July 17, 2019
Interview: Wendy Thompson
Writer: Alina Pasha
Writer: Monet Peoples
In the Spotlight
Photos and Video: DC Spotlight Newspaper/Shervon Inglis/Wendy Thompson
For actress Monique Cash, founding and organizing the Bungalow Music and Arts Festival has been a project born out of love for her 15 year old daughter, who was diagnosed with cancer. Yet, as the day of the D.C. festival draws near, Cash is learning that her idea and event will help so many other kids get an up-close view of local and national musical artists as well. Cash, a hometown Washingtonian, who lives in Los Angeles, sat down with DC Spotlight’s editor-in-chief Wendy Thompson to discuss the Bungalow Music and Arts Festival and how the project is her gift to Washington, D.C.
Wendy Thompson: You’re going to be holding a Bungalow Music Festival here in Washington D.C., and you’re a hometown girl. So, tell me about your experience and your history here in D.C.
M. Cash: Yes, I’m so excited! Well, I was born and raised in Washington, D.C., uptown in northwest D.C. I graduated from Dunbar High School. I also went to a ballet school called Kirov Academy, which is in Northeast Washington near Carol High School. I’ve been into the arts since I was a kid. I’d like to say that I have been blessed with being able to have a duality in life. I’ve you know literally been raised in the streets of DC so I experienced that part of it, but my parents always kept me in the arts so, I was always able to travel and experience other cultures, different music, and different people so, I had the best of both worlds.
W. Thompson: Super! Yeah, so tell me what does this city mean to you? What does D.C. mean to you?
M. Cash: D.C. is such a foundation for me, for live music, a city filled with colored people and melanated people. We have our own rich culture; there are so many things that are unique to D.C., whether it’s fashion, music, lifestyle. And also being raised here, I built a foundation and a backbone to be able to survive anywhere in the world. I feel like if you can survive in D.C., you can survive anywhere, and I literally have been able to. So, this is always home, no matter where I go in the world, where I live, D.C. is always, always home.
W. Thompson: You’re a model; you’re an actress, and you’ve acted with some of the best including, Debbie Allen. Tell me, what was that like?
M. Cash: Debbie Allen has been like a second mom to me. She’s been a mentor to me since I was 12 years old. I met her, I was introduced to her through Arthur Mitchell, who is the artistic director for Dance Theater of Harlem. I used to work in residency programs near the Kennedy Center with the Dance Theater of Harlem, but then every summer I would go to New York and spend summers dancing in New York. And so the ballet academy that I went to here in D.C. was a Russian ballet school. I was the first female black recipient of their full scholarship. And, Arthur Mitchell is connected with Debbie, so Debbie started a residency and she was looking for a ballerina. Ballet was not huge here in D.C., especially for black dancers. So [while]working with Arthur Mitchell, he said to Debbie ‘Hey, you need to meet Monique Cash. She, you know, is this beautiful ballerina, blah, blah, blah.’ That’s what the conversation was to me, and so I met Debbie and our relationship just flourished. And she continued to stay in my life and helped to facilitate my move from D.C. to Los Angeles to pursue my career in the Arts. So, she still, to this day, is a huge inspiration and facilitator in my life.
W. Thompson: That is great! So, now you’re in LA?
M. Cash: Yes
W. Thompson: And what are you doing in LA right now?
M. Cash: I just finished working on a major project. I can’t say what the project is right now. It’s a major project, and I played a very iconic entertainer.
W. Thompson: No way! Oh my God, that’s super!
M. Cash: A huge iconic entertainer. It was such an honor too. So, I worked on that and my kids are all in the industry as well so, you know, always auditioning for different types of shows and films. And we work in commercials. I actually started Bungalow in LA last year.
W. Thompson: Let’s talk about that. So, the Bungalow Music and Arts Festival, so why did you want to bring that to this city?
M. Cash: My goal has always been to bring back to D.C. all of the knowledge, accessibility, platform. Everything I’ve learned in this industry, I’ve always wanted to bring that back to D.C. Mainly because I’m very well aware, unless you leave from the city, there’s only so far you can go with your career as an artist. And I also know that youth here, and artists here. Youth, in particular, don’t have direct access to entertaining professionals, and the knowledge of what it takes to build your brand outside this city. It’s a different animal going to LA and New York than from doing it right in the city. So, I’ve always wanted to bring the industry back into the city, to the youth of the city, and give them platform and opportunity, not only to perform but to be mentored by the best in the music and entertainment industry.
W. Thompson: So tell me about the festival. What’s going to be going on at the festival, and where is it going to be held?
M. Cash: Yes, so the festival is going to be held at the R.I.S.E. Gateway Center, which is a new center that was built by the Washington Mystics. It’s in southeast D.C., which I feel is an awesome area to be in. It’s the perfect pit-stop for arts and entertainment to be there. So, it’s at the R.I.S.E center. It’s the old St. Elizabeth home. Bungalow basically is the Coachella or South by Southwest for youths and the artist.
W. Thompson: So, Coachella D.C.
M. Cash: Coachella D.C. So how Coachella provides a platform for indie artists to perform, underneath headlining artists. Bungalow provides that same opportunity to high school students and artists. So, poetry, music, dance, visual arts.
