Opaline is an intersectional program of art, music, and food curated by Briona Butler aka Surrealistma. It returns February 1.
Washington, D.C.—A feeling, or mood if you will, Opaline first manifested on the Instagram pages. A tumblr-like onslaught of black excellence and beauty, opulence, and iconic hip hop and R&B figures became hard to ignore: Quintessential Kelis—her signature green epitomized in a pair of fierce sunglasses and a subtle ombré. Tupac and his mother Afeni. Hyper-sexualized fruits. Avant-garde fashion. Iridescent crystals. Cozy Diddy. And a young Mos Def freestyling in a New York park all conveyed potent levels of nostalgia.
This sentiment was transmuted at Dwell DC, an artsy, knick-knack-filled clubhouse tucked away in the Northeast quadrant of the District. Performances by MARTYHEEMCHERRY, Nappy Nappa, Lulu Sunflower, and Pangelica as well as DJs Moses and Greenss buoyed the first monthly events in December and January. At the last Opaline on New Year’s, I watched Dreamcast and Nappy Nappa run through their collaborative track, “Dolphin Squeek,” a glitchy bop that appears on Dreamcast’s most recent offering, The Lost Tapes vol. 2. A bowl of black eyed peas and collard greens—a dish supposedly bringing good fortune in 2019 catered by Green from Within—added a savory element to the night while Sir E.U filtered through his library on the turntables.
“It’s important for me to create spaces for us to be together and cool it,” Butler told me over brunch at The Diner in Adams Morgan. “For me, music is a very spiritual healing tool.”
Butler is no stranger to orchestrating music programming in Washington, D.C., and growing up as a military brat in Southeast and Northeast, D.C. as well a PG County, Maryland, she has a vast experience of what the DMV’s art community can cultivate. During 2017 and 2016, Butler was integral to the Glow End Theory series presented by CMPVTR CLVB that focused on reinvigorating the divine feminine, featuring artists like Alex Vaughn, Odd Mojo, and DJ Little Bacon Bear. She noted that the inspiration behind her desire to create intersectional events was derived from Sanaa Fest, a party series founded by D.C.-based artist Yaya Bey in 2015 that provided a tolerant environment to showcase creatives in the DMV and New York.
Butler reminisced about one of the parties in which Afrovelvet, no foreigner to InTheRough pages, had a fashion show and the iconic female duo Oshun performed. “I feel like the Sanaa Fest changed the course of my life. That was a seed that made me want to be off what I’m off. I have mad respect for Yaya.”
Opaline, however, is solely the brainchild of Butler. The genesis of the idea came as a way to amplify the voice of her childhood best friend, Babby, who’s angelic crooning has enchanted guests over the first two shows. The Baltimore-based singer’s impromptu a-cappella set on New Year’s hushed the entire audience, centering the room in a moment of serenity.
Only two parties underway, “a night of iridescence” as Butler refers to Opaline is still in its infancy, but the optimism around the movement is evident. Already it has engendered a feeling of comfort with familiar faces returning to engage with the series. Butler doesn’t see Opaline as just a party, though, rather as a multi-media brand. Her Opaline mixes on SoundCloud convert the visual aesthetic of the program into a sonic palette while highlighting rising talents in the community. Greenss’ assistance with the audio mixing in the inaugural set is a nice segue into his own offering of tracks in mix 01.
The third Opaline will be held at The Village Cafe on Friday, February 1 with performances by Bobbi Rush, Nate G, Sir E.U, Naygod, Hoeteps, and Free.GG along with an art installation by Rap Rumi. Stay tuned for the next Opaline mix.