989, he left Scott-Heron to join Dizzy Gillespie's Quintet. Known for his versatility he has toured and recorded with a wide array of musical artists including Gillespie, Scott-Heron, Root Boy Slim, Little Feat, the Allman Brothers Band, Gov't Mule, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. He has released five CD's under his own name.

Soul & Funk

Washington D.C.'s Soul/Funk movement took shape during the mid 60s; about the same time the Doo-Wop craze came to a close, and "James Brown" became a household name. Artists such as Marvin Gaye, Roberta Flack, Peaches & Herb, Sir Joe Quarterman, Black Heat, The Blackbyrds, the Soul Searchers & the Young Senators (both known for their later go-go influences), impacted more than just the regional scene. Lesser known groups such as Brute, Aggression, 95th Congress, and Scacy and The Sound Service, topped the ever growing club circuit. Local venues such as the Howard Theatre, The Mark IV, and The Room, were known for hosting Soul and Funk bands on the regular. Monumental D.C. Soul Labels included Shrine and Cap City. Parliament's 1975 song "Chocolate City," with vocals spoken by George Clinton, references and celebrates Washington, D.C. as a majority black city.

Rhythm & Blues

The soul and funk scene set the stage for D.C.'s considerable influence in modern R&B. Besides Toni Braxton, D.C. is the hometown of mid-1990s crooners Ginuwine, Mýa, and Tank (raised in Clinton, MD), as well as the more current J. Holiday, Raheem DeVaughn and Reesa Renee (who are both from the neighboring Prince George's County, Maryland). Central Heat, an East Coast touring R&B band based out of Northern Virginia originated in the late 1970s and features founding members Doug and Dennis Flynn, Mike Cavaliere and Bob Costlow. Central Heat remains active in the DC club scene today.


The go-go sound developed during the mid-1970s and began to take its current shape by the late '70s, and has become known as D.C.'s answer to hip-hop. Its characteristic formula combined simple funk grooves with instrumental percussion and often rapping. It is a blend of funk, R&B, and early hip-hop, with a focus on lo-fi percussion instruments and melodic jamming in place of dance tracks, although some sampling is used. As such, it is primarily a dance music with an emphasis on live audience call and response. Go-go rhythms are also incorporated into street percussion. Many Washington, D.C. soul & funk artists contributed to the characteristic go-go sound, but the main pioneers were The Young Senators, also known as "The Emperors of Go-go", known for their hit tune "Jungle", and Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers, known for "Bustin' Loose", which became a surprise national hit. Later go-go bands include Rare Essence, Trouble Funk, Experience Unlimited, and the Southeast go-go band Aggressive Funk. Bands such as Backyard, TCB, and UCB have gained recognition by being featured in music by rapper, Wale.


Washington is primarily known in the rock community for its seminal influence on the evolution of hardcore punk, known locally as harDCore, particularly through bands such as Bad Brains, Minor Threat, and The Faith, and labels like Dischord Records, but it had a vibrant musical community prior to hardcore's arrival with bands like the Razz, Slickee Boys, Insect Surfers, Tru Fax and the Insaniacs, and The Penetrators, putting out records on local independent labels like Limp, Wasp, and Dacoit. Ian MacKaye, the frontman for Minor Threat, became an inspiration in part for the international Straight Edge movement, after the song "Straight Edge" was released. MacKaye went on to co-found Fugazi, which attained international recognition under the Dischord record label, alongside Rites of Spring guitarist Guy Picciotto. Henry Rollins, a native of the D.C. hardcore scene, moved to Los Angeles in 1981 to join Black Flag.

EMO - Emotive Hardcore

In the mid-1980s, veterans of the D.C. hardcore scene created a new punk sub-genre called "emo", meaning "emotive hardcore." This term has since evolved to become associated with a much broader group of musical styles. The most renowned D.C. area bands associated with the "first wave" of emo were Rites of Spring and Embrace.