W. Thompson: This is their festival.
M. Cash: This is their festival.
W. Thompson: And, is it strictly [for]kids?
M. Cash: It’s a family event. It’s a community event, so all are welcome. What makes it specific to teens is the platform that allows youth in the hearts of high school the opportunity to actually perform. This is the only festival that does this. Coachella, South By Southwest, Made in America, all of those festivals, there’s not an opportunity for high school students or youth in the arts to perform. There are artists from all over the world, but they’re all adults. When you think about festivals for youth, in general, it’s not geared towards youth. As a parent myself, and other parents, you know, you’re kind of weary of your kids going to festivals, because there is so much going on at festivals. But this festival specifically is for youths to come and for it to be specifically for them — all of their artwork, all of their performances, all of the artists that they want to see, that they listen too, and people in the industry — some they know, some they may not know. That’s the other huge opportunity that Bungalow provides.
W. Thompson: It’s specifically for the children.
M. Cash: Yes, it’s specific to the point that it allows a platform for youth artists to actually perform in the festival. All the other festivals that are happening around the world, different states, different cities, there is not a festival that actually provides a platform for the youth to actually perform for their peers and the industry in particular. So, that’s what Bungalow is, and that’s what makes Bungalow so unique, we actually give stage and center for them to get up, perform, and show their art.
W. Thompson: So if this is your Oscar moment, if you’re standing before the Oscars, let’s say, who would you thank for all the success you’ve had so far?
M. Cash: I am always grateful first and foremost to my Creator for continuing to protect and provide for me as I navigate lessons in life. Next, my parents and family and to my children.
W. Thompson: And who are your parents?
M. Cash: Well my mother is Michelle Cash. We’re a huge family, the Cash family here in D.C., born and raised here. My dad is actually was one of the founders of the Madness Shop, which was the first urban apparel store and company. They’re still going strong; my dad is actually where I learned a lot of my business [savvy]from. So, I will always thank them both for always continuing to support me. You know, it’s been such a winding road throughout my career, and they’ve just always been so solid with me, my family in general. I also just would like to thank energy that comes towards me, because I feel that’s a reflection of the energy I put out. So, and I’ve been placed in a very special position, creating this festival, because I’ve never produced a music arts festival, when this idea came to me, it came hard. I didn’t sleep for months thinking about this idea
W. Thompson: So, this was strictly your idea? How did it come about? What was the organic formation of it?
M. Cash: In short, my daughter was diagnosed with stage four cancer at 15. She went through 9 months of chemo and we both loved LIVE music. Being here from D.C., first of all, go-go music is the number one staple for us, but we loved outside concerts and things of that nature. So, I was actually planning to take her to Coachella, but she was 15 at that time. So, we were going to go but I thought to myself, maybe Coachella is a bit much for a 15-year-old — just the atmosphere and everything. Also, she had just finished chemo, and health-wise, it wasn’t a good idea, because Coachella is out in the desert and there’s so much stuff in the air. So, I literally was just thinking to myself, is there a festival that’s specific to high school students and teens? That they can go to, that’s for them? That, you know, the parents can feel safe, the children feel safe, where they can see the artists that they love and get direct access to those artists and their peers. I researched it and researched it and researched it. And I was nervous, so nervous, but just jumped in headfirst in it, because I’d never done anything like this before but it would not leave me, I could not leave. So, I knew it was my purpose. So, I just started. I just started by asking questions to different people that I knew within my network who were already in the music industry. It all just kept rolling from there, and I’ve been working with my own budget for the last year. This year, we have some really great sponsors and support from some local agencies and local businesses as well: Todd Lee, Dir of DCHFA, Angie Gates, Dir OCTFME, Scottie Irving of Blue Skye Construction, DCHRA, and Office of Local Television. They’re all so supportive of this festival. This is Bungalow; there’s nothing like this.
W. Thompson: What about the political world, do you have any political backing or anything like that?
M. Cash: I don’t have any political backing, but you know what, I feel like that will come. That’s what’s supposed to come if that’s what’s supposed to come to the festival. It will come naturally. Everything that I sought out, if it’s not for the festival, it didn’t happen. If it’s for the festival, I know it’s for the festival, because there’s no resistance. And there’s been so much …so much support. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding.
W. Thompson: So, tell us where can we find tickets for the festival.
W. Thompson: And how much are the tickets?
M. Cash: Tickets are starting at $40, but we have an early bird sale — tickets for $20. I’m also be going out into the community and giving out free tickets. Also, we have a partnership with Radio One. I’m going to go around to the high schools that are in summer school and spread the word out. I hope they will be receiving it.
W. Thompson: I think they will receive it. This is for the kids of D.C.
M. Cash: We just announce today our headliner…Lightshow [the rapper]. Lightshow just came on board. He’s headlining our festival and that’s the goal of the festival, to have a headliner, a commercial headliner that is actually from the city that the festival is in.
W. Thompson: This is great!
Event: Bungalow Music and Arts Festival
Date: August 10, 2019
Place: R.I.S.E Gateway Center, Washington, D.C.
Headliner: Lightshow the rapper