Let me lead this story with the fact that there are a lot of “firsts” to be had here: On Friday, August 18, San Francisco’s Old Mint Building on 5th and Mission Street will play host to the first UNDSCVRD monthly creative night market event, the first economic and public awareness platform helmed by SOMA Pilipinas, and the first Filipino cultural district recognized by the Mayor Ed Lee and the City of San Francisco and the state of California, as listed on the California Cultural Districts website.

Taking a cue from Asian night markets, UNDSCVRD is a collection of artists, performers, vendors, and merchants celebrating the Bay Area’s creative spirit and cultural heritage. According to Desi Danganan, the event’s executive producer, UNDSCRVD is part of a “multi-pronged strategy” to bring thriving commercial businesses into the neighborhood, centered around Filipino-American food, music, art and retail establishments.

“Some of us have been planning this for over a year, so it’s kind of like a graduation ceremony of sorts,” Danganan said in a phone conversation leading up to opening night. “You prepare and you dream and you plan and you bring people together and now, it’s coming to fruition. It’s kind of like opening the door and taking that leap of faith and wondering what’s going to be on the other side.”

Friday’s event will feature over a dozen restaurants out of the Filipino Food Movement, 20-plus brands and retail merchants, plus live performances from rapper Lyrics Born, singer/songwriter Joyo Velarde and DJ sets from Cutso (The Bangerz, Rebel Pop Radio), Boogie Brown (Cuffin’ SF, The Goods) and DJ Umami (Golden State Warriors, Q102, Peaches Crew). Also hitting the stage are dance crews Young Skull Club and INQ.

For the music curation, Danganan relied on the tag-team of long-time local tastemakers Marky “Proof” Enriquez (Massive Selector, the Summit) and Mark Herlihy (Future Primitive Sound, Lowbrow). Since it’s opening night, Herlihy said he wanted to celebrate the more established acts from the local community, a nod toward Lyrics Born’s Berkeley upbringing and the Bay’s DJ/turntablist sector that birthed legends such as DJ QBert and Shortkut. Enriquez emphasizes, however, the curation moving forward wants to highlight the diversity and caliber of the area’s homegrown artists.

“Hip-hop and turntablism is very much viewed as (Filipinos’) wheelhouse — I’m a DJ myself,” he iterates. “But the Filipino experience goes beyond hip-hop. We want to show we can get down with rock, electronic music, indie, R&B, future beats, jazz, indigenous sounds, you name it.”

Every month presents a new theme, starting with hip-hop in August, indie bands in September, and then future beats for October in the coming months. Golda and the Guns is an indie punk band booked for September, alongside funk, neo-soul band Mad Noise and multi-talented instrumentalist duo Dirty Boots. Low Leaf, an LA-based singer and harpist that has performed for Boiler Room and international music festivals is on the bill for October with the City’s own Vinroc and Style Free contributing sets of their own.

“The focus is going to go back to our local talents here and to set the expectation that yes, occasionally we’ll have headliners from out of town, but our main focus is to really highlight the talent that we have here right under our nose,” Enriquez said.

For all the “firsts” thrown into the introduction, the conceptualization and culmination of UNDSCVRD’s debut is actually a long, storied effort made by SOMA Pilipinas, the community organization of the same name, who has fought and advocated for the creation of the district since the mid-1990s.

Many of the UNDSCVRD team, including Danganan, Enriquez, and Herlihy, steered their own initiatives within the City’s music, art, food, and tech spaces for the past 10-plus years (some heritage-based; others, not so much). If you’re old enough to remember, Danganan and Enriquez helmed the infamous Poleng Lounge, a restaurant and nightclub that involved many Filipino-based movements around modernizing the culture’s food and music.

“(Back then), that little time was representative of us owning our culture and taking it back and presenting it in a new way,” Enriquez explains. “Now, (UNDSCVRD) is more of a legacy project kicking off a this new cultural heritage district, where we’re going to be able to bring new energy back to SOMA through this new night market.”

The event is partially funded from the $150,000 budget appointed by Mayor Lee and a crowdfunding effort which pulled in over $40,000. Danganan, who has at least 15-plus years of event producing and business branding, plus serves as the economic development chair for the SOMA Pilipinas organization, says despite the community lacking hard assets in terms of Filipino-owned businesses and buildings, “what is actually in surplus of one of the greatest things that you can’t buy with money, which is culture”.

“Our ability to dance, to sing, to rap, to speak, to move people through visuals, that is what we bring the to table,” he says. “By putting by all of the best pieces of our culture together, we can draw people into our culture district, (which is) how we jumpstart economic development.”

UNDSCVRD Night Market
San Francisco Mint
August 18, 2017
6pm, FREE