Music in the streets: Annual fest turns on the Big Apple

The Brooklyn Paper

For the second straight year, New York City’s streets will give themselves over to music on June 21 for the Make Music New York festival, a nascent tradition that began last year and was met with enthusiasm across the five boroughs.

The one-day celebration will occur simultaneously with similar festivals in more than 300 cities around the world. The event coincides with the first day of summer, the “longest day of the year” in terms of sunlight.

In New York, there will be more than 850 free concerts in outdoor, public spaces, up from 560 last year.

Acts range from accomplished international musicians to local amateurs. According to founder Aaron Friedman, the mission of the festival is to showcase the extraordinary diversity of New York’s culture through its music.

“New York is the most incredibly diverse city, with accomplished musicians of every sort. But all of these communities don’t really interact,” he said.

“People walk down the street wearing headphones – they wall themselves off from each other. The idea is for people to come out from underneath their headphones and discover all the people making great music in their midst.”

The list of shows is too numerous to catalogue. But here are a few highlights from Brooklyn:

In Williamsburg, the event coincides with “Williamsburg Walks,” a series of Saturdays when Bedford Avenue is closed to traffic from Metropolitan Avenue to North 9th Street.

Musical acts will set up in front of Bedford Avenue storefronts, while the streets will be reserved for dancing.

Just north in Greenpoint, the Indonesian chamber ensemble group Gamelan Dharma Swara will play in front of a greenmarket at 143 Noble Street at 2 p.m.. Sponsored by the Indonesian consulate, the group is the type of complex traditional band that plays in front of markets in Indonesia.

In downtown Brooklyn, Hanks Saloon (46 3rd Avenue), the neighborhood honky-tonk, will feature country bands from 1 to 5 p.m.

Bed-Stuy’s Robert Fulton Park (Fulton Street and Stuyvesant Avenue) will feature a diverse range of acts from 1 to 9 p.m. Included among them are the hip-hop group J.A.Z., the soul singer Lee Genesis, and Koolkidz, a professional dance troupe of children age 7-12.

In Fort Greene, an eclectic mix of modern opera acts will perform in Fort Greene Park (DeKalb and Willoughby) from 2:30 to 4 p.m. The show was put together by American Opera Projects, the innovative Fort Greene-based opera company.

Park Slope will be home to a hip-hop block party outside of Southpaw (125 5th Avenue), which runs from noon to 5 p.m.

In Flatbush – which did not host any acts last year – Tah Phrum Duh Bush, a Flatbush native and a rising hip-hop star, will play in front of Newkirk Plaza at 5 p.m.

Out in Coney Island, the event coincides with the annual Mermaid Parade. At the parade, New York’s Finest Jazz Ensemble, comprised of city police officers, will play on the Boardwalk in front of the aquarium starting at 3 p.m.

Venues in Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Bushwick, Sunset Park, Crown Heights, Bay Ridge, East New York, Prospect Heights and Midwood will feature live performances as well.

Event organizers are hopeful the event will go as smoothly and successfully as last year. If it rains, each location has its own contingency plan.

As the date draws near, excitement over the event is palpable among many New Yorkers, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“We were delighted to support Make Music New York’s debut, and we are doing everything possible to make sure that the event is bigger and better in 2008,” Hizzoner said.

“I encourage New Yorkers and visitors from all around the world to come outside and make music – and still more history – together in the world’s greatest city.”

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The second annual Make Music New York festival will take place at outdoor venues across the five boroughs on June 21.

All 850 concerts are free.

For a complete listing of the day’s events, go to www.makemusicny.org.


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