Also in the 1980s, Washington, D.C., was rich with punk and new wave music. Bands like The Slickee Boys, Urban Verbs, Tiny Desk Unit, Mother May I, Insect Surfers, Tru Fax & the Insaniacs, and Black Market Baby were popular at places like the 9:30 Club, The Psychedelic, DC's space, Madam's Organ, The Bayou (in Georgetown). See also: Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Henry Rollins. In the 1970s and 1980s, Georgetown had a diverse live music scene, and became known as a center for the early punk community. In the 1990s, U Street NW in the Shaw neighborhood became known as a new haven for post-hardcore punk, alternative rock, acid jazz and electronica, following the establishment of a variety of bars and clubs in the area, most notably The Black Cat (which was co-founded by Dave Grohl, another native of the DC punk scene). The 9:30 club subsequently moved to the area as well.


In the 1990s, bands taking heavy influence from the Washington, D.C. hardcore scene and the local go-go phenomenon contributed to the post-hardcore scene. Important players in this scene were The Dismemberment Plan, Fugazi, Nation of Ulysses, and Q and Not U. Currently, important post-punk/indie/dance-rock bands like Super system (formerly El Guapo), Medications, Metrorail, Maritime, Edie Sedgwick, Mass Movement of the Moth, The Fordists, and Beauty Pill hail from DC. Ian MacKaye continues his involvement in the DC music scene with his two-piece rock group The Evens. Record labels like Dischord, DeSoto Records, Exotic Fever, and Amor Y Lucha have been and remain to be a crucial means of distribution for DC bands.

Southern Hip-Hop

The DC hip-hop scene has always taken a back seat to the other more prevalent genres in the area. Even so, influential groups have planted seeds in the city for future generations to follow. Groups like The Amphibians & Freestyle Union laid the foundation for artists like Asheru, Wale and Low Budget to help put DC's hip hop scene on the map. Wale was the first D.C. artist to really break out on the national scene. He was a member of XXL's 2009 Freshman Class and released his debut album, Attention Deficit on Inter scope Records. Representing the street oriented side of hip hop, D. C. bred rapper Garvey “The Chosen One” released his debut album Hard Hat Area Volume#1, on independent record label Triple Team Entertainment and distributed by DTLR. When it came time to the video's shoot location for his single “Lock It Down,” released 2010, he chose local high school Calvin Coolidge High School, alma mater of the video’s director, Robert "Bob Smoke" Headen, did more than just provide the setting—members of the school’s band, cheer leading team, step team and dance squad are all featured in the released video as noted by the Washington Post. Recently, DMV emcee Marky has been gaining national recognition for his song "Rasta Monsta," sampling Aloe Blacc's "I Need A Dollar." Underground group Diamond District represent the vanguard as well as an underground rapper from (Fairmont Heights/P.G. County)born name Micah Paschal rap name MIKE.P also represent DC hip hop today. Washington, D.C.'s hip-hop scene was notably featured in the 1998 film Slam, about a would-be slam poet's ordeal in the D.C. Jail. Pharaoh Jonez, an Emcee from Southeast DC is one of the most successful rapper/producers from the DMV's underground scene. In 2010 he managed to get his music into the hands of an A&R over at Slip-n-Slide Records which did nothing for his career until 2012 when he landed a spread in Kapital Magazine alongside Kendrick Lamar, Drumma Boy, and fellow DC rapper Wale, who of which Jonez has never met before. In 2013 Pharaoh Jonez signed a management contract with Lawrence Mooney, CEO of Chocolate Mint and longtime friend of "Freeway" Rick Ross.


Washington D.C. has a booming House music scene. Driven by internationally recognized acts at Club Glow and underground talents at venues like U Street Music Hall and Eighteenth Street Lounge, house music parties regularly take place at clubs and warehouses across the city.

Another electronic-dance music sub-genre that was born in D.C. is Moombahton. The style of music was created by local D.J. Dave Nada, who accidentally created a new and unique EDM sound at a party in Fall 2009, by slowing down the tempo of an Electro House song and placing a reggaeton beat on top of the house track. Little did he know that his invention would spark a whole underground EDM movement not only in D.C., but also worldwide, all through the early 2010s. Well known Moombahton producers include Munchi, Dillon Francis, and Bro Safari.

D.C. is also the home to the group Thievery Corporation, who are well known in the electronic music community for their fusion of down tempo and trip hop with lounge music and Brazilian music such as bossa nova. They founded the label Eighteenth Street Lounge Music, which is also based in Washington, D.C.

In the past five years local recording artist Fort Knox Five has been successful with a string of releases on their own label, Fort Knox Recordings, many notable remixes and their full-length album Radio Free DC.

Yoko K. is an electronic musician based in Washington D.C. Her self-produced debut album 012906 (Asahra Music, 2006) was nominated for Best Album in Electronica by the 6th Annual Independent Music Awards. The first single cut, "searching", was acclaimed by Adam Harrington (Whisperin' & Hollerin', UK) to be “truly the work of a visionary” and received Grand Prize in the Electronic Jazz category by the Artists Forum Electronic Music Competition (2006).

Anaud Strong is a premier dance-house, soul, R&B-Funk, Gospel international recording artist, re-mixer, singer-songwriter, producer and C.P.S. (Computerized Performance System) DJ, born and raised in Washington DC area. Strong has been influential in the continuation and pioneering of the early garage house, electronic dance music, underground dance and art scene since the 90s to the present through various city wide events and philanthropic efforts within the related community. The dance band and EP Anaud Strong Project Into The Future...The Deep House Experience RECHARGED! was nominated in the 24th Annual Wammies 2009-2010 in 4 categories for best Electronica Vocalist, Performance Artist, Electronica Artist/Producer (STUDIO), and electronica recording for "Into The Future". New 2015 Release and collaboration with US international artist, producer-remixer, prolific songwriter Anaud Strong team up with Splashfunk & Laera for their newest breakthrough soulful dance EDM release,sound on Italian label the LAERA TEAM. An inspirational club, radio, global dancefloor anthem and future classic from the US and Italy's finest composers.

Electro-industrial band Chemlab formed in Washington D.C. in 1989. Up until this point, frontman Jared Louche had been a part of the D.C. hardcore scene


Artists from Washington DC area's premiere dark electronic label Octofoil Records, to include Maduro, Retrogramme, and Notecrusher, have appeared on numerous compilations around the world and have been featured on BBC. Octofoil has been defunct since 2014.

A cappella

Washington, D.C. has a very vibrant a cappella scene. Sweet Honey in the Rock, which formed in 1973 and focuses on music rooted in African American culture, has shared a Grammy Award and received multiple Grammy nominations for its children's albums. Afro Blue, an a cappella vocal jazz ensemble based at Howard University, received significant national attention when it placed fourth on season three of the television show The Sing Off in 2011. There are several ″vocal bands″ in the area, while ensembles like The Capital Hearings bridge the lines between the choral tradition, vocal jazz, and contemporary a cappella.

Mod & Soul

Mod and soul The Ambitions, led by former Checkered Cabs singer Caz Gardiner, are at the forefront of the mod/soul type bands drawing their inspiration from late 60s soul bands to 1970s British mod revivalists.

Garage Revival

As of late, DC has been home to a growing scene of musicians who take inspiration from the primal stomp of the 1960s garage rock movement. Eschewing the more esoteric stylings of their art-school peers, bands like Soul Lip, the Hall Monitors, the break Ups, the Have Mercys, the Points, Shark Week, The Fed, and Fellowcraft mine a more primitive vein of rock 'n' roll, finding inspiration in fuzzed-out chords and grooves.

Award Shows of District of Columbia

The Wammies

The Washington Area Music Awards, also known as the Wammies, was founded in 1985 by Michael Jaworek and Mike Schreibman, and is committed to raising the profile of the Washington area's diverse music community. Its membership embraces music styles including classical, bluegrass, go-go, R&B, reggae, jazz, rock, folk and electronic.