Music of Los Angeles: Los Angeles's Amazing Music History, Festivals and More

Los Angeles is amongst the most important places in the location when it comes to music. Not only is the city the breeding ground of global legends, but is also home to some of the most iconic recording studios. Its proximity to Hollywood serves as added inspiration to the music industry of the Golden City. 

Read on to find out just how much L.A. has influenced some of the most well known music genres of our times.

History of the Music of Los Angeles

Jazz: 1920’s - 1950’s

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The African-American community was at the forefront of the jazz movement in Los Angeles. The music was characterised by its unusual rhythms, rapid chord changes and quirky melodies. The most common instruments in jazz include the drums, piano and saxophone, although other instruments find their niche in subgenres of this type of music. Another unique feature of jazz is the style of improv, where artists come up with their own melodies on the spot.


Central Avenue in downtown LA is considered to be the mainstay of jazz in the city. Artists like Charles Mingus, Buddy Collette and Charlie Parker built their legacy in this part of the city. Festivals like the Central Avenue Jazz Festival and a few jazz bars preserve the legacy of this genre, which eventually disappeared in the late 1950’s. Modern exponents of this genre in the city include Kamasi Washington and Thundercat, bringing back the lost art with a modern twist.

Chicano Rock: 1950’s

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The diverse cultures of Los Angeles and the neighbouring regions of California were heavily influenced by Mexican immigrants. Infusing the quick rhythms of Mariachi music, as well as the energy of rock and roll, Chicano rock saw the rise in popularity through the 1950’s.

East LA, more popularly known as the Eastside, was the location of this major music movement, which saw the art being perfected by Mexican American artists. Ritchie Valens was amongst the most notable pioneers of Chicano rock. He recorded multiple hits during his career, the most famous of them being La Bamba. Despite his untimely death, he was a key influence for future icons of the genre such as Los Lobos and War. Modern stars in this genre include Chicano Batman and the Grammy winning La Santa Cecilia.

Rock: 1960’s - Present

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Initially known as rock and roll, this genre has evolved into various genres, each with its own unique sound. The genre is generally characterized by four man bands consisting of bass and electric guitars,  drums and lead vocalists. Energetic and fast paced songs go hand in hand with the powerful and sometimes eccentric stage presence of the performing members.

Early artists based in LA include Toto, The Doors and The Byrds, who established their legacy on Sunset Strip. The 1970’s saw the growth of the punk rock movement, with its angry and often rebellious brand of music. Exponents of this genre include X, Black Flag and the Germs.

The 1980’s saw the rise of the Paisley Underground movement, while the hardrock movement too picked up steam. Guns N’Roses, amongst the most famous rock bands in the world, found its origins here. 

Alternative rock drew influences from various other genres, with bands like Tool and Red Hot Chilli Peppers being some of the most recognized acts to hail from Los Angeles. The nu-metal band Linkin Park also established itself here.

Rap: 1980’s - Present

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The 80’s saw the rise of Gangsta Rap in the region, with N.W.A. being amongst the most recognized acts during this period. They served as inspiration for future legends of the genre like Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. The heavy hip-hop inspired beats and classic synthesizer tones soon faded out, giving way to the more modern electronic sound that we are familiar with today. Tyga and Ty Dolla Sign are amongst the latest exponents of the rap genre with roots in LA.

4 Amazing Places in Los Angeles with a Musical Heritage


1. Sunset Strip

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A trip to this 1.5 mile strip along Sunset Boulevard will give visitors a glimpse of the rock and roll legacy. One can come across famous clubs such as Whiskey a Go Go and the Roxy, where David Bowie, Jimmy Page and other famous legends frequented back in the day. Guests can attend concerts at the Viper Room or the Troubadour, or socialize at the Rainbow Bar and Grill, just like John Lennon and Alice Cooper did during their times.

2. Capitol Records Building

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The Capitol Records Building is amongst the most iconic studios in Los Angeles. Its unique architecture resembles that of stacked records, with the spindle on top. It is popularly known as ‘The House that Nat Built’, because of its role in the rise of Nat Cole King. The building has multiple studios, which have recorded hits for the likes of legends like Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson and the Beach Boys.

3. Grammy Museum

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The Grammy Museum is a great place to discover the history of music. Exhibits at the museum give visitors an insight about various musical genres and the recording process. The museum also helps visitors understand the legacy of the Grammy Awards. The museum also pays homage to some of the biggest Grammy winners like Taylor Swift, Dolly Parton and Michael Jackson.

4. Central Avenue

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Music lovers must definitely take a trip to Central Avenue to understand its contributions to jazz. The Lincoln Theatre and Dunbar Hotel serve as historic monuments, being frequented by African-American musicians like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. The Thomas Jefferson High School was a mainstay of jazz, producing some of the finest exponents of the genre over the years. It was where Samuel Brown taught music, nurturing and mentoring aspiring artists.

3 Popular Music Festivals in Los Angeles


1. Camp Flog Gnaw

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Camp Flog Gnaw is an annual music festival and carnival curated by Tyler, the Creator. It is conducted in the Dodger Stadium during November, celebrating hip-hop and alternative artists.  Guests are treated to carnival games, food stalls and concerts by some of the world’s most recognizable artists. Famous artists to have performed here include Drake, Lil Uzi Vert and Daniel Caesar.


2. Central Avenue Jazz Festival

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The Central Avenue Jazz Festival celebrates the legacy of jazz music in Los Angeles. Conducted in July in Southern LA, one can catch performances  across various blocks of Central Avenue for free. Upcoming artists of the genre including Kamasi Washington and Kalil Wilson have performed here, honouring the heritage of LA’s vibrant jazz scene during the 20th century.

3. Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival

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Founded in 1999, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has grown into one of the world’s most recognized music festivals in recent times. Located in Indio, one will have to take a two hour drive from Los Angeles to the Coachella Valley in April. The festival sees some of the biggest pop, rap and electronic music artists grace the stage, with the likes of Coldplay, Beyonce. Eminem and Calvin Harris amongst the few global icons to have graced its stages. Over the years, it has also established itself as a fashion institute, with actors and models attending the events and setting summer trends that spread like wildfire thanks to social media.

Did we miss to mention anything about the amazing music of Los Angeles? Tell us in the comments.

This post was published by Peter Nikhil David

